Does morality depend on religion?
4.1. the presumed connection between morality and religion:
- 1995 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued judge Roy Moore of
Gadsden, Alabama for displaying the 10 commandments in his courtroom
- Violates separation of church and state
- 2000 Moore became chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, promised
“restore the moral foundation of the law”
- 2001 he had a granite monument to the 10 commandments installed in the
Alabama state judicial building.
- Sued again, 77% of Americans though he should be allowed to display it.
- United states: 80% believe in God, 12% believe in a higher power
- Main religion in USA is Christianity, 41% believe Jesus will return to earth by
- In popular thinking morality and religion are inseparable: people commonly
believe that morality can be understood only in the context or religion.
- Thus clergies are assumed to be authorities on morality
- Bertrand Russell: Essay – “A Free Man’s Worship” expressed a scientific view
of the world
- 4.2. The divine Command Theory:
- The divine command theory:
- God decides what is right and wrong. Actions that God commands are
morally required; actions that God forbids are morally wrong, and all other
actions are permissible or merely morally neutral.
- Attractive features:
- Solves problem of the objectivity of ethics
- Ethics – not merely a matter of personal feeling or social custom
- Whether something is right or wrong is perfectly objective: it is right if God
commands it and wrong if God forbids it.
- DCT – explains why anyone should bother with morality
- If immortality is the violation of God’s commandments, there is an easy
answer: on the day of final reckoning, you will be held accountable.
- Atheists would not accept it
- Main problem identified by Plato
- Plato’s Book: Euthyphro, discussion with Socrates; whether right can be
defined as what the gods command.
- Socrates = skeptical and asks, is conduct right because the God’s command it,
or do the God’s command it because it is right? (1 of most famous questions
in philosophy) - Antony Flew (1923-2010) suggested: “one good test of a person’s aptitude
for philosophy is to discover whether he can grasp [the] force and point of
- Socrates question is about whether God makes the moral truths true or
whether he merely recognizes that they’re true.
- Ex. Burj Khalifa building in the United Arab Emirates is the tallest building in
the world, you recognize that, but you did not make it true, it was made true
by the designers and builders.
- Is God’s relation to ethics like the relation to the building or like the relation
of the builders?
- According to the Divine Command Theory, nothing is good or bad, except
when God’s thinking makes it so.
- This idea encounters several difficulties:
- 1) This conception of morality is mysterious: to see the problem consider child
abuse: God could make child abuse right, not by changing the slap into a
friends pinch on the cheeks, but by commanding that the slap is right.
- How could merely saying or commanding, that a slap is right make it right? if
true, this conception of morality would be a mystery.
- 2) This conception of morality makes God’s commands arbitrary: God could
command anything whatsoever; instead of truthfulness being right he could
command lying to be right.
- 3) This conception of morality provides the wrong reasons for moral principles:
There are many things wrong with child abuse, but this theory does not
recognize any of them as important, all it cares about is whether child abuse
runs counter to God’s commands.
- To avoid troublesome consequences: Instead we may say that God commands
us to do certain things because they are right.
- Therefore we don’t have to worry about how God makes it wrong to lie,
because he doesn’t. God’s commands are a result of his wisdom in knowing
what is best.
- 4.3. The theory of natural law:
- This theory has 3 main parts:
- 1) Theory of natural law rests on a particular view of the world: this view the
world has a rotational order, with values and purposes built into its very
- Derived from the Greeks; believed that everything in nature has a purpose
- Aristotle: “in order to understand anything 4 questions must be asked: what
is it? What is it made of? How did it come to be? And what is it for?”
- Aristotle: “If then we are right in believing that nature makes nothing
without some end in view, nothing to no purpose, it must be that nature has