“Religion and morality go together like boiled beef and carrots. You often find them together but it is perfectly possible to have one without the other”
For centuries there has been this constant on going debate on whether there is or is not a link between morality and religion. Plato was one of the first to face the question laying the grounds for the Euthyphro dilemma. A discussion between himself and Socrates was based on a young man, Euthyphro. He had planned to prosecute his father after he had tied up drunken peasant involved in a fight. His father had intended to report him to the authorities however he forgot about the peasant, who of course eventually died. Euthyphro dismayed by the events, then set out to prosecute his father. The discussion leads then on whether that,
“what human beings are morally oblige to do rest on what the gods command, or whether the gods only command what is good independent of their commanding it”
It follows this idea of is x right because God wills it (This statement I will use for there being link between the two), or God wills x because it is right (This statement I will use for their not being a link between the two). If x is right because God wills it run this view that God is projected as the creator of morality- the instigator of ethical principles, therefore his followers are bound by duty to behave as he has directed. This raises certain issues of which collapse this idea
Firstly it portrays God as purely arbitrary being.
“Behaviour is not right or wrong for any reason other than that, that God believes it to be so.”
If this be the case imagine God suddenly displaying himself and saying he no moral problem with people torturing their pets. You neighbour might start torturing their pet, you however refused saying you cared for you pet and would not want to hurt it. Would you consider yourself and neighbour to have equally moral principles just because a deity claimed there was no problem with torturing you pet? No, you probably wouldn’t – this then mean maybe morality is opposed to religion
“God involves a total, unqualified commitment to obey his commands and that such a commitment is not appropriate for a moral agent, since to be a moral agent is to be autonomous or self-directed agent”
Religious people have brought about evil in their beliefs, Bertrand Russell states how religion
“Prevents out children from having a rational education, religion prevents us from removing the fundamental cause of war.”
If morality comes from God then why is it that goes against his own beliefs and morality he gave us. God, in the Ten Commandments, tells us ‘do not kill’, yet he himself orders Abraham to kill his own son. That means any moral principles we have may not in fact be correct under God expression and purely random to his will. For that reason morality seems to break away from God and become it’s own code whether brought from Natural Moral Law (An idea brought by Thomas Aquinas or conditioned through human beings, being social culture. Which lead onto my second point
Atheists exist in this world, and if they don’t believe in God and religion then how are they then able to make moral decisions? Ideas such as supernaturalism states it is impossible to know- it is this proposal of which a moral judgment describes God will; ‘x is good’ means ‘God desires x ‘. Supernaturalism is defended as a biblical teaching, we know God’s will through combining four sources, the bible, the church, prayer and reason. It however means as Billington mentions, that it is impossible for atheists to make a positive moral judgment- but we do witness it and know it exist.
“Atheist or agnostic however outwardly ‘moral’ he may seem to be, must be judged acting in a neutral or immoral way”
If they had to perform a moral act we would recognise it, but how can we recognise an action of which can’t be based on morals due to this idea- they do not believe is God, they consequently then be doing something that can’t be described as moral- but we still recognise it as being moral.
I therefore feel that statement ‘x is right because God wills it’ seems unreliable and illogical to draw any firm evidence to display a link so I believe morality is separate from God, and perhaps the statement ‘God wills x because it is right’. God is no longer the creators of morality but the omniscient mentor, and he knows what is best for us, meaning people are able to uptake this idea of morality without the essentialness of religion and god. But yet again certain issues are aroused disagreeing this idea
Some people rely on this notion of God for making moral decision. They required religious sources in order for their quest for the right behaviour. People find it useful to make a connection in their mind that there is a link between the two, however subsequently there is no logical connection. God affectively needs no part in the bases of our moral, for basic moral principles might have be created through the logical truth ‘ x=x ‘, we know its true through logic not because
“God decided to make it true”
Nonetheless our morals still could come from God, but there is this debate related to moral autonomy,
“principles are justified on the basis of reason or experience alone, without reference to religious concepts”
We do not need religion; perhaps the normative is drawn through logic, empiricalism, and rationalism. Nonetheless certain religious group have done a complete opposite thing we are then dealing with this idea that could be moral heteronomy/theonomy- moral are influenced by society which in turn is influenced on religion. Judaism you have the whole body of Torah, or law, it is the fundamental element of creation. Within Islam beliefs there is the Qur’ann and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, leading the overall sense of law- the Shari’ah under which they should live. Hinduism has it’s scriptures and traditions of worship- their views about the nature of the universe and humankind’s place within it. Buddism is rather dissimilar, its teaching and scripture within they are kept are treated with great respect- each Buddhist is to becomes personally convinced of the truth of it’s teaching. These religions base their life style around religion, and they are quite impossible to separate because morality and religion independent on each other.
Finally now make my final points with outlined views of philosophers and scholars which have argue for a morality independent of religion. Morality and ethics have their roots in a word for ‘customs’. Morality brings with it a suggestion that requires us to subordinate out natural desires. Rousseau and Hume use this idea and shared with conviction that
“the origin of ethics are to be in certain natural feels of sentiments, but we have seen a less pleasant side of human nature as well.”
We are torn between our sentiments of humanity and out own avarice and ambition we hold the function of ethics to reinforce those sentiments that meet with the general approval of all- we ensure that our selfish desires are kept under control.
Kant however reject this idea of linking emotions and feels with ethics and morality, he believes it lies in
“pure moral law which is something quite independent of all inclinations or feeling.”
He believed we can recognise it only because in so far as we are rational beings, we can free ourselves from the casual necessity of the ordinary world of feeling, can follow the pure moral law given by reason alone
Marx, however in turn rejected this idea and embraced most clearly by Kant, but assumed by many other moral philosophers as well, that
“morality is in some way independent of the material circumstances of human life.”
Marx believe instead that we see morality, as we see religion and even other achievement of human intellect as cause and conditioned by the economic arrangements under which human beings live
Darwin on the other hand devoted a chapter of ‘The Descent of Man’ to the origin of the moral sense. He assembled some interesting data from observing of non- human animals, to which he showed animal have social instincts which lead then to behave in ways that, if they were humans, would certainly be praised as moral. So perhaps the gradual evolution of ethics from out non-human ancestors to the most advanced philosophical conception of ethics.
Therefore gathering and reviewing all the information I make my final conclusion. Morality and religion have no theoretical link, however in our minds and in practice they do. Morality links closely with our conscious (which some believe is the world of God), when we fail to fulfil our deontological commitment we bring upon ourselves a heavy sense of guilt. To relieve ourselves from this guilt we confess- a direct link for Catholics to make. However an issue raise with this link- do we confess to remove the guilt and been seen as morally correct in gods eyes, of do we out of fear. It could be through years of human conditioning by religion that we have made a link between morality and religion by referring a moral act under religion and God because of the fear of punishment? It is possible that we make our moral decisions not because they are morally correct, but because we
“Simply act out of fear of punishment”
I found myself agreeing strongly with Darwin, Hume and Rousseau. I believe those idea combined help us to establish morality totally independent from God, for they have no origin from him. But I also believe that God and religion plays a part in conditioning of moral, they are there to guide and mentor us, but not always necessary and essential to have when making a moral decision.