Religion & Morality Revision Notes

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Critiques of the Relationship Between Religion and Morality
Euthyphro Dilemma
o Does God command X because it is good?
Means God did not always understand good ­ good exists
and was found
God therefore not the creator of everything (good existed
before) or omniscient
Therefore, may not be worth worshipping
o Is X good because God commands it?
But God commanded loads of evidently `bad' things ­ God
is a terrible example of good!
Example: mass genocide/ethnic cleansing of the
If there is any reasonable doubt about God's moral
authority, then he may also not be worth worshipping
Richard Dawkins
His first argument is that religion is immoral, or at least less moral than is
often stated
o He highlights the more obnoxious teachings of the Bible, describing
God as "a petty, unjust, unforgiving controlfreak"
o Most of all, Dawkins finds the indoctrination of children to be the worst
aspect of religion ­ children are forced to accept dubious religious
moralities without choosing for themselves (e.g. the Colorado Hell
House ­ an institution which aims to scare children into fearing hell)
His second argument is that moral behaviour need not be based on religion
o Dawkins claims that being moral because God exists amounts to
"sucking up" and that being good without God would be really good
o "Morality in the absence of policing is more truly moral"
o In place of religious absolutism, Dawkins would like to see secular,
relativist and consequentialist ethics
o However, Dawkins's main argument is that moral choices are
motivated by evolution ­ selfless activity and working with others
happens because it has helped organisms to survive
o We are moral because it allows us to be successful, survive and
o We can understand morality without God
o Swinburne says that "too much evidence [for the existence of God]
might not be good for us" because humans should develop a
"naturally good character
If we knew God existed, we would be driven to be good "in
order to please God and to gain everlasting life" which is still
good, but not as good as being good out of natural love
The Root of All Evil? Part 2: The Virus of Faith

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Worries "irrational faith is feeding murderous intolerance" and
undermining science
o "faith acts like a virus" and "targets children"
o Science weighs up evidence and arrives at conclusions, whereas
religion does not
o We agree children are too young to understand where they stand on
political parties, so why do we label them for religion?
o Sectarian education isolates children from each other, then drills their
differences into them and encourages them to take different paths ­
encourages segregation
o "Warped morality" ­ religious teachings…read more

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The here and now is all we have, and an inspiration to make the most
of it"
o "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones" ­ most
people never get born are only potential
Critiques of the Critiques
Responding to Euthyphro
Firstly, if we ignore the immorality of the Greek gods and that perceived in
the Old Testament, why not believe in a god that is perfectly good? The
argument is based on stories of wrongdoing which we need not…read more

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Religious morality can tell why they should not murder, but evolution
only tells us why people do not murder ­ arguably, concrete moral
instruction is desirable
o As Dawkins himself has acknowledged in The God Delusion, his
previous work on The Selfish Gene has sometimes ­ against his
intentions ­ inspired personal selfishness, rather than rational morality…read more


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