Morality + Religion

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 14-05-08 08:20


>Morality is autonomous if it is independent of religion - justified purely by reason with no reference to God's will

Arguments for Autonomy:

- Obedience to religious rules or denying personal responsibilities for external religious principles detracts from freedom and choice

- Different sects or actual religions may propose different rules; to choose between them is moral autonomy

- If God is omnipotent and omniscient, He knows everything we will do, and therefore we do not have sole responsibility for moral choices. Moral responsibility requires freedom, freedom implies autonomy

> Kant's Categorical Imperative - maintained morality is autonomous and has its own logic, if a law is universal, it is moral
> 'So act that the maxim of your will could always hold at the same time as a principle establishing universal law'

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>Morality is heteronomous if it depends on religious beliefs or has been developed with religious values

Arguments for Heteronomy:

- Society is influenced by religious views and attitudes which have an unconscious effect on all, even the sacrilegious

- When moral terms are defined, they use language about meaning and value that has developed in the context of religious belief

- Understanding what is right and having the courage to put it into effect are two very different things, religion provides the inspiration for this

- Autonomous moral systems depend on the good will of individuals which cannot be guaranteed. Religion deals with the issue of human nature and selfishness

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>Morality is theonomous when it relies upon a common source for principles and values - this source is God

Arguments for Theonomy:

- Morality and religion have a common source of mystical awareness - of God. Iris Murdoch-we have a mystical awareness of 'the good' irrespective of religion, the basis of all morality

- Without an awareness like this, morality would seem to have no basis - even if human will determines the nature of moral actions, it is still based on experience derived from God

- Without God as the ultimate foundation to our values, none can have any meaning. Morality must have a firmer foundation than human thought - Hastings Rashdall

- If God is rational and creator, autonomy will have to accept God's purpose. Therefore autonomy is theonomous as it derives from God

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Sources of Religious Authority

Christianity > Ultimate authority is God's will, known through the Bible, Jesus + Church teachings, love + conscience
> Authority from Church, Holy Spirit directly, scriptures, human reason

Judaism > Morality based on the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah + Gemora
> Reason and conscience, important in terms of interpretation and application

Islam > Authority from Qur'an, Hadith (Revelation of Allah's will, sayings of Muhammad), Muslims follow Shariah law created by Allah, based on Qur'an + Sunnah (traditions)
> When in doubt, they consult Ulama - gathering of Muslim scholars

Buddhism > Make moral choices based on reason/insight/experience, take into account the moral precepts

Sikhism > Guidelines for life set out in Rehat Maryada - produced by Sikh scholars

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Deontology - Absolutism

* Referred to as binding duty, actions conform to absolute rules


- Gives a universal rule for people to abide by
- Gives respect to moral authority
- Obvious distinction between right and wrong
- Justification of moral actions
- No bias
- Prevents confusion, straight forward


- May become outdated
- Doesn't apply to specific situations, doesn't benefit everyone
- Narrow minded
- Provides inability to develop own morals and values - no autonomy/free thought
- Conflicting beliefs/claims from different religious sects
- Doesn't take all factors into consideration
- Unable to learn from mistakes
- Lacks compassion

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Teleology - Relativism



- Cannot be outdated
- Lesser of two evils
- Autonomous, flexible
- Considers all factors
- Promotion of the best possible outcome


- Can cause egotism - putting oneself before others
- Undermines moral authority
- No universal standard/rule
- Prejudices can cause unfair judgement of a situation
- Procrastinationin decision makingcan endanger a situation
- Can lead to disputes

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> Morality is the distinction between right and wrong, ethics is how you come to the decision

> Relative morality is situational, absolute is the same rules always

> Two types of ethics; meta: philosophical analysis of the meaning and character of ethical language normative: what is good and bad, how we decide if actions are right or wrong

> Ethics is the science of morals - the distinction between good + evil in relation to actions/character

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Branches of Ethics

Realism : Moral statements are independent of humans, only one set of moral truths

Constructivism : Truth is dependent on evidence, constructed by humans in their societies

Constructivist Relativism : Moral truth dependent on humans, rules may change through time

Constructivist non Relativism : Moral truths depend on humans, there should only be one set of truths

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The Euphythro Dilemma

> Plato's book Euthyphro - discussion between this character and Socrates (Plato's personal views) about whether morality means obligations to God's wishes or not

> Euthyphro argues: Morality is based on what God commands

> Socrates argues: There is a standard of goodness independent of God, so He is no longer the ultimate standard of morality. Everything should be judged against an independent standard to determine how good it really is

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> Morality depends on religion

> Divine Command Theory - God decides what is right and wrong as He is omnipotent

> Human reason therefore has no authority - all they can do is accept God's revelation

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