Monday, October 14, 2019

Religion and Morality Essay Example for Free

Religion and Morality Essay 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 cultures 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 individuals 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 Gods 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? 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 dont fit into a natural universe. They do however fit into a theistic universe where they were created by a moral creator (i.e God), it is then easy to see why they exist. This is supported by philosophers such as John Newman who states that feelings of responsibility and guilt point to God, and by D.I Trethowan, who suggests that an awareness of obligation is an awareness of God. Aii) Morality as independent from Religion A belief in morality as being totally independant from God is an autonomous belief, and there are many arguments in compliance with Autonomy, very much to do with the idea of free-will. If we really are to act with personal freedom of choice then we cannot act out of fear of Gods punishment, it totally voids the notion of free-will; and if God is omniscient and omnipotent he would know what decisions we are to make anyway and he would have the ability to stop us making the wrong ones. James Rachels concludes that no being like God can exist who requires us to abandon our moral autonomy is worth worshipping. There are theories in concurrence with Autonomy which allow still for a good, firm morality without dependency on religion such as Utilitarianism (greatest good for greatest number) so it can be said that religion is unnecessary There are many autonomous arguments against the DCT, beginning with the fact that God himself is not bound by any moral law. This would mean that Gods Ten Commandments could easily have been totally the opposite to what they are, encouraging acts like murder and we would still consider them to be good as God is the epitemy of good. This worrying problem was recognized by philosophers such as G.W Leibniz, who decreed, Why praise him for what he has done, if he would be equally as praiseworthy if he had done the contrary? There is belief that if God had commanded acts such as murder, people still would not do them as we through our intuition feel they are intrinsically wrong. Another difficulty with the DCT lies in the many different interpretations which can be drawn from God. The existence of lots of different religions all with equal claim to God makes it very complicated as we cannot tell which one is right. Also, if morality depends on God then surely it would be impossible for an atheist to live a moral life, but this is obviously untrue as so many atheists do live morally. Further criticisms of the DCT stem from its assumption that God is omnibenevolent, a claim which is not easy to comprehend for the atheist because of the undeniable existence of evil. Lastly, many people argue that religion is itself immoral, as it is through religion that the most part of suicide bomb attacks, and other horrific acts are carried out. Examples could be drawn from the events in America involving the Twin Towers, or more recently the teacher in Sudan who is imprisoned for allowing a teddy to be named after the prophet Muhammad. If not for religion, these arguably ridiculous acts would never be justifiable. Hume said on the subject, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, clearly advocates the theory that religion is immoral when he discusses the story of Lot. This righteous man is to be saved from the destruction of Soddom and Gomorrah because he is the most worthy man, however he offers his daughters for gang rape. According to Dawkins this emphasizes the serious disrespect for women in an intensely religious culture. B) To what extent is one of these claims more convincing than the other Going back to the basics of the Divine Command Theory, there are 613 commands in the Bible which were originally in effect, but are not now because they are outdated, and theists argue that an omniscient God used them knowing they would be relevant for different times. These theists fail, however to a provide a logical explanation for why there is nothing in the Bible which can be related to biological advances such as cloning, an omniscient God should be capable of filling in these gaps in moral law. Furthermore, as Dawkins relevantly points out how can someone decide that parts of the Bible are now irrelevant, this is just picking and choosing which parts are in your best interest to follow. This suggests that the Bible and therefore the DCT does not in fact provide a stable foundation for morality as there are numerous conclusions to be drawn from relevant parts. It must also be taken into consideration that the Bible is not in its original form, through hundreds of years it has been composed and revised so (as put forward by Dawkins again) does it not seem strange that we base our whole morality on such a distorted teaching. Another feature of the DCT, is that everyone will be judged by God, punished for their sins, often in the form of natural disasters. People could say that the recent tsunami and Hurricane Katrina incidents were a form of punishment, but as Dawkins once again highlights, why did this have to happen? It is hard to believe that everyone who died in these disasters was evil, so why could our omnipotent God of Classical Theism not just strike down the individuals without causing so much collateral damage. Moreover, this persuasively further argues the immoral messages religion can be seen to give. Often, it is argued that the set in stone rules of the DCT inspire people to live a moral life out of the incentive of making it to heaven, and avoiding hell. This may be true, but does it not tarnish the goodness of an act when it is done out of selfish reason? Does it then make that act immoral? Yes it does, so it can then be said that the DCT again fails to provide a stable, reasonable basis for morality. These set in stone rules are also cause for discussion, as they are obviously inarguable to a Divine Command Theorist. To them, consequentialist views such as killing someone to save a greater number would undisputedly be wrong. Even if our intuition is what is telling us that defying a command is right, the believer in DCT would say it is our intuition at fault; They do, however fail to take into consideration that by their own decrees intuition is given to us by God to live morally, so why would we intuitively want to go against God? Dawkins arguments suggest that religion is responsible for the most part of evil in the world and his descriptions of people like terrorists as e.g. Not psychotic; they are religious idealists who, by their own lights, are rational certainly make sense. However he makes it seem that no religious person has the capacity to do good, which can easily be refuted at the mere mention of the names Mother Theresa, or Martin Luther King. He also unsurprisingly doesnt mention the likes of atheist like Stalin who birthed communism in Russia. Despite this, the majority of Dawkins views and the massive flaws in the DCT show the latter statement in the initial question (Is something good because God commands it, or does God command something because it is good?) to be the most convincing of the two. Although the DCT offers a way for humanity to be good, religion itself harbors too many inconsistencies to base everything we stand for on.

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