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Discuss critically the belief that the conscience is the voice of God

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Introduction

Katie Barfoot Discuss critically the belief that the conscience is the voice of God There is much controversy surrounding the origins of the human conscience; some theologians maintain that it is the voice of God, whilst others assert that it is affected by societal influences. It has even been suggested that the conscience's existence is not universal. Indeed, 1'the notion of conscience as an internal organ is not found outside Christianity.' Before attempting to identify roots, it is firstly necessary to establish the meaning of 'conscience.' It is generally agreed that it is, in part, an individual's capacity to decide on the moral appropriateness of a particular course of action. As L. K. Rambo says, 'It serves as a guide or monitor of life.' Indeed, both Christians and those from a secular viewpoint adhere to this view. However, despite this consensus, the views of Christians, such as Newman, stand in contrast to those coming from a secular perspective. ...read more.

Middle

Nevertheless, Martin Luther highlights the dangers of ungodly churches misleading their congregations, resulting in despair amongst ordinary consciences. It should be noted that in the Gospels the conscience is not mentioned specifically. However, it seems to be represented by the heart, which is referred to frequently: 'God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.' (Matthew 5:8) Paul begins to make the distinction between the heart and the conscience, a division most clearly seen in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul claims that the conscience becomes more than an awareness of transgression; it becomes a judgement on actions performed or about to be performed. The ideas of Joseph Butler have greatly influenced Cardinal Newman, who places much emphasis on the individual's relationship with God and the personal nature of conscience. However, he acknowledges the fact that individual consciences share a common core of values. ...read more.

Conclusion

Freud holds that the superego functions as the conscience. However, Glaser highlights the fact that Freud's theory fails to account for the evolutionary nature of conscience; it develops with experience. We must also question what happens when people rise above authority. Freud maintains that our sense of morality derives from our superego, which is shaped by authority, but doesn't address this point. Nevertheless, Fromm supports Freud, holding that people are trapped by the 'internalised echo' of authority. As for the origins of conscience, this remains unclear. If we are to accept that the conscience is the voice of God, we must then question as to why ideas of morality are relative, varying from one society to another. It may be that it is necessary for the individual to have faith in God for his conscience to be developed. Indeed, this would account for the apparent lack of conscience of serial killers, for example. 1 Michel Despland, writing in Mircea Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion ...read more.

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