What is the relationship between religion and morality

Morality and religion - Wikipedia

what is the relationship between religion and morality

Morality is thought to pertain to the conduct of human affairs and relations between persons, while religion primarily involves the relationship between human. cases of biologically evolved connections between the religious and moral. There are many types of religious values. between the morals of religious traditions, stating that in.

Some philosophers have tried to answer this question in terms of the demonstrable longterm interest and welfare of the moral agent: They point to the social and psychic costs that openly immoral conduct or covert and hypocritical behavior can entail.

But others have rejected this approach either on the grounds that it is often not correct immoral people sometimes do very well or because it introduces essentially nonmoral motives into one's reasons for being moral.

what is the relationship between religion and morality

Some who argue this way have contended that no self-interested reasons should be given for being moral: For these thinkers the voice of duty, in the words of George Eliotis "peremptory and absolute. These thinkers have argued that without at least some metaphysical or religious basis moral striving makes no sense.

This basis may range from the minimal belief that morality is not pointless or futile, that one's efforts do make a difference, to the stronger belief that, however much it may appear true that good people suffer for their commitments, moral acts and dispositions are, in the ultimate scheme of things, acknowledged and rewarded.

It is noteworthy that discussion of the question "Why should one be moral? Hence, the separation of ethical theory from theology and philosophy of religion, which ethical theorists effected during the modern period, has to some extent been reconsidered. It is interesting that this development was anticipated strongly in the work of Kant. To be sure, Kant is well known for his emphasis on the rational accessibility of moral norms and for his insistence that moral commitment must be autonomous, in the sense that it must be based on respect for the dictates of reason and conscience rather than on norms imposed from without and enforced by external rewards or punishments.

Nevertheless, Kant's later writings, especially the Critique of Practical Reason and Religion within the Limits of Reason Alonewere focused largely on questions concerning the philosophy of religion. In these writings, Kant developed the position that, to make sense, moral striving requires belief in a morally intentioned governor of the universe this was Kant's "moral proof" of the existence of Godand he began to explore the relationship between ethics and themes in biblical theology.

Foremost among these were the issues of sin, repentance, and the possibility of moral righteousness. Kant's discussions here are dense, but it can be said that, in perceiving the need to ground moral commitment in voluntarily assumed religious beliefs, Kant also recognized the difficulty of providing any clear and incontestable rational justification for being moral.

Thus his work highlighted the difficulty of sustaining moral commitment and opened up, as never before, the prospect of rational persons' defecting from morality.

Discussing this problem under the rubric of the "radical evil" of the human heart, Kant introduced themes that were later developed by Christian theologians like Kierkegaard, Barth, and Niebuhr. Moral Theory and Religious Traditions This body of reasoned reflection on basic issues in morality and ethics provides a useful background for exploring the variety of concrete traditions of religious ethics.

Regarded superficially, these traditions display a bewildering variety of teachings and beliefs, making difficult any general conclusions about the relationship between religion and the moral life.

But when they are assessed against the framework of concepts just presented, religious traditions display some common patterns. Moreover, identifying these common patterns also helps highlight some of the important differences between traditions. In approaching these concrete traditions with the framework of ethical assumptions as a guide, one should keep in mind one other important consideration: In his book Beyond Beliefthe sociologist Robert Bellah has suggested that religious evolution, like the evolution of other complex systems, often involves movement from simplicity to greater differentiation of structure pp.

In terms of moral ideas, this suggests a development of greater sensitivity to the full gamut of specific issues and questions identified by systematic ethical theory. We shall see that questions or distinctions barely occurring to thinkers or writers within a tradition during its earliest phases emerge as important issues later in the tradition's life.

what is the relationship between religion and morality

In addition to looking at traditions synchronically in terms of their structure at any given moment, therefore, we must also look at them diachronically over the course of their development. The Superiority of Moral Norms and Independence of Moral Reasoning As we look at the variety of religio-ethical traditions, it is striking that a sense of the distinction between religious, ethical, and even legal norms is often not present, and that when it is, it is often a late development.

Furthermore, because the very distinctions are lacking, traditions do not always assert the superiority of moral norms over specifically ritual or religious requirements. This does not mean that these ideas are not present; often they are implicit and can be discerned only by a careful examination of how conflicts between norms are handled. As I have already observed, most historical traditions tend to see the normative structures bearing on human life as an integrated whole, wherein moral requirements are fused with religious, ritual, and legal norms.

In this respect it is often strained to speak of Jewish, Hindu, or Islamic "ethics. Incompletely understood as "law," halakhah is more properly thought of as sacred teaching or guidance, although it is also "law" in the sense that many of its specific requirements were upheld by public sanctions and punishments, when Jews were politically able to govern themselves.

In all, halakhah discusses specific commandments or normative prescriptions identified by commentators in scripture, including the Ten Commandments.

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While this body of norms does contain many requirements that are recognizably "moral," these are not clearly distinguished from what we would identify as ritual or religious norms.

At a fairly late date in the development of the tradition, commentators would puzzle over why specific ritual commandments for example, the requirement that only the ashes of a red heifer be used in a specific ritual of expiation had been placed on a par with obviously important moral norms.

But the early tradition tends not to make distinctions of this sort, and even later commentators who were rooted in this tradition agreed that all the norms of halakhah were equally sacred and equally incumbent upon the pious Jew. In each case we have a legal-moral-religious teaching containing the totality of enjoined actions in an undifferentiated unity.

Neither can it be said that many traditions display ethical theorizing in the contemporary sense of an effort to work out and to justify moral norms in rational terms.

Commentators on early Christian ethics have noted the striking difference between the tone of early Christian ethical writing and that of the surrounding Greco-Roman world. Whereas Greek and Roman thinkers were concerned with such questions as what constitutes "the good" for man and what patterns of conduct are most conducive to individual and communal well-being, Christian writers commonly established rules for conduct by citing biblical commandments, or by holding up as models for behavior exemplary persons in scripture.

Throughout, it is the hope for God's approval or the avoidance of his wrath that is pointed to as the principal reason for living a Christian life. As is also true for Judaism and Islam, not human reason but God's will remains the source and sanction for moral conduct. It is true that in our era each of the biblically based traditions has developed bodies of systematic ethical reflection, and it is also possible today to find treatises on Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain ethics.

Yet the separation of moral reasoning from other dimensions of the religious life is largely alien to all these traditions. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the appearance of ethical theorizing initially represents a response to the authority of Greek and Roman philosophy.

Thus, some of the earliest thinking about the relationship between religious and rational norms in these traditions—as for instance Sa'adyah Gaon's Book of Beliefs and Opinions ce and Thomas Aquinas's discussion of the forms of the law in his Summa theologiae 2.

Similarly, modern efforts to develop statements of Jewish, Christian, or Islamic ethics are very much a response to initiatives in philosophical ethical theory. The authority of Western thought has had a corresponding effect in stimulating thinkers in African and Asian religious traditions to develop systematic approaches to ethics.

But in all these cases, writers are usually compelled to begin their discussions with the observation that the moral teachings of their tradition are inseparable from its theological, metaphysical, or ritual dimensions.

Are we to conclude, then, that the separation of ethics from these other aspects of religion is only a Western phenomenon, and one largely traceable to the classical philosophers of Greece and Rome? It is true that systematic, rational thinking about morality—ethics in the modern sense—does emerge primarily in the Greco-Roman world, although one might also speak of ancient Chinese ethics in this sense.

Interestingly, in both these cases it was partly the breakdown of an older religious ideal that prompted rational reflection on the human good a theme we shall return to later.

But while ethical theorizing per se may be culturally localized, a sense of the independence, special significance, and even superiority of moral norms with respect to other normative requirements is present throughout many of these diverse traditions. Criticism of purely ritual efforts to please God, for example, is one of the hallmarks of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. A man who is not good, what can he have to do with music?

Neither the prophets nor Confucius, of course, would eliminate ritual from the life they believed human beings were called to live. For both traditions of thought, a fulfilled human existence was a moral and religious whole. But their opposition to efforts to reduce morality to one lesser aspect of the religious life evidences their sensitivity to the importance and relative priority of the moral norms.

Religion and Morality

This point could be further illustrated within a number of diverse traditions, but it becomes even clearer when we survey the historical development of religious thought. Not only do traditions tend to highlight moral requirements as they develop over time, but major religious controversies and schisms giving rise to new religious traditions usually effect dramatic ethicization of aspects of the older traditions, thus indicating how important the issue is for diverse religious communities.

Many examples from the history of religions could be given: To be sure, each of these important moments of religious change involves more than moral reform nor are the allegations of the "reformist" tradition always correct. But it is noteworthy that in each of these cultural contexts the effort to highlight and assert the priority of the moral norms is of such urgency that it could well be an important contributing factor to major religious change.

It is also noteworthy that in these quite different contexts change is always unidirectional; religions do not efface the distinction between religious and moral norms as they develop, nor do they subordinate moral requirements over time. On the contrary, just as a theoretical appreciation of the importance of moral norms would suggest, traditions move toward greater clarity about the distinctiveness and relative superiority of moral requirements.

One final matter deserves attention: The supreme guide to conduct in these traditions, it is said, is God's command, and because this command is not always moral, these traditions are fundamentally opposed to any idea of the distinctiveness or superiority of moral norms. This viewpoint is associated with forms of divine command ethics in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Many believe it finds its strongest biblical support in God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac Gn. In fact, the issue of divine command ethics is a complicated one.

Theoretical defenses of this position as voiced by al-Ghazali in Islam and by William of OckhamDuns Scotus, and Kierkegaard in Christianity usually arise in contexts where the very authority of the tradition is under attack by rationalist critics.

These defenses may seek less to represent the tradition in its integrity, therefore, than to place it beyond assault. Examined with less apologetic interests in mind, the traditions themselves do not necessarily support the religiously authoritarian reading they are given. While biblically based traditions trace their norms to God's will, this will is usually viewed in such ethicized terms as to render it unthinkable that God could ever require anything fundamentally wicked or immoral.

The Abraham-Isaac story in Genesis 22 is no exception to this rule. Readings based on this passage alone such as Kierkegaard's tend to omit the fact that, several chapters earlier, in Genesis In many ways, the episode in Genesis 22 reinforces this impression: The God of the Hebrew scriptures, unlike deities worshiped by idolators, does not demand the slaughter of children.

Indeed, this was precisely the lesson drawn by most later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim commentators. In this single text, therefore, we see both sides of the biblical tradition: Taken together, these ideas do not suggest a religious attitude that would subordinate morality, but one that discovers moral intentionality at the tradition's highest level of authority.

Universality and the Moral Rules We have seen that the term universality has several distinct meanings when used in reference to moral rules.

It signifies the fact that at least the basic rules of morality are the same across cultures. It also signifies that these rules are to be regarded as applying across cultural lines presumably to every human being.

what is the relationship between religion and morality

All who are human are members of the moral community and bear the rights and responsibilities of this status. A survey of different historical traditions bears out the presence of these ideas, although historical development and other considerations sometimes render matters complex. Common moral principles One of the most striking impressions produced by comparative study of religious ethics is the similarity in basic moral codes and teachings.

These prohibit killing, injury, deception, or the violation of solemn oaths.

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Lewis has called basic moral rules like these "the ultimate platitudes of practical reason," and their presence and givenness in such diverse traditions supports his characterization. Also remarkably similar are norms bearing on social and institutional life, especially economic relations.

While none of these traditions condemns private property though common possession is sometimes viewed as appropriate for the religious elite, or is thought to have prevailed during a utopian era at the beginning of timeall are solicitous of the needs of the disadvantaged or powerless and, in different ways, all encourage active assistance to the poor.

Christianity accomplishes the same end by encouraging extreme sensitivity to the plight of the weak or needy. Despite their other differences, Confucianism and Daoism share the Chinese conviction that the mark of just rule is a prosperous and happy peasantry. Both laud generosity by the rich and powerful, and both vigorously condemn economic oppression and rapaciousness.

The caste system of Hinduism, though opposed to any notions of social equality, aims at ensuring a livelihood and a share in the social product for all members of the community. This was accomplished by means of the jajmani patronage system, involving the exchange among castes of services and goods at socially established and protected rates.

Finally, while charitable giving in Buddhism goes largely to the monastic community and is directed toward spiritual attainment and not toward economic need, this community itself often has been a refuge for the poor and for orphans and widows. Furthermore, Buddhism espouses a vigorous ideal of shared prosperity in its conception of the duties of the righteous monarch cakravartin.


Similar assessments of individual moral worth Beyond these common moral principles, interesting normative similarities may also be identified with respect to the role played by individual decision and intention in the evaluation of moral worth. We have seen that while intention does not figure into the rightness or wrongness of a particular act, it is a crucial consideration in estimating the merit or blame of the moral agent. This aspect of moral reasoning, as well as the centrality of the individual agent as moral subject, is apparently well appreciated by the major traditions under discussion, although again some historical perspective is needed.

Very often during their earliest periods, traditions evidence an objective assessment of moral culpability: Similarly, the earliest strata of some traditions at times display notions of collective guilt whereby all members of a community are regarded as meriting punishment for the wrongdoing of a few. Characteristically, however, these less differentiated ideas give way over time to greater precision in the assessment or apportionment of blame.

In the Hebrew faith, Ezekiel's rejection of collective punishment Ez. This process of differentiation becomes particularly apparent during moments of radical religious change. None of the "daughter traditions"—neither Buddhism, Christianity, nor Islam—defends the idea of corporate punishment, whereas all put much stress on intention in assessing individuals' deeds. Jesus' criticism of religious and moral hypocrisy may not be fair to the Jewish tradition from which he sprang, but it is fully consistent with the spirit of greater interiority in the assessment of worth that marks the development of biblical faith.

Much the same might be said of the Buddhist remolding of the doctrine of karman to the effect that karmic consequences are seen to derive from the willing of the agent rather than from the outward deed. The importance of intention niyah in validating religious and moral observance in Islam and of the kindred concept of kavvanah in rabbinic Judaism exemplifies this same process of increasing precision in the assessment of individual worth.

what is the relationship between religion and morality

Differences between traditions Despite all these remarkable similarities, there are also important differences among the codes and teachings of these traditions. Thus, the permitted range of sexual conduct differs from tradition to tradition, with the concept of sexual chastity apparently not ruling out polygamy in some cases ancient Israelite religion, Islam, Confucianism but requiring monogamy and even recommending celibacy in others monastic Christianity and Buddhism.

Wrongful killing, too, is variously defined. For Jews and Muslims, killing is permissible if done in self-defense or to punish wrongdoers whose conduct is believed to threaten the community. The New Testamenthowever, suggests a stance in which even self-defensive killing of other human beings is prohibited.

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Buddhism and Jainism take this position one step further by discouraging the killing not only of human beings but of all sentient creatures. Differences of this sort represent an important object of study. Why is it that traditions whose moral attitudes and teachings are in some ways similar tend to differ in other respects? But the significance of these differences for our basic understanding of the relationship between religion and morality should not be exaggerated.

For one thing, these differences are manifested against a background of basic similarities in moral teaching. It is sometimes assumed, because religious traditions hold widely different religious beliefs, that their ethics must correspondingly differ; what is remarkable, however, is that these great differences in beliefs apparently do not affect adherence to at least the fundamental moral rules.

Furthermore, where moral differences do occur, they do so within the permitted range of moral disagreement. For example, even though Western religious moralists have vested sexual conduct with great importance often intolerantly imposing their norms on other culturesthere are many different ways in which societies can organize sexual conduct so as to fulfill the more basic moral objective of protecting human beings from injury.

Submit Better for the group. Morality is always for the benefit of a group. We all have various groups we belong to and our morals coincide with what is better for those groups. For most people, religion is one of their groups. What is better for that religion must be moral and what is counter to the religion must be immoral. Many religions combine groups to encourage their own group morals. For instance, if we look at the ten commandment. Even for people who were nonreligious, those who said they attended religious services in the past week exhibited more generous behaviors.

Religion and Morality

Religious people were less inclined when it came to seeing how much compassion motivated participants to be charitable in other ways, such as in giving money or food to a homeless person and to non-believers.

A review of studies on this topic found "The existing evidence surrounding the effect of religion on crime is varied, contested, and inconclusive, and currently no persuasive answer exists as to the empirical relationship between religion and crime. A study by Gregory S. Paul argues for a positive correlation between the degree of public religiosity in a society and certain measures of dysfunction, [35] however, an analysis published later in the same journal contends that a number of methodological and theoretical problems undermine any findings or conclusions taken from Paul's research.

Some works indicate that some societies with lower religiosity have lower crime rates—especially violent crime, compared to some societies with higher religiosity. For example, Simon Blackburn states that "apologists for Hinduism defend or explain away its involvement with the caste system, and apologists for Islam defend or explain away its harsh penal code or its attitude to women and infidels". The Catholic condemnation of birth control, if it could prevail, would make the mitigation of poverty and the abolition of war impossible.

The Hindu beliefs that the cow is a sacred animal and that it is wicked for widows to remarry cause quite needless suffering.