Outline the reasons why it may be claimed that morality and religion are linked. Examine and comment on the reasons given for suggesting they are not linked in this way.
There are many reasons why one may believe that morality derives from religion. The golden rule of nearly every religion is to treat others as you would like to be treated, and this is evidence that morality is indeed at the heart of religion. The book of Leviticus teaches Jews and Christians to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’, and the Hadith teaches Muslims that ‘not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself’. Similar quotations are also evident in the religious texts for Hinduism, Jainism and Confucianism. Many religious believers have devoted their lives solely to the purpose of serving others, with Mother Theresa being a perfect example. Setting up a charity and working among the poverty-stricken children of Calcutta, Mother Theresa was most definitely an amazing example of a moral figure, and one someone many religious people strive to follow. Such saintly examples illustrate the point that moral goodness flourishes most when based on following a religion.
It can also be argued that religion provides some extra motivation for acting upon morals. Religions preach that such behaviour will be rewarded, and hence this would give reason for a religious person to be moral. Many Christian denominations teach that righteous deeds are rewarded with going to heaven after death, and oppositely evil actions are punished by hell. Other denominations, such as the Christadelphians, teach that Jesus Christ will return to the earth, and the reward for good behaviour will be a place in the heavenly kingdom that He is to set up on the earth.
Muslims also believe in the Day of Judgement, where they will be judged and according sent to Paradise of to Jahannam (Hell). Such promises made to religious people provide an incentive for them to act with justice and morality at the forefront of their minds, and hence is proof that there is a definite link between religion and morality. Some would say, therefore, that religion gives a greater purpose to morality, as religious people act morally with the knowledge that they will receive a reward in return for their behaviour, whereas non-religious people do not.
Some have argued that morality is in fact based upon religious commands, and that it is virtually impossible to separate the two. The divine command theory of morality states that what makes moral actions moral is the fact that they agree with God’s will. Religion is still deeply entwined within a significantly atheist western society, and that despite this, the morals of western society are still in accordance with God’s will.
The theory also supports the idea that if there was no God in the first place, our morals would be completely different to what they are today, and possibly there would not be any at all. This view is spoken very evidently by a character in the novel ‘Brothers Karamazov’ – “If there is no God, everything is permitted”. Based on the divine command theory, then, it can be argued that there is a link between religion and morality, and that our morals are in fact evidence that a God does exist, and that he gives us guidance to prevent moral chaos. If there was no God, there would be no purpose to having morals, and people would be free to do as they pleased.
Cardinal Newman argued that being immoral brings about feelings of guilt, shame and remorse- something that is individual and unique to human beings. He said that such feelings must be evidence that there is a divine being, one greater than ourselves, to whom we are responsible, before whom we are shamed, and whom we fear.
This shows a link between morality and religion, as moral experience brings about feelings that presuppose a higher being to whom we direct these feelings, and religion teaches this being to be the law-giving God. In his Fourth Way to prove the existence of God, Thomas Aquinas argued that because some goodness and worth appears in the world, there must be something absolutely and perfectly good from which this goodness derives from. This again shows a link between morality, religion and God. For example, giving food to the hungry is a good and morally correct act, and Aquinas argued that this goodness must come from somewhere, and this somewhere being a righteous and divine being – God.
Religious texts themselves prove a link between morality and religion. The Bible, for example, teaches Christians to follow the 10 Commandments, in which they are told not to murder, not to covet and not steal. These are indeed moral, and hence shows that following a religion establishes definite, clear morals within a believer. For Muslims, Zakah (one of the Five Pillars of Islam) is also very moral. Zakah, meaning both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’ involves Muslims giving a minimum of 2.5% of their earnings to charity, and such an expression of love and kindness is most definitely a moral one. With this and all the above reasons, then, it may be claimed with sure evidence the there religion and morality are linked.
A reason that separates religion and morality would be the fact that so many non-believers are moral themselves. Humans have the ability to know what is right from wrong, and it is down to our own personal judgement to what choice we make, and we are able to make the right choice without being religious. Morality brings about feelings of happiness and inner-satisfaction, whereas immorality brings about regret and guilt. It can be argued that the world is becoming increasingly moral, with things such as the women’s vote and more transnational charities rising, whereas the numbers of religious believers are thinning. However, this could be challenged by the fact that there has been dramatic increases in the number of crimes in the last several decades, and that actually as the world turns its back on religion, it also turns from morality.
There are now record numbers of criminals filling prisons to bursting point, and police are being murdered for just doing their jobs. Religious people, however, have a concrete set of rules, laid out for them in texts and by religious leaders, and are offered rewards for following them. Whereas the morals of non-believers are mainly dependant on parents, peers and the media, religious people follow their set morals and are less likely to be influenced by other people, and based on this is could be argued that religious people are less likely to be swayed and give into temptation of committing crimes and being immoral.
Nicky Cruz, a drug addict and someone who got kicks from murdering and stealing with his fellow gang members, only became moral when he became religious. Since believing God, he has had no part in gang crime, has helped those living in areas of social trouble and has helped to spread the word of God to many people. This example shows that religion and morality are connected, and can be used to back up the view that religious people are less likely to be swayed by other people into being immoral.
Another reason that could be used to separate religion and morality is the argument that religion itself is immoral. The philosopher Russell in particular argues for this point. The Catholic church was known for putting the scientist Galileo under house arrest for his ideas on the universe, as they were contrary to the ideas of the church. Surely, it is immoral to persecute someone in this way for their own personal ideas on a matter. Everyone should have the right to expressing their views, and should not have to suffer punishment for doing so. Peter Sutcliffe justified killing prostitutes by saying that he had been commanded to do so by God. The Crusades, where Christians fought against Muslims, is another example where religion has been to seen be immoral. It directly went against the commandment ‘Thou shalt not murder’, and portrayed sheer religious intolerance, going against Jesus’ preaching of loving your neighbour as yourself.
However, it could be argued that those involved in the Crusades were simply using religion to cover up and to justify their immoral and wicked acts. People in that time saw religion as completely right, and would not have argued against what the religious authorities were doing, and so those in power could have taken advantage of this. Terrorists most recently have used Islam to cover up their immorality, saying that their actions are justified. However, it is only a small minority of these apparent ‘believers’ who take such action and justify using their religion. Many Muslims extremely are against this, saying that their actions are actually completely against the religion, and that they are using Islam to cover up murdering innocent people. They would say that the most fundamental teaching of religion would be to love one another, and these actions cannot under any circumstance follow this teaching.
Some would say that religion actually divides up the world. How can every religion be right? If they were, would not there be just one religion? The fact that the religions disagree on different matters, such as Catholics and some Church of England churches on allowing gay ministers, there seems to be contrasting moral ideas, so how can any one religion be right? Muslims are totally against alcohol, as from the quote ‘O you who believe, intoxicants… are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them’. However, Christianity has no such teaching, and in fact Christians are told to drink wine in remembrance of Jesus Christ. So which should people follow, the Muslim moral of not consuming alcohol because of the dangerous effects it can have, or to follow the rule to drink in remembrance of Jesus Christ?
Some would argue that as religions contradict each other, it is impossible to know which one is morally correct. However, in particularly the monotheist religions, it can be argued that on a basic level, many morals of the religions are the same. All teach fundamentally to love each other as yourself, and from this should stem every other moral. Although each of the religions differ slightly, one may still follow the basic morals set out by all, like not thieving, lying or stealing. The differences in denominations are mainly due to different interpretations of religious texts, but all denominations still follow a set of similar moral rules. Despite a religious person’s religion, that person can still be moral, as all religions teach the basic right and wrong ideas, but only differ slightly in other teachings, such as the authenticity of Jesus Christ and dissimilarity in after-life beliefs.