Critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

Morality and religion - Wikipedia

critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

However, this idea remains controversial, and has been critiqued by both . able association between intensity of religious participation or. There are many types of religious values. Barbara Stoler Miller points out a further disparity between the morals of religious traditions, of others—and thus warrant our criticism. ABSTRACT. Through a critique of a recent argument by Larry Nucci, this article claims that The relationship between moral education and religion in American .

They did not mean that our happiness is self-interested in any narrow sense, because they held that we can include others in our happiness by means of our sympathetic pleasures. The Stoics likewise tied the best kind of human life, for them the life of the sage, to being like the divine. The sage follows nature in all his desires and actions, and is thus the closest to the divine.

Morality and religion are connected in the Hebrew Bible primarily by the category of God's command. Such commands come already in the first chapter of Genesis. In the second chapter God tells Adam that he is free to eat from any tree in the garden, but he must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Eve and Adam disobey and eat of that fruit, they are expelled from the garden.

There is a family of concepts here that is different from what we met in Greek philosophy. God is setting up a kind of covenant by which humans will be blessed if they obey the commands God gives them.

Human disobedience is not explained in the text, except that the serpent says to Eve that they will not die if they eat the fruit, but will be like God, knowing good and evil, and Eve sees the fruit as good for food and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom. After they eat, Adam and Eve know that they are naked, and are ashamed, and hide from God.

As the story goes on, and Cain kills Abel, evil spreads to all the people of the earth, and Genesis describes the basic state as a corruption of the heart 6: This idea of a basic orientation away from or towards God and God's commands becomes in the Patristic period of early Christianity the idea of a will.

In the Pentateuch, the story continues with Abraham, and God's command to leave his ancestral land and go to the land God promised to give him and his offspring Gen. Then there is the command to Abraham to kill his son, a deed prevented at the last minute by the provision of a ram instead Gen. Abraham's great grandchildren end up in Egypt, because of famine, and the people of Israel suffer for generations under Pharaoh's yoke.

Under Moses the people are finally liberated, and during their wanderings in the desert, Moses receives from God the Ten Commandments, in two tables or tablets Exod. The first table concerns our obligations to God directly, to worship God alone and keep God's name holy, and keep the Sabbath. The second table concerns our obligations to other human beings, and all of the commands are negative do not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet except for the first, which tells us to honor our fathers and mothers.

The Greeks had the notion of a kingdom, under a human king though the Athenians were in the classical period suspicious of such an arrangement. But they did not have the idea of a kingdom of God, though there is something approaching this in some of the Stoics. This idea is explicable in terms of law, and is introduced as such in Exodus in connection with the covenant on Mt. The kingdom is the realm in which the laws obtain. This raises a question about the extent of this realm. The Ten Commandments are given in the context of a covenant with the people of Israel, though there are references to God's intention to bless the whole world through this covenant.

The surrounding laws in the Pentateuch include prescriptions and proscriptions about ritual purity and sacrifice and the use of the land that seem to apply to this particular people in this particular place. But the covenant that God makes with Noah after the flood is applicable to the whole human race, and universal scope is explicit in the Wisdom books, which make a continual connection between how we should live and how we were created as human beings.

For example, in Proverbs 8 Wisdom raises her voice to all humankind, and says that she detests wickedness, which she goes on to describe in considerable detail. She says that she was the artisan at God's side when God created the world and its inhabitants.

Jesus sums up the commandments under two, the command to love God with all one's heart and soul and mind see Deuteronomy 6: The New Testament is unlike the Hebrew Bible, however, in presenting a narrative about a man who is the perfect exemplification of obedience and who has a life without sin. New Testament scholars disagree about the extent to which Jesus actually claimed to be God, but the traditional interpretation is that he did make this claim; in any case the Christian doctrine is that we can see in his life the clearest possible revelation in human terms both of what God is like and at the same time of what our lives ought to be like.

He takes the commandments inside the heart; for example, we are required not merely not to murder, but not to be angry, and not merely not to commit adultery, but not to lust see Ezekiel Jesus tells us to love our enemies and those who hate and persecute us, and in this way he makes it clear that the love commandment is not based on reciprocity Matt 5: The theme of self-sacrifice is clearest in the part of the narrative that deals with Jesus' death.

This event is understood in many different ways in the New Testament, but one central theme is that Jesus died on our behalf, an innocent man on behalf of the guilty. Jesus describes the paradigm of loving our neighbors as the willingness to die for them. This theme is connected with our relationship to God, which we violate by disobedience, but which is restored by God's forgiveness through redemption.

In Paul's letters especially we are given a three-fold temporal location for the relation of morality to God's work on our behalf.

Secular Morality vs. Religious Morality

We are forgiven for our past failures on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice Rom. We are reconciled now with God through God's adoption of us in Christ Rom. And we are given the hope of future progress in holiness by the work of the Holy Spirit Rom. All of this theology requires more detailed analysis, but this is not the place for it.

There is a contrast between the two traditions I have so far described, namely the Greek and the Judeo-Christian. The idea of God that is central in Greek philosophy is the idea of God attracting us, like a kind of magnet, so that we desire to become more like God, though there is a minority account by Socrates of receiving divine commands.

In the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the notion of God commanding us is central. It is tempting to simplify this contrast by saying that the Greeks favor the good, in their account of the relation of morality and religion, and the Judeo-Christian account favors the right or obligation. It is true that the notion of obligation makes most sense against the background of command. But the picture is over-simple because the Greeks had room in their account for the constraint of desire; thus the temperate or brave person in Aristotle's picture has desires for food or sex or safety that have to be disciplined by the love of the noble.

On the other side, the Judeo-Christian account adds God's love to the notion of God's command, so that the covenant in which the commands are embedded is a covenant by which God blesses us, and we are given a route towards our highest good which is union with God. The Middle Ages The rest of the history to be described in this entry is a cross-fertilization of these two traditions or lines of thought.

In the patristic period, or the period of the early Fathers, it was predominantly Plato and the Stoics amongst the Greek philosophers whose influence was felt. The Eastern and Western parts of the Christian church split during the period, and the Eastern church remained more comfortable than the Western with language about humans being deified in Greek theosis.

In the Western church, Augustine — emphasized the gap between the world we are in as resident aliens and our citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem, and even in our next life the distance between ourselves and God. He describes in the Confessions the route by which his heart or will, together with his understanding, moved from paganism through Neo-Platonism to Christianity.

Augustine accepted that the Platonists taught, like the beginning of the prologue of John, that the Word in Greek, logos is with God and is God, since the Intellect is the mediating principle between the One and the Many John 1: But the Platonists did not teach, like the end of John's prologue, that the Word is made flesh in Jesus Christ, and so they did not have access to the way to salvation revealed in Christ or God's grace to us through Christ's death.

Nonetheless, it is surprising how far Augustine can go in rapprochement. The Forms, he says, are in the mind of God and God uses them in the creation of the world. Human beings were created for union with God, but they have the freedom to turn towards themselves instead of God.

If they turn to God, they can receive divine illumination through a personal intuition of the eternal standards the Forms. If they turn towards themselves, they will lose the sense of the order of creation, which the order of their own loves should reflect. Augustine gives primacy to the virtue of loving what ought to be loved, especially God. In his homily on I John 4: He held that humans who truly love God will also act in accord with the other precepts of divine and moral law; though love not merely fulfills the cardinal virtues wisdom, justice, courage and temperance but transforms them by supernatural grace.

The influence of Augustine in the subsequent history of ethics resulted from the fact that it was his synthesis of Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire after and Greek philosophy that survived the destruction of the Western Roman Empire, especially in the monasteries where the texts were still read.

To understand this, we need to go back into the history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. The church had to explain how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit could be distinct and yet not three different gods. The doctrine of the Trinity comes to be understood in terms of three persons, one God, with the persons standing in different relations to each other.

critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

The church came to talk about one person with two natures, the person standing under the natures. This had the merit of not making either the humanity or the divinity less essential to who Jesus was. In the West knowledge of most of Aristotle's texts was lost, but not in the East. They were translated into Syriac, and Arabic, and eventually in Muslim Spain into Latin, and re-entered Christian Europe in the twelfth century accompanied by translations of the great Arabic commentaries.

In the initial prophetic period of Islam CE —32 the Qur'an was given to Mohammad, who explained it and reinforced it through his own teachings and practices. The notion of God's Allah's commands is again central, and our obedience to these commands is the basis of our eventual resurrection.

Disputes about political authority in the period after Mohammad's death led to the split between Sunnis and Shiites. Within Sunni Muslim ethical theory in the Middle Ages two major alternative ways developed of thinking about the relation between morality and religion. These standards that we learn from reason apply also to God, so that we can use them to judge what God is and is not commanding us to do. He also teaches that humans have freedom, in the sense of a power to perform both an act and its opposite, though not at the same time.

The second alternative was taught by al-Ashari d.

critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

He insists that God is subject to none and to no standard that can fix bounds for Him. Nothing can be wrong for God, who sets the standard of right and wrong. With respect to our freedom, he holds that God gives us only the power to do the act not its opposite and this power is simultaneous to the act and does not precede it.

A figure contemporary with al-Ashari, but in some ways intermediate between Mu'tazilites and Asharites, is al-Maturidi of Samarqand d. He holds that because humans have the tendency in their nature towards ugly or harmful actions as well as beautiful or beneficial ones, God has to reveal to us by command what to pursue and what to avoid.

He also teaches that God gives us two different kinds of power, both the power simultaneous with the act which is simply to do the act and the power preceding the act to choose either the act or its opposite.

Medieval reflection within Judaism about morality and religion has, as its most significant figure, Maimonides d. The Guide of the Perplexed was written for young men who had read Aristotle and were worried about the tension between the views of the philosopher and their faith. Maimonides teaches that we do indeed have some access just as human beings to the rightness and wrongness of acts; but what renders conforming to these standards obligatory is that God reveals them in special revelation.

The laws are obligatory whether we understand the reasons for them or not, but sometimes we do see how it is beneficial to obey, and Maimonides is remarkably fertile in providing such reasons. Aquinas, like Aristotle, emphasized the ends vegetative, animal and typically human given to humans in the natural order. He described both the cardinal virtues and the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, but he did not feel the tension that current virtue ethicists sometimes feel between virtue and the following of rules or principles.

The rules governing how we ought to live are known, some of them by revelation, some of them by ordinary natural experience and rational reflection. But Aquinas thought these rules consistent in the determination of our good, since God only requires us to do what is consistent with our own good. And from this natural willing are caused all other willings, since whatever a man wills, he wills on account of the end.

The principles of natural moral law are the universal judgments made by right reasoning about the kinds of actions that are morally appropriate and inappropriate for human agents. They are thus, at least in principle and at a highly general level, deducible from human nature. Aquinas held that reason, in knowing these principles, is participating in the eternal law, which is in the mind of God Summa Theologiae I, q.

Aquinas was not initially successful in persuading the church to embrace Aristotle. Aquinas was a Dominican friar. The other major order of friars, the Franciscan, had its own school of philosophy, starting with Bonaventure c.

First, Scotus is not a eudaimonist. He takes a double account of motivation from Anselm —who made the distinction between two affections of the will, the affection for advantage an inclination towards one's own happiness and perfection and the affection for justice an inclination towards what is good in itself independent of advantage Anselm, De Concordia 3. Original sin is a ranking of advantage over justice, which needs to be reversed by God's assistance before we can be pleasing to God.

Scotus says that we should be willing to sacrifice our own happiness for God if God were to require this. Second, he does not think that the moral law is self-evident or necessary. But the second table is contingent, though fitting our nature, and God could prescribe different commands even for human beings Ord.

One of his examples is the proscription on theft, which applies only to beings with property, and so not necessarily to human beings since they are not necessarily propertied. Third, Scotus denied the application of teleology to non-intentional nature, and thus departed from the Aristotelian and Thomist view. This does not mean that we have no natural end or telos, but that this end is related to the intention of God in the same way a human artisan intends his or her products to have a certain purpose see Harechapter 2.

Modern Philosophy Europe experienced a second Renaissance when scholars fled Constantinople after its capture by the Muslims inand brought with them Greek manuscripts that were previously inaccessible. In Florence Marsilio Ficino —99 identified Plato as the primary ancient teacher of wisdom, and like Bonaventure cited Augustine as his guide in elevating Plato in this way. His choice of Plato was determined by the harmony he believed to exist between Plato's thought and the Christian faith, and he set about making Latin translations of all the Platonic texts so that this wisdom could be available for his contemporaries who did not know Greek.

He was also the first Latin translator of Plotinus, the Neo-Platonist.

Morality and religion

Many of the central figures in the Reformation were humanists in the Renaissance sense where there is no implication of atheism. The historical connection between Scotus and the Reformers can be traced through William of Ockham d. The Counter-Reformation in Roman Catholic Europe, on the other hand, took the work of Aquinas as authoritative for education.

However, Suarez accepted Scotus's double account of motivation. The next two centuries in European philosophy can be described in terms of two lines of development, rationalism and empiricism, both of which led, in different ways, to the possibility of a greater detachment of ethics from theology.

Descartes was not primarily an ethicist, but he located the source of moral law surprisingly for a rationalist in God's will. The most important rationalist in ethics was Benedict de Spinoza — He was a Jew, but was condemned by his contemporary faith community as unorthodox. Like Descartes, he attempted to duplicate the methods of geometry in philosophy. Substance, according to Spinoza, exists in itself and is conceived through itself Ethics, I, def.

Everything in the universe is necessary, and there is no free will, except in as far as Spinoza is in favor of calling someone free who is led by reason Ethics, I, prop. Each human mind is a limited aspect of the divine intellect.

Critique of the relationship between religion and morality. by annie johnson on Prezi

On this view which has its antecedent in Stoicism the human task is to move towards the greatest possible rational control of human life. Leibniz was, like Descartes, not primarily an ethicist.

The rationalists were not denying the centrality of God in human moral life, but their emphasis was on the access we have through the light of reason rather than through sacred text or ecclesiastical authority. After Leibniz there was in Germany a long-running battle between the rationalists and the pietists, who tried to remain true to the goals of the Lutheran Reformation.

Examples of the two schools are Christian Wolff — and Christian August Crusius —75and we can understand Immanuel Kant —like his teacher Martin Knutzen —51as trying to mediate between the two. Wolff was a very successful popularizer of the thought of Leibniz, but fuller in his ethical system.

critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

He took from Leibniz the principle that we will always select what pleases us most, and the principle that pleasure is the apprehension of perfection, so that the amount of pleasure we feel is proportional to the amount of perfection we intuit New Essays on Human Understanding, XXI, He thought we are obligated to do what will make us and our condition, or that of others, more perfect, and this is the law of nature that would be binding on us even if per impossible God did not exist.

He saw no problem about the connection between virtue and happiness, since both of them result directly from our perfection, and no problem about the connection between virtue and duty, since a duty is simply an act in accordance with law, which prescribes the pursuit of perfection. His views were offensive to the pietists, because he claimed that Confucius already knew by reason all that mattered about morality, even though he did not know anything about Christ.

Crusius by contrast accepted Scotus's double theory of motivation, and held that there are actions that we ought to do regardless of any ends we have, even the end of our own perfection and happiness. It is plausible to see here the origin of Kant's categorical imperative. His idea was that we have within us this separate capacity to recognize divine command and to be drawn towards it out of a sense of dependence on the God who prescribes the command to us, and will punish us if we disobey though our motive should not be to avoid punishment Ibid.

The history of empiricism in Britain from Hobbes to Hume is also the history of the attempt to re-establish human knowledge, but not from above from indubitable principles of reason but from below from experience and especially the experience of the senses. Thomas Hobbes — said that all reality is bodily including Godand all events are motions in space. Willing, then, is a motion, and is merely the last act of desire or aversion in any process of deliberation.

His view is that it is natural, and so reasonable, for each of us to aim solely at our own preservation or pleasure.

critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

The second precept is that each of us should be willing to lay down our natural rights to everything to the extent that others are also willing, and Hobbes concludes with the need to subordinate ourselves to a sovereign who alone will be able to secure peace. He argues for the authority in the interpretation of Scripture to be given to that same earthly sovereign, and not to competing ecclesiastical authorities whose competition had been seen to exacerbate the miseries of war both in Britain and on the continent Ibid.

John Locke — followed Hobbes in deriving morality from our need to live together in peace given our natural discord, but he denied that we are mechanically moved by our desires. He agreed with Hobbes in saying that moral laws are God's imposition, but disagreed by making God's power and benevolence both necessary conditions for God's authority in this respect Treatises, IV.

He also held that our reason can work out counsels or advice about moral matters; but only God's imposition makes law and hence obligationand we only know about God's imposition from revelation The Reasonableness of Christianity, 62—5. He therefore devoted considerable attention to justifying our belief in the reliability of revelation. Frances Hutcheson — was not a deist, but does give a reading of the sort of guidance involved here.

He distinguished between objects that are naturally good, which excite personal or selfish pleasure, and those that are morally good, which are advantageous to all persons affected.

critiques of the relationship between religion and morality

He took himself to be giving a reading of moral goodness as agape, the Greek word for the love of our neighbor that Jesus prescribes. Because these definitions of natural and moral good produce a possible gap between the two, we need some way to believe that morality and happiness are coincident. This moral sense responds to examples of benevolence with approbation and a unique kind of pleasure, and benevolence is the only thing it responds to, as it were the only signal it picks up.

It is, like Scotus's affection for justice, not confined to our perception of advantage. God shows benevolence by first making us benevolent and then giving us this moral sense that gets joy from the approbation of our benevolence. To contemporary British opponents of moral sense theory, this seemed too rosy or benign a picture; our joy in approving benevolence is not enough to make morality and happiness coincident.

We need also obligation and divine sanction. Joseph Butler —, Bishop of Bristol and then of Durham held that God's goodness consists in benevolence, in wanting us to be happy, and that we should want the same for each other. He made the important point that something can be good for an agent because it is what he wants without this meaning that the content of what he wants has anything to do with himself Fifteen Sermons, — David Hume —76 is the first figure in this narrative who can properly be attached to the Enlightenment, though this term means very different things in Scotland, in France and in Germany.

Hume held that reason cannot command or move the human will. The denial of motive power to reason is part of his general skepticism. He accepted from Locke the principle that our knowledge is restricted to sense impressions from experience and logically necessary relations of ideas in advance of experience in Latin, a priori. From this principle he derived more radical conclusions than Locke had done. For example, we cannot know about causation or the soul.

The only thing we can know about morals is that we get pleasure from the thought of some things and pain from the thought of others. Hume thought we could get conventional moral conclusions from these moral sentiments, which nature has fortunately given us.

Probably he included premises about God's will or nature or action. This does not mean he was arguing against the existence of God. Some scholars take this remark like similar statements in Hobbes as purely ironic, but this goes beyond the evidence. The Enlightenment in France had a more anti-clerical flavor in part because of the history of Jansenism, unique to Franceand for the first time in this narrative we meet genuine atheists, such as Baron d'Holbach —89 who held not only that morality did not need religion, but that religion, and especially Christianity, was its major impediment.

He accepted from the English deists the idea that what is true in Christian teachings is the core of human values that are universally true in all religions, and like the German rationalists he admired Confucius. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, famously, that mankind is born free, but everywhere he is in chains The Social Contract, Ch. This supposes a disjunction between nature and contemporary society, and Rousseau held that the life of primitive human beings was happy inasmuch as they knew how to live in accordance with their own innate needs; now we need some kind of social contract to protect us from the corrupting effects of society upon the proper love of self.

Nature is understood as the whole realm of being created by God, who guarantees its goodness, unity, and order. Rousseau held that we do not need any intermediary between us and God, and we can attain salvation by returning to nature in this high sense and by developing all our faculties harmoniously. Our ultimate happiness is to feel ourselves at one with the system that God created.

Immanuel Kant — is the most important figure of the Enlightenment in Germany, but his project is different in many ways from those of his French contemporaries. He was brought up in a pietist Lutheran family, and his system retains many features from, for example, Crusius. But he was also indebted through Wolff to Leibniz. He accepted from Hume that our knowledge is confined within the limits of possible sense experience, but he did not accept skeptical conclusions about causation or the soul.

Reason is not confined, in his view, to the same limits as knowledge, and we are rationally required to hold beliefs about things as they are in themselves, not merely things as they appear to us. In particular, we are required to believe in God, freedom and immortality. Kant thought that humans have to be able to believe that morality in this demanding form is consistent in the long run with happiness both their own and that of the people they affect by their actionsif they are going to be able to persevere in the moral life without rational instability.

He did not accept the three traditional theoretical arguments for the existence of God though he was sympathetic to a modest version of the teleological argument.

But the practical argument was decisive for him, though he held that it was possible to be morally good without being a theist, despite such a position being rationally unstable. In Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason he undertook the project of using moral language in order to translate the four main themes of Biblical revelation accessible only to particular people at particular times into the revelation to Reason accessible to all people at all times. This does not mean that he intended to reduce Biblical faith to morality, though some scholars have taken him this way.

Humans have an initial predisposition to the good, which is essential to them, but is overlaid with a propensity to evil, which is not essential to them.

One key step in departing from the surviving influence in Kant of Lutheran pietism was taken by Johann Gottlieb Fichte —who identified as Kant did not the will of the individual with the infinite Ego which is ordering the universe morally.

He thought that Geist moves immanently through human history, and that the various stages of knowledge are also stages of freedom, each stage producing first its own internal contradiction, and then a radical transition into a new stage.

Religion and Morality (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Polytheistic religious traditions tend to be less absolute. For example, within Buddhismthe intention of the individual and the circumstances play roles in determining whether an action is right or wrong. For modern Westerners, who have been raised on ideals of universality and egalitarianism, this relativity of values and obligations is the aspect of Hinduism most difficult to understand.

InPierre Bayle asserted that religion "is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality". For example, The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics says that, For many religious people, morality and religion are the same or inseparable; for them either morality is part of religion or their religion is their morality. For others, especially for nonreligious people, morality and religion are distinct and separable; religion may be immoral or nonmoral, and morality may or should be nonreligious.

Even for some religious people the two are different and separable; they may hold that religion should be moral and morality should be, but they agree that they may not be. The proper role of ethical reasoning is to highlight acts of two kinds: For example, there is no absolute prohibition on killing in Hinduismwhich recognizes that it "may be inevitable and indeed necessary" in certain circumstances.

In the latter case, a study by the Barna Group found that some denominations have a significantly higher divorce rate than those in non-religious demographic groups atheists and agnostics. The ethnocentric views on morality, failure to distinguish between in group and out group altruism, and inconsistent definition of religiosity all contribute to conflicting findings. Furthermore, some studies have shown that religious prosociality is primarily motivated by wanting to appear prosocial, which may be related to the desire to further ones religious group.

The egoistically motivated prosociality may also affect self-reports, resulting in biased results. Peer ratings can be biased by stereotypes, and indications of a persons group affiliation are sufficient to bias reporting.