Religion and morality
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Religion and Morality. Inter-relationships. Relationships. Is it true that morality depends on religion , even that it cannot be understood in the context of religion? Ivan Karamoazov -”If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” (Moral nihilism). Relationships.

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Religion and morality

Religion and Morality



  • Is it true that morality depends on religion , even that it cannot be understood in the context of religion?

  • Ivan Karamoazov-”If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” (Moral nihilism)


  • Major ethical theories have been developed independently.- Autonomy Thesis

  • Morality does not originate with God.

    • Rightness and wrongness are not based simply on God’s will.

    • Essentially, there are reasons for acting one way or the other which may be known independently of God’s will.


  • Are Religious Ethics essentially different from secular ethics?

  • Kant argues that there is no difference- both God and humanity have to obey the same rational principles and reason is sufficient to guide us to these principles. What is good is good will- acting according to principles- Categorical Imperative.

  • In fact, God and immorality are necessary postulates of ethics- ought implies can. Must be able to reach moral perfection- not possible in finite life. God provides universal justice.

Religion is irrelevant to morality
Religion is Irrelevant to Morality

  • Bertrand Russell- humans are free to think, evaluate, create, and live committed to ideals. Life has the meaning we give it, and morality will be part of any meaningful life.

  • James Rachels: In worshipping God believers relinquish their autonomy. One gives up their reason. Rachels and Nowell-Smith contend that religious morality is infantile because it is based on authority.

Religious morality
Religious Morality

  • Method of moral reasoning- “moral point of view.”- impartiality.- Golden Rule- consistency in our actions.- reciprocity.

  • Emphasis on relationships- to others in terms of Love and respect- Love your Neighbors- what means?

  • Religious morality1
    Religious Morality

    • Set of beliefs affirming the reality of moral retribution.- recompense- why be moral?- Karma, Punishment

    • Identifies ways to overcome “moral paralysis” and “despair about moral failure”- grace, atonement, assistance,

    Religion and moral goals
    Religion and Moral Goals

    • Cosmic justice= summum bonum= happiness is proportional to virtue.- Kant – there must be a God to make this possible.

    • Humans desire happiness by nature- to be happy is to have nothing left to will- Aquinas- to have a total vision of reality= Beatific vision of God- necessary if nature to be fulfilled. Thomas- human desires and aims irremediably thwarted without God; this cannot be the case.

    • Camus- “Myth of Sisyphus”- No God- so human desires can be irremediably thwarted- absurdity of life.

    Religion enhances moral life
    Religion Enhances Moral Life

    • If there is a god, good will win over evil.- not fighting alone. (James, Royce)

    • If God, exists, then cosmic justice reigns- Kant.

    • If theism is true, moral reasons always override non-moral reasons. (Gauguin abandoned family)

    • If theism is true, then there is a God who loves and cares for us.

    • If there is a God who created us in his image, then all persons are of equal worth.

    Divine command theory
    Divine Command Theory

    • An act is morally required (right) just in case God commands us to do it.

    • An act is morally wrong just in case God forbids us to do it.

    • An act is permissible just in case God neither commands nor forbids it.

    • Moral rightness= willed by God.


    • How does merely commanding something make it rights-

    • Is this good because God commands it or does God command it because it is morally right?

    • Can we be in doubt about what God commands- commanded to kill?

    Natural law theory
    Natural Law Theory

    • God created nature and the laws of nature are in accord with God’s plan.

    • Natural law is universal and the same for all human beings at all times.

    • These moral laws of nature can be discovered by human beings.

    • Thus, these are guides to human moral action.


    • Counterexamples to nature is good- self-interest, disease.

    • Confuses “is” and “ought”- what is the case and what ought to be the case- descriptive & prescriptive- cannibalism.

    • Conflicts with the notion of nature proposed by science- not moral, purposive, but cause and effect.

    Confucian virtue ethics
    Confucian Virtue Ethics

    • “The only purpose a man can have and also the only worthwhile thing a man can do is to become as good a man as possible.”

      • Ren- acting kindly toward others.- kind-heatedness. This is something we can become by cultivating our social, aesthetic, cognitive and moral powers. It is full humanity at its best.

    Confucian virtue ethics1
    Confucian Virtue Ethics

    • Shu and zhong-not doing to other what you do not want done to you and doing what is best for others. Shu= seeing someone else as being like yourself.= reciprocity.

    • Xiao- familial love and respect- practice of kindness, honor, respect, and loyalty among all family members. Society= one large family.