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Religion and Morality Essay

(i)Examine the views of scholars concerning the idea that religion and morality are linked. In this essay I am going to be looking at all the different view points on why some people may think religion and morality are linked. I will talk about a few things that link them such as conscience, divine command ethics, Kant’s view and Aquinas’ view. Many people believe that morality is based upon religion and the rules written in the Bible and other holy books, although some say that religion is completely opposed to morality and it is wrong to mix the two.

Some scholars believe there are three views on the relationship between religion and morality, one of them being that morality depends on religion. Religious leaders are expected to have extremely high standards of morality, R. B Braithwaite believes so, he states that ‘to be religious and to make religious claims is to be committed to a set of moral values’.

Much religious language is the language of morality, and as we have seen religious believers have committed themselves to particular ways of behaving. Aquinas’ believed that if God exists morality exists and that God made humans only his image, ‘when we are good, we are reflecting God’s image’. He also believed that goodness on earth reflects on God’s morally good perfection, so because God made us based on his image, when we are good we are reflecting on his ‘perfect’ image.

However Kant’s view is the opposite to this, he believed that if morality exists God must exist and that the highest of good is perfection, although no one is perfect, which means no one can be as good or great as God because he has this perfect image, and no one is perfect therefore cannot live up to those expectations. Kant’s argument was that for the existence of God based on the existence of morality: There must be a holy author of the world who makes possible the highest goods.

Some people believe in Divine Command Ethics because they think that God’s authority is absolute and final, and that human reason has no authority. God tells us how to live, obedience is commanded. Disobedience to the word of God is a sin. He also thinks that the existence of God is necessary for the summum borum (which is the highest for of good) to be achieved, and that the summum borum is not achievable in this life, therefore the existence of God is necessary for the goal of morality to be realized. Another is that morality is independent of religion.

Freud believed the conscience is a moral policeman. The internalized super-ego that controls and socializes human moral behavior. Capable of doing much damage to our mental health. Some people believe conscience has no supernatural origin, it is the product of how people are brought up. Parents and teachers, teach us right and wrong and we are effected by the environment we are brought up in. Everyone’s conscience is different depending on what they were taught and how they were raised and children, meaning they believe different things, and have different view points.

Religion and morality is also linked by religious influences on moral matters. For example, a US abortion rights group have angered some conservative Christian groups by selling condom key rings that have a picture of Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel, with God handing Adam a condom. The president of the Christian group said ‘this does nothing to deal with the horrific promiscuity rate we have among teenagers. We believe the real approach particularly to the young people that this is targeted at is abstinence before marriage’.

Another example is that CARE lobby for a reduction in the time limit for legal abortions, to 18 weeks, and against the growing swell of public opinion in favor of legalizing assisted suicide. Existentialists may argue without God morality is meaningless and ‘everything is permitted’. If this is true God is the guardian of morality. Without God moral chaos or anarchy would ensue. Some other reasons why people say that religion and morality are linked is that: Moral codes are derived from religion. Moral opinions are judged against religious teachings.

Even secular society adopts or is influenced by religious moral teachings, for example, it seeks guidance from religious leaders in moral matters such as genetic engineering/abortion. In conclusion the strongest view to me is Social Conditioning, in which morality is independent of religion. I believe that peoples morality comes from the environment that they are brought up in, and the people around them such as parents and teachers. From a very young age we are taught what is right and wrong, and grow up respecting the law and people around us more than God.

(ii)Comment on the view that religion and morality are not linked. Euthyphro’s Dilemma was that the problem of whether something is good because God commands it, or does God command that which is good. ‘Do that God’s love that which is holy, or is it holy because it is loved by the God’s’ – Plato. Almost all Christians will say something is good because God says so, his commands must be obeyed. A Christian’s dilemma is that either good is a whim or good is something that dictates to God.

So if a Christian interprets that it is God’s will to murder, they think they are justified because it is God’s choice. A. C Grayling believes that religious morality is irrelevant to modern society because what people value has changed. He thinks that modern morality includes a great concern for human rights, animal welfare and the environment, not because of God but because of the instrumental value to themselves. Nietzsche has a view that Christianity is a disease on humanity and that morality is also a disease that imposes limits on human freedom.

‘Belief in God encourages ‘slave morality”. He believes that feelings of guilt, shame and remorse are forced upon us from the churches, and that we are made to feel bad for fulfilling our desires. ‘If more people believed in God there would be less immorality’ – R. A Sharpe believed this to be a misconception. He believes this because some churches teach that God hates homosexuals, or that contraception is wrong. A secular ethicist could argue that people are more likely to be morally responsible if God does not exist.

If there is no afterlife then we should behave in this life as there will be no reward or punishment at the end, life is short, treat people well. I believe religion and morality are separate, being strong in one doesn’t make you strong in the other. I myself know not to murder someone, not because of a fear of God or that the Bible told me not to, but because I have been brought up to know it is wrong and against the law, and I do not wish to end up in prison.

Although I don’t think it is the fear of punishment, it’s just in my heart not to want to hurt someone, not just my conscience and upbringing teaching me not too. People who claim that religion is their morality are basically saying that without the fear of going to hell they would have no motivation to follow the morals. R. A Sharpe believed that ‘If more people believed in God there would be less immorality’ is a misconception because he doesn’t believe that all Christian’s have the right morals. Another argument would be what if the divine changes his mind.. If God said that murdering children was the right thing to do, would it be?


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