Religious beliefs about conscience.

Various religions 

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Roman Catholic Church

*In the second vatican council (1962-65), the RC Church agreed that was a law inside each person which speaks to the individiual heart. 

*Conscience is a personal and inner sense of right and wrong. 

>It works like any law, and holds the person to obidience.

*The Pastoral Consitution of the Church in the modern World states that:

>This 'law of the heart' is really 'a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged."

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Vincent Macnamara - Roman Catholic

*MacNamara states that it is misleading to refer to conscience as a 'voice' in a person's head.

*He believed that this infers that it is a seperate entity to the individual. 

*He says it is much better to consider it as an attitude or awareness which people have when there is a moral path to be followed through life.

"It is not so much that I have a conscience, as that I am a conscience."

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Timothy O'Connell - Roman Catholic

*Sees conscience as having 3 levels:

>General sense of responsibility for who we are and who we become. 

>Sense of obligation to search out the good and avoid the bad through help of moral reasoning available to us, e.g. the Church.

>"Concrete judgement a person makes so that good as he or she sees it must be done"

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St Thomas Aquinas - Roman Catholic

*Saw conscience as the "mind of man making moral decisions."

*For his, conscience has two parts:

>Synderesis: Repeated use of "right reason" by which a person gains knowledge of basic moral principles + understands that it is important to do good and avoid evil.

>Conscientia: Ethical judgement or decision a person makes which leads to a particular course of action. 

*Therefore, conscience is being able to distinguish between right and wrong, and make decisions in difficult moral situations. 

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Aquinas cont.

*Aquinas held that we should follow our conscience.

>This means that it's right to apply moral principles to everyday situations as best you can. 

*However, this doesn't always mean you're right. 

>If your principles are wrong, then our conscience will be wrong too. 

*Conscience is nor just a voice.

>It is reasoning used correctly to find out what God sees is good. 

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John Newman - Roman Catholic

*When a person follows conscience, they follow a divine law at the same time.

*Conscience is a 'messenger' of God.

>It is God speaking to us when we feel intituitive moral knowledge & make decisions. 

*Conscience is more than a 'law of the mind', as it comes from God.

*Conscience does not invent truth, but detects it. 

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Joseph Butler - CofE

*Distinguished from animals through our possession of the "faculty of reflection" (conscience)

*Being a human involves being moral 

*Conscience can determine & judge the rightness or wrongness of an action. 

*Conscience "magisterially exerts itself spontaniously without being consulted"

>Conscience is therefore authoritative & automatic.

>It has the final moral authority. 

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Butler Cont.

*Human nature is hierarchal - at the top is conscience:


Principle of Reflection

>Given to us by God in order to live a good and happy life.

Self Love & Benevolence 

Basic instincts (food, sex etc.)

*Mistakes made by conscience are no big deal. 

*However, when people convince themselves that a wrong action is actually the right action, this corruption by self-deception is worse than the bad action.

*Conscience harmonises benevolence and self love, and controls human nature.

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Augustine of Hippo - Influenced western Christiani

*Conscience is the voice of God whispering to us

*When we listen to our conscience, we hear the voice of God

*This voice whispers to us about what is right & wrong

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