Religion: Rights and Responsibilities

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The Bible as a basis for moral decisions

Some Christians use only the Bible as a basis for making moral decisions because:

  • It contains the word of God and acts as a guide to His followers.
  • It contains the teachings of Jesus on how to live a good Christian life.
  • It records events of Jesus' life - Christians ask how Jesus would act in certain situations and follow his example. As God's son his example is the best to follow.
  • It contains God's teachings on how to behave (the Ten Commandments).
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The Church as a basis for moral decisions

Some Christians use only the Church as a basis for making moral decisions because:

  • The Church is the body of Christ and has the same authority as Jesus.
  • Most Christians believe that God still speaks today through the Church.
  • The Church acts as guidance to lead people to do the right thing.
  • Church leaders can interpret the Bible to fit in with modern viewpoints.
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The conscience as a basis for moral decisions

Some Christians believe the conscience is the most important guide in making moral decisions because:

  • St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas taught that Christians should use their conscience as the final part of moral decision making.
  • Christians believe that God speaks to them - to them the voice inside them is God so they should follow what is asked of them.
  • The Church says that Christians should follow their conscience and Christians are meant to follow the teachings of the Church.
  • Teachings from the Church and the Bible do not come directly from God and need interpreting. However, the conscience is God speaking directly to individuals and should be followed.
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Situation Ethics as a basis for moral decisions

Some Christians only use Situation Ethics when making moral decisions because:

  • Jesus seemed to use Situation Ethics when he overruled parts of the Old Testament he deemed as unloving. For example he healed a paralysed man on the Sabbath, which was banned.
  • Christians should always be aware of the consequences of their actions and so should only do what would produce good results.
  • Jesus said the only laws are to love God and your neighbour. Christians should therefore do what will have the most loving results.
  • Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness, therefore Christians should make decisions based on what is the most loving thing to do rather than laws.
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Why some Christians use a variety of authorities

Some Christians use a variety of authorities when making moral decisions because:

  • Some of the information from the authorities might be outdated and cannot help with modern situations, whereas information from other sources might be more up to date.
  • Some sources of authority are dependent on the person having sufficient knowledge to make the decision, which they may not have.
  • Some sources of authority may have solutions which are not acceptable in today's society.
  • They may think that a mixture of sources of authority may give a more informed choice.
  • Different authorities can be used depending on the situation.
  • Some sources of authority may not give advice on a particular issue which others might do.
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Human rights in the UK

The Human Rights Act 1998 declares all people the following rights for all time:

  • Right to life (no-one has the right to end your life).
  • Right to freedom from inhuman treatment (torture is banned).
  • Right to freedom from slavery.
  • Right to liberty (everyone has the right to do what they want as long as it's legal).
  • Right to a fair trial.
  • Right to retrospective penalties (you cannot be charged with a crime if it wasn't a crime when you did it).
  • Right to privacy.
  • Right to freedom of conscience and religion (hold the opinions and beliefs you want to without persecution).
  • Right to freedom of expression.
  • Right to freedom of assembly (to gather with others and, if necessary, to demonstrate)
  • Right to marriage and to have a family.
  • Right to freedom of discrimination.
  • Right to own possessions, have an education and take part in democratic processes.
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Human rights for Christians

Human rights are important to Christians because:

  • They believe in the sanctity of life and that we should work to protect God's creation.
  • It is in line with the Biblical teaching on how we should treat others.
  • It allows for the freedom to have a religion and meet together.
  • It outlaws discrimination against Christians and others.
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Democratic and electoral processes

It is important to take part in democratic and electoral processes because:

  • Voting in an election gives people a say of how they want things to run.
  • It gives people the chance to be part of social change and create the society we want.
  • Women campaigned for years to earn a vote and so voting respects their efforts.
  • Taking part in a vote changes things that affect your own life.
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Moral duties and responsibilities

Christians believe they should take part in democratic processes. Many Christians believe they should bring about social change so that society becomes truly Christian. The main teachings that guide Christians towards this are:

  • The Golden Rule - When voting Christians will look at policies to see how they will affect other people and if they would be happy being treated that way e.g. a party wanting to cut benefits for the disabled. A Christian would ask if they would be happy if that happened to them.
  • The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats Jesus said it was a Christian’s duty to help the poor and hungry. Again this would force a Christian to look at the policies of a candidate. If they wanted to imprison homeless people they would not vote for them as it is not helping them.
  • "Am I my brother's keeper?" - Abel kills his brother Cain. God asks him where Abel is and Cain replies with this quote. God punishes Cain by making him become a homeless wanderer. This shows God wanted us to look after each other (be ‘my brother’s keeper’). As such a Christian would vote for people trying to look after those in need.
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Nature of genetic engineering

Most genetic engineering is based on 2 methods:

  • Gene therapy enables changes to be made to cells that pass on defective information from one generation to the next, allowing permanent changes to be made.
  • Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) removes defective genes from embryos so women at risk of passing on diseases can produce healthy babies.

Stem Cell Research is the most recent form of genetic research. Stem cells are the ‘building blocks of life’ and can be used to create (clone) new organs or cells to replace diseased ones. They are ‘harvested’ from either embryos created by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), bone marrow or blood. It is legal in the UK, however there are strict regulations surrounding it.

Cloning of entire organisms such as animals can be done using stem cells, however this requires more research to be considered safe.

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Christian attitudes to genetic engineering

Some Christians (e.g. Liberal Protestants) believe that genetic engineering is fine if it's used to cure disease, but not to create the perfect human. This is because:

  • Jesus was a healer who encouraged his followers to cure the sick.
  • Being responsible stewards includes improving the lives of others with the scientific knowledge God has allowed us to gain (or given to us).
  • An embryo is not considered a potential life until it is 14 days old, therefore stem cell research is not inhumane until this point and is acceptable.
  • It offers the prospect of cures for currently incurable diseases.

However, some Christians (e.g. Catholics) allow the use of genetic engineering to cure disease, but only if it doesn't involve using human embryos. This is because:

  • Life begins at conception so an embryo is a human being from conception (be it in a womb or a test tube).
  • Killing an embryo is therefore taking a human life which goes against the 6th Commandment "Thou shalt not kill".
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