Fundamentals of Ethics
Three assumptions about morality and religion:
1. Religious belief is needed to get us to do our duty
2. Morality must be created by someone, and God is by far the best candidate for the job.
3. Religious wisdom is the key to providing us with moral guidance.
• (1) Need for Moral motivation
o “Atheism prevents us from seeing why we should be moral”
o Fear of God and desire for a happy afterlife—religious people are only more
likely to be conscientious, not more likely to do good
Religion sometimes even asks for follows to do harmful things to others—
doesn’t always help us to become better people
o However it does not show that God exists or morality depends on God.
o May incline us to do the right thing for the wrong reasons (fear of punishment)
• (2) God is the Creator of Morality
o “Because morality is a set of norms, there must be someone with the authority to
create them”—a morality built upon our own imperfections would lack credibility
This rests on the idea the morality must be created by someone. Comes
Argument for God’s Creation of Morality
1. Every law requires a lawmaker.
2. Therefore, the moral law requires a lawmaker
3. Humans cannot be the author of the moral law (since we are
imperfect in so many ways)
4. If human cannot be the author of the moral law, then God is its author
5. Therefore, God is the author of the moral law
Leads to Divine Command Theory:
• “An act is morally required just because it is commanded by God,
and immoral just because God forbids it.”
o Two problems: God may not exist or God may exist but not
• Plato’s Euthyphro, Euthyphro declares that piety is whatever is
loved by the gods. Socrates then poses the following question: “Do
the gods love action because they are pious, or are actions pious
because the gods love them?”
o Or: “Does God command us to do actions because they
are morally right, or are actions morally right because
God commands them?”
o Euthyphro chose the first option
• Divine Command theory affirms the second option, opting that
morality does not exist without God because God created
everything. Therefore, the first option is impossible. o But it’s not impossible: if God is creating moral rules: what
made him choose that rape, theft, and murder are immoral?
o This question creates a conflict for Divine Command
Theory—a god that creates rules arbitrarily is imperfect.
But if he had reasons to—then a set or moral rules would
have already been established and thus the first option is
the correct one.
o Since God knows everything, God knows what is
detestable about torture. Since God wants us to be good,
God orders us not to attempt such actions. God commands
us to refrain fro