Does Morality Need Religion

Many people have bought the idea that morality is coeval with religion to such an extent that they cannot detach the two. Looking at Socrates problem with the traditional stories about the gods, it gives rise to the Euthyphro dilemma-if we define the holy as what is loved by the gods (and goddesses), we will be faced with the question Is the holy, holy because it is loved by the gods, or do they love it because it is holy.

The question of whether morality needs religion may seem to be an extension of Euthyphros dilemma. Is morality contingent upon religion If this is true, what explains the exercise of morality world over where atheists and agnostics exist Their societal conduct does not seem lesser morally when compared with that of religious people. In fact, many vices committed in this world are mainly authored by religious men and women. In this light however, lets explore the views of Stephen Layman and John Arthur.

Stephen Layman
According to this philosopher, morality will only be well understood or give its justification only through religion. The belief in life after death prompts individuals to act morally since later they will get rewarded unlike in atheist perspective where there are no awards. To prove a pay back of the practice of morals, he gives two illustrations.

For starters, we as human beings lead and desire many things in life. However due to the nature of these desires, we die before we attain them. God being as he is will not let people to be unsatisfied all time and will therefore meet people desires in life after death.

Secondly, the poor and weak are more often than not oppressed by the rich and strong. God being good as he is will punish those who perform these vices not just in earthly life but also during the after life. So, some will get rewarded others will get a penalty.

Further, he stresses that the justification of the institution of morality is when it pays back to individuals who participate in it. For if they do not get pay back, there would be no reason of individuals participating in them. But then there is the question of whether morals actually pay. For the secular believers, they do not due to the existence of tribal morality, the secret violations of morals since God is not there to see someone, and finally it is difficult to show from a secular point of view that it is in the interest of the person to be moral.

With that, he seems to conclude that morality cannot be justified from a secular point of view since there is no pay back. The secularists counter this by saying that, even if morality does not pay, there are moral truths for everyone to live up to and that it pays in subtle ways. Indeed morality may not pay but certain more tenets remain true just as 112. But there is doubt whether there exists these necessary truths and if they do not, this view lacks partial metaphysical grounding of morals according to Layman.

By this, Layman concludes that moral life will only make sense from a theist point of view rather than from an atheist one.

John Arthur
To this philosopher, although there is a historical entanglement of morality and religion, morality is logically independent of religion. Morality is social.

He starts by asking how it would be if there were no moral codes. It would be that, notions of duty to do that which is good would be non-existent. And he says that, there is a possibility of religious believers living in this society. But then the pertinent question he is trying to answer is whether there is a connection between morality and religious beliefs.

Is there such thing as religious motivation and guidance on morals To Arthur, religious motivations are much different from the one people posses. Decisions will be made on the basis of what will happen to individual after an action for instance, shame, jailing or getting killed. Therefore there seems to be no religious motivation when performing moral actions.

As for the moral guidance, Arthur argues that, religion is constrained to do this. This is vindicated by the fact that, guidance in religion comes through revelation and there is a great diversity in this hence lack of a consensus. Further there are many religious faiths and pinpointing the right position on what is good or bad becomes a problem in face of this difference in opinions.

He goes further to rebut the claim of divine command theory. He posits that, morality can be based on reason rather than God. Even if God wants us to do the right thing, this does not show the distinction between being right and being commanded by God.

He proceeds to argue that morality is social since all our actions are subject to scrutiny from the rest and that sometimes we join hands in discussing the acceptability of our decisions. Borrowing from John Dewey, Arthur argues that, morality is indeed inherently social in that it depends on a socially learned language and that we learn it from the interaction we get from others as well as guiding these interactions in the society.

Critique of Stephen Layman
The problem with the position that there is a connection between religion and morality comes to the fore when you realize that there are no similar moral principles shared by all men and women of religion. As for the case of atheists and agnostics, they posses a vehemently strong and sound sense of what is right and wrong as anyone. These are people you find in movements fighting for that which everybody deems to be right. Look at the converse. Religion has led people to commit a long litany of abhorrent crimes. The Christians are killing thousands of Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism whereas the Muslims are killing Christians under the pretext of defending their faith.

The other difficulty facing this view is that despite the sharp doctrinal differences of religions, and for that matter, cultures like China in which religion has been less significant than philosophical outlooks like Confucianism, some elements of morality seem to be universal. The reason for this is that we have evolved over millions of years a moral faculty that generates intuitions about right and wrong.

Critique of John Arthur
Just as William Craig argues, naturalism or rather secularism does not provide a sound basis for morality. As Craig notes, without God there is no objective right or wrong. If naturalism is right, then we cannot condemn war, oppression, or crime. Some actions may not be socially advantageous, but cannot be called crime or wrong.

Since morality is being seen as invention of the society, this society is also capable of using its social skill to develop cruelty as well as kindness. To be sincere, no one is morally obliged to be virtuous. Just like Nietzsches Ubermann who defines his own virtue and later becomes self-centered, this is the kind of society we expect from atheists.

One of theories used to rebut religions influence on morality is that of relativism mostly taken by skeptics. Relativism is not logically tenable. Superficially, relativism, appeals to a large number of people mostly in societies that encourage the traditional value of individualism. Very often, those pursuing Arthurs point of view would most likely take this extreme view of relativism.

However, Arthur seems to tread too carefully on this and at least acknowledges some peripheral significance of religion in morality. For instance, he acknowledges the historical influence religion has impacted on morality but goes further by use of valid arguments to show how distinct the two are. All the elements of logic are well adhered to in arguing his case hence the need to support his views over Laymans.

My concurrence with him especially comes when he affirms John Deweys view that, morality is not only taught but also must be. That he has socially contextualized morality appeal the more since at the end of the day, morality is all about human beings. It is meant to see a moral world.


Post a Comment