Examine the key ideas of one critique of the link between religion and morality. To what extent does this critique effectively undermine the link between religion and morality?
The question that first arises when considering the link between religion and morality is whether someone can truly be moral without necessitating the existence of God? It has often been claimed that there is a link between religion and morality. If we think of religion as the source of morals, and then it seems difficult to live without religion. Dostoevsky said that ‘Without religion, everything is allowed.’ Presenting the idea that a supernatural authority is a necessary precondition for morality. However, when high levels of moral behaviour are found outside the framework of any religious belief or teaching it seems hard follow Aquinas’s line of reasoning that goodness is somehow ‘a reflection of the supreme goodness of God’. Aquinas’s Fourth way does not suggest ‘good’ can be defined, all we know is that God is the supreme source of it and that it is his very essence to be perfectly good. Many have asserted that the link between religion and morality is not positive and it can be traced back to Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma. However, critiques of the link between religion and morality have taken many forms such as; sociological and psychological.
The Euthyphro Dilemma is a critique of the relationship between religion and morality, which highlights a number of problems associated with the idea that morality stems from God. The classic discussion originated from Plato’s character Socrates’ Does God will something because it is good or is something good because it is willed by God?’ This question constitutes a prima facie dilemma for the theist in that it seems unacceptable to say either that things get to be good solely by virtue of being willed or commanded by God, or that things get to be good in some manner which is independent of God’s will or commands. Mark Murphy said ‘if moral requirements existed prior to God’s willing them, requirements that an impeccable God could not violate, God’s liberty would not be compromised.’ Morality would retain its authority even if God did not exist. God is no longer a ‘law-giver’ but at the most a ‘law-transmitter’ who plays no vital role in the foundations of morality.