Religion and Morality (Does Morality Depend on Religion)

Pages 1-18. Religion and Morality (Does Morality Depend on Religion? ) * Readings are taken from mainstream Western religions, namely Judaism and Christianity. * But also from Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. * A tradition in American thought that encourages leaders to look to religion and morality as pillars of a well ordered society. * In his 1976 address, Washington advised his fellow citizens to regard religion and morality as “indispensable supports” for “political prosperity. ” * Widespread belief that religion and morality are inseparable. Kai Nielsen’s approach * “I shall argue that the fact that God wills something – if indeed that is a fact – cannot be a fundamental criterion for being morally good or obligatory and thus it cannot be the only criterion or the only adequate criterion for moral goodness or obligation. ” * Essentially he contends that if your moral system rests on a theological foundation, then you run into insurmountable obstacles – for example * That a theological foundation, by definition includes no moral concepts. If on the other hand, your moral system does not rest on a theological foundation, then you have granted his claim, namely that we are capable of exercising moral judgment independent of religion. * Nielson objects to the line of reasoning that most people hold that an action is right or wrong because God has so willed it, and we know God has so willed an action right or wrong because God has so willed it, and we know God has so willed an action right or wrong because it is stated in Scripture. * Religion and morality in Judaic and Christian Traditions by John P.

Reeder, Jr. * The moral condition and the concept of source. * They assume these humans, they need a morality * Judaic and Christian traditions often also assume that humans need morality. * The human need for morality is addressed through the Adam and Eve story in Genesis. * A story about a ‘fall’ from moral perfection to moral evil. * Christians have often taken stories from Genesis to signify a transition from moral perfection to moral evil; before the first disobedience, the progenitors of human kind were perfectly good. In the Hindu view, human beings caught up in the process of time are inherently, naturally inclined to fall prey to evil. * The male and female figures (later called Eve) on this view are not yet in the human and hence in the moral condition as we know it. They do not know good and evil. * Thus one could argue, not only the delight of the food but the promise of wisdom – of moral knowledge – leads Adam and Eve from premoral bliss to the moral condition. * John hick argues, it is not easy to see why Adam and Eve would exchange the bliss of the garden for the world of morality. The deity is the source of the moral system that is to structure the existence, the way, of the people of God. * Many Judaic and Christian Traditions have found – 10 “words” or “commandments. ” * The notion that a trans-human source of morality is one way cultures have answered the questions: a trans-human reality in some way produces, communicates, and legitimates the moral order. * Origin * Judaic and Christian Stories of creation. * Where does a moral system come from? How does it come to be? The notion of a trans-human source and the idea of creation. * The notion of a divine creator appears in many versions of Judaism and Christianity, based on the biblical stories where the deity gives ‘laws’ to Israel (Ex/ Exodus 20). * They obey God as a debt of gratitude or justice and because they believe that what God commands is right. * The norms of the code God establishes are morally right. * The deity not only creates a moral code, but sets up the basic criteria of morality. The being who is loving and just establishes these qualities as the basic content or criteria of morality * The deity creates standards for how one should act (right conduct) and the sort of person one should be (morally good character. ) * The legislative model of making * The story of a divine creator suggests the idea that the moral order was made by a being at some time and place in the distant past. * The deity establishes a moral character or constitution for the existence of the group, as a king establishes laws for a people. The crucial feature of this model is that the moral order is legislatively constructed by some agency or agencies and ‘given’ to human beings. * Instead of giving it externally through some form of revelation, writes it on the mind or heart so that human beings can learn it directly by themselves. * Patterned on ultimate reality * The deity to whatever degree it transcends the merely human, patterns moral requirements on its own nature. * The basic principles or qualities that constitute morality are not only reflections or copies of God’s nature, but in some sense they continue to depend on the deity. It may even be said that the deity is not only just in a general sense but acts as humans are instructed to do; * A deity with certain characteristics establishes the criteria of morality * Humans can apprehend its meaning and even grasp its validity without acknowledging God, but the theistic believer sees the divine being as the causal source of the moral order. * Moral and legal order * We can say that the normative structure that a group explains through a story of creation may function as a legal as well as a moral system; it may contain the sorts of rules, do the sort of jobs that a legal system does. Thus a moral system would contain basic moral norms that apply to primary areas of human experience such as personal security, sex, and reproduction, economic relations, and political order. * The normative social order, laid down by a god or gods, can be a single complex system that serves both as morality and law; I will call this “the nomos’ ~Peter Berger * “natural law” is not merely the human moral order created by God, it is also law; * To understand it both as the moral order God establishes and as law in the technical sense.

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It is a “law” theory of morality because it refers to God’s law-like creation as its causal origin, and it is law proper because it has the characteristics of law. * But what of God’s revealed nomos, how has it been understood both as morality and law? * Halakah or Jewish law * What is the relation of halakhah to moral right and wrong? * One finds at least these three views: * To be valid, a law must be morally right; it is not enough for the law to come from a certain source.

The theory of law what is legally valid as halakhah must also be morally right Valid halakhah not only proceeds from the proper Rabbinic authorities but is morally correct. * What makes laws valid is independent of their morality; it is enough if they proceed say from the legislature; thus on this view of law a law could be valid as halakhah. * Law contains within itself certain general principles, which are moral principles but also function as law. This view thus is a middle way between 1 and 2.

The legal system contains principles which overlap with morality. * Despite diverging interpretations of natural law and halakah, we can see that in both Judaic and Christian traditions, God has been pictured as the source of morality and of law; God creates the nomos. * Types of norms * Structures may contain a variety of kinds of norms * Can take the form of principles or rules of conduct, and virtues, form principles or rules of conduct, and virtues, traits of character Norms structure not only what we do but the kinds of persons we are. In some cultures, however, that virtue is not subject to legal coercion and thus only norms for conduct do double duty as laws; virtues are part of the moral order that is outside the law. * Perhaps human law will reach only to external conduct, but God, as it is said in some traditions, judges the heart. * In some traditions, virtues are apparently seen as instrumental to conduct. * Virtues are qualities that are ingredient in the realization of human fulfillment. Sometimes rules and virtues are seen as independent yet complementary parts of morality * Some moral traditions include not only a level of duties and virtues that are required, but another level that is supererogatory, beyond the call of duty. * What is supererogatory is still part of the system established by the deity, but it provides for a moral ideal that exceptional individuals choose and that is worthy of special praise. * Some norms for conduct and character have to do with roles in social institutions which pertain to sex and reproduction, the economy, or the political order. Certain norms are thought to apply to any member of the society, for example, the right not to be injured or killed, irrespective of social roles. * Justification * A moral order is made; a moral order is learned. Why is it correct, legitimate, and justified? * Why is a particular morality the correct one? * The moral order is grounded in ultimate reality; the requiredness, the legitimacy of the moral order has its source in the fact that it derives from the “nature of things. ” * Source of human good * The moral code is legitimate because it leads to true human good. The source of human good, in other words, is a relation to the ultimate reality, and the path to this good is the moral code. * The idea that human good lies in a relation to ultimate reality is broader than this. * Just as physical well-being can only be achieved in harmony with the structures of nature, with reality, so there are analogous regularities or structures on which social and individual well-being depend. To achieve true human good, then one must conform to the ultimate structure of things, to the realities on which natural and social existence rest. The grounded in ultimate reality rationale in this sense boils down to assuming a particular conception of moral requirement – seek the good – and justifying the moral code as a step to God. * Justice as an independent criterion. * Rightness and moral goodness are not defined as what makes for the good, but as what can be accepted as a universal law. * It is quite often said that it is only just or fair for human beings to uphold the set of rules and virtues established by ultimate reality; * God simply because God created them or showed kindness to them, humans owe a debt of obedience. God commands and dies what is right. The deity who is just lays down moral instructions that are just * The traditional believer holds that God never asks or does what is wrong. * Underlying notions of rightness * It is important to realize where the moral code is seen as the path to human good, or rests on an independent criterion such as justice, a notion of moral requirement has been presupposed. * For even if rightness is conceived as what makes for human good, human good might not be thought of as a relation to ultimate reality. What is good or what is just could still be set within some other religious version of things, but the notion of good itself would not be conceived as a relation to ultimate reality and justice would not obtain between human beings and transhuman realities * Some appeals to ultimate reality, then really rest on underlying notions of right and wrong combined with specific beliefs about what is good or just which involve God. * 4. 5 Ultimate grounding for a notion of rightness Ultimate reality is not only the causal origin of specific norms of the moral order, it is somehow responsible for the establishment of the basic criteria. * The creator does not merely say, for example, don’t do X because X is unjust, but the creator establishes the “fact” that it is right to act justly and morally good to be a just person. In other words, notions of rightness and moral goodness are what they are because the transhuman source established them. * Thus the idea that a transhuman reality creates the moral order is a version of what is apparently a familiar theme in the history of religion. Twofold claim: * Rightness comes from and reflects the really real and these facts are the ground or justification for accepting what rightness is. * The claim is that if rightness is derived from and mirrors the ‘ground of being,’ then rightness has been grounded, that is, justified. * On the first view of inherent capacities I discussed earlier one conceives what one grasps as what God has established and taught. * On the second view of inherent capacities one apprehends moral requirements whose content and justification are independent of any reference to God. The first principle stands in no need of further justification; it is fixed and indubitable; one simply finds oneself bound by such a principle; one can’t think otherwise. * God implanted [moral knowledge] and Natural law = God’s law does not seem to require the created by God justification. Even if there were no God, the “natural law” would still be valid. * Human reason is sufficient to ground the moral demand. Both the believer and the unbeliever grasp the content of moral requirement as the principles of practical reason. * The basic criterion or principle of rightness is given in the dictate of reason.