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Examine and critically assess two criticisms of the link between religion and morality.
The relationship between religion and morality is complex, with many confusing and problematic
aspects. For example it is possible for a religious person to be immoral, just as a non-religious person
could be moral. Many theologians have argued that there is a link between religion and morality, such
as St. Thomas Aquinas an advocate of Divine Command Ethics. He believes that our morality is a pale
reflection of God's perfect morality, and that we strive towards God's as he is the ultimate good.
However many scholars have argued against this link.
The most famous criticism of the link between religion and morality is the Euthyphro Dilemma.
Derived from Plato's Euthyphro Dialogue it raises the question "Does God command X because it is
good or is X good because God commands it?' Both of these possibilities provide problems for the
link between religion and morality.
The first stance (does God command good because it is good) leaves the question where does
goodness come from if not from God? Moral goodness must exist before God can command
anything. This means that goodness is independent from God, as his commands are merely
statements about good and not the source of morality itself. This would explain how non-religious
people are moral as God's commands are unnecessary as he has not created goodness, this however
completely contradicts the `God of Classical Theism'.
The latter stance (is good good because it is commanded by God) means that nothing is morally good
unless it has been commanded by God. Surely then what God commands is morally arbitory as God
has no moral reason for commanding what he does. Furthermore surely not everything God
commands should become moral law for example in Exodus 23 it states "do not boil a kid in its
mother's milk." This is not a traditional morally action and is clearly just a social tradition of the time.
The problem is exacerbated when we consider God, being omnipotent, can command anything at all.
Just like he did in Genesis 22 when he told Abraham to kill his only son Issac. If Divine Command
Theory is true then murder could be considered a morally correct thing to do. However most of
today's societies do not accept this, so does this mean that Divine Command Theory is meaningless
or even false?
Furthermore it is possible to argue that even Jesus did not hesitate to point out the weaknesses
between religion and morality in the `Parable of The Good Samaritan.' As the two men who passed
on the other side, a Priest and a Levite, could not help the man as it would have made them `ritually
unclean' for their worship of God.
Richard Dawkins, the popular Athiest, stated in `The God Delusion' that "the God of the Old
Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction." Dawkins believed that much of
what God commanded and did, particularly in the early parts of the Bible is immoral, he had particular
dislike with the story in Genesis 22. However Dawkins takes the argument further describing religion
as a `malignant virus' which infects the human race. He also believes that religion is a form of child
abuse, as it is wrong to label children at such young ages Catholic, Muslim or Hindu. He points out that
we do not label our children Conservative or Labour in accordance with their parents political beliefs,
so why do we do it with religion? Furthermore Dawkins believes that religion is incorrectly teaching
children, particularly in evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam, for placing creationism
alongside evolution and also filling them with prejudices and inciting eschatological fear.
Finally Dawkins shares in `Religion: The Root of All Evil' that he once believed religion to be a
"peaceful nonsense" but after the events of 9/11 and 7/7 it is clear that religion is dangerous and
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Another scholar who agrees with this stance is Stephan Weinburg who
famously said "for good people to do bad things it takes religion". A key example of this is Paul Hill,
an American Pastor, who murdered an abortionist simply because it was against his personal religious
view but is now idolised by the Army of God for his actions.…read more