Anthony Flood 12F

Religion and Morality

Ai) Morality as dependant on religion

The idea of whether morality and religion are linked or not was first looked upon by Plato, where in his Euthyphro Dilemma he asks, ‘Is what is pious loved by the Gods because it is pious, or is something pious because it is loved?’ In other words he is questioning whether things are good because God commands them to be, or does God command them because they are good? I will first examine the view followed by theists today, that things are good because God loves them and that religion and morality are linked.

There are a number of ways which you can establish a possible link between religion and morality, the first being heteronomously. Heteronomy is the view that morality depends on religious belief, or things derived from religion. The rules in heteronomous societies are from religious authority so will obviously be linked to religion, however a non-religious person is still capable of being heteronomous as they live and abide by the culture’s laws therefore adopting a morality based on religion. To a certain extent it is hard to deny aspects of heteronomy, since words like ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are shaped by religion. It would be hard to present an ethical theory free from these terms.

A theonomous link can also be made, where morality and religion depend on one source (for example, in Western cultures God) who is the fundamental designer of what is moral. Unlike Heteronomy, Theonomy does not require a religious authority as it is to do with the individual’s personal belief in the aforementioned source. The Natural Law theory developed by Aquinas is considered theonomous, in which an uncaused cause is the creative source for all. We can access God directly in this theory by fulfilling our purposes in life set by Him at our creation.

The view that things are good through God’s command is directly illustrated in The Divine Command Theory, the common theory adopted by believers in the God of Classical Theism. According to Emil Brunner (1947), ‘The Good consists in always doing what God wills at any particular moment’, as it essentially impossible for God to command an evil act.  If nothing was commanded or forbidden by God then there would be no wrong or right and arguably, there would be chaos. The DCT can be seen to provide a strong foundation for a stable necessary morality to be built upon as well as personal reasons to abide by it. For example, taken from the views of Kant (although not directly aimed at the DCT) the belief in the existence of an afterlife gives us incentive to live a moral life, which we otherwise may not be able to force ourselves to do. The presence of such an afterlife, and the fear of punishment make it rational (According to William Craig) to go against your own self-interest for the benefit of others, as self-sacrificial acts are looked upon well by God. This provides more answers to the question ‘Why be Moral?’

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The DCT can be accessed through the Decalogue in the Bible (Exodus 20, old Testament), which provides a set of ten absolute, deontological commands by God. Also through the New Testament in Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ where he makes laws much more situationalist with teachings such as ‘Love your neighbour’, which are flexible and apply to many situations.

Finally, many theists argue that it does not make sense for morals to exist in a non-moral universe as there is nowhere they originate from, they don’t fit into a natural universe. They do however fit into a theistic ...

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