Religion and Morality

  • Created by: Jordan
  • Created on: 01-12-12 15:49


Possible relationships between religion and morality:

  • Morality is derived from religion
    • Dependent
  • Morality and religion are two distinct entities
    • Independent
  • Morality and religion are opposed to one another
    • Religion is immoral
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Morality as dependent on religion

Divine command theory:

  • Something is good/bad, right/wrong because God says so
  • Adv.- provides a source of authority for moral absolutes
  • Disadv.- how can God's will be known?
  • e.g. Ten Commandments, Jesus' sermon on the mount

St Thomas Aquinas:

  • 4th of his 5 ways to prove God put forward in 'Summa Theologica'-moral argument
  • We can observe varying degrees of goodness in the world
  • The source of this goodness must be some perfect, absolute goodness from which it all proceeds (Plato's theory of forms)
  • This we can call God
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Morality as dependent on religion, cont.

Immanuel Kant:

  • Humans has a categorical imperative (ought) to search for the highest good - summum bonum - in order to bring about a perfect society
  • However that is impossible to achieve in this life
  • However 'ought' implies 'can'
  • Therefore we require immortal souls and an afterlife to achieve summum bonum which God can provide
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St Thomas Aquinas:

  • Conscience is a device given to us by God to help disitinguish right from wrong
  • The main difficulty is differentiating between the two
  • Reason for evil deeds is that mistakes are made and a false good is followed
  • Syndersis- awareness of moral principles
  • Conscienta- distinguishing between the two and make a decision

Joseph Butler:

  • Conscience is the final moral decision maker
  • It was put there by God and so must be obeyed
  • Because your conscience says so is an adaquate justification for doing something

Sigmund Freud:

  • Conscience is developed through experiances, especially those occurring in childhood
  • An over-active conscience can be negative because it represses natural urges
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Morality and religion as independent

Euthyphro Dilemma:

  • Put forward in Plato's 'The Euthyphro' in which Socrates discusses morality
  • Is something good because God loves it?
    • If so, then the statement 'God is good' makes no sense
    • It would be like saying 'good is good'
    • This makes goodness/morality arbitrary 
  • Does God love something because it is good?
    • If so, good comes from somewhere else other than God
    • Where?
    • God is not omnipotent
  • Plato as Socrates argues that God loves something because it is lovable
  • Therefore saying that the two are indpendent
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Morality and religion as opposed

  • Crusades and inquisitions have been done in the name of God
  • Lucretius
    • "Such evil deeds could religion provoke"
  • Bertrand Russell
    • "principal enemy of moral progress in the world"
    • Preventing the ending of wars
    • Preventing scientific and moral progress
    • Preventing children from getting a rational education
  • Galileo
    • Put under house arrest for his scientific theories
    • holds back scientific progress
  • David Hume
    • "errors in religion are dangerous, those in philosophy only ridiculous


  • Religion is the source for many moral absolutes e.g. Mother Theresa, Ghandi, MLK
  • Evil happens whithout religion- evil comes from people, not religion
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