Religion and Morality

Do you think belief in God (even if you don’t necessarily think he is real per say) is necessary for morality?

As an atheist I explained morality by saying that if an action causes harm to others, it is bad, if it is causes pleasure to others it is good. For they are living beings just as you are.

Some problems with this:

  • Leads to circular reasoning if goodness is defined as well being, then well being is defined as well being.
  • Our natural observations only show us what ‘is’, not what ‘ought’ to be.
  • If goodness is human flourishing, what about a world where the wicked flourish?
  • We cannot objectively say what human flourishing is. Hitler believed killing the Jews would cause human flourishing.
  • If we use our ‘rationality’ to determine rationality, this can lead to a problem, for it may be better for the species overall if the weak members of society were killed off.

What do you think?

All human communities will develop standards of morality and values they rank against one another when faced with ethical dilemmas. In any human community, people can point to examples of “good people” and “bad people.” Morality isn’t really based on reason is it? It’s based on an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong, and that sense is to a large degree shaped and refined by one’s culture and socialization.

Do you mean is God necessary to defend a belief in some kind of absolute morality? Morality that is not defined by human community consensus?

Yes, that is what I mean

Morality is a very large subject; often it is meant to deal with normative behaviour within a particular group or community. It is also descriptive in the sense that a code of conduct and behaviour is accepted by a community. We also have moral theories, some may seek an authority to impose or convince people on what is correct and good conduct.

In terms of the Christian faith, I think when we dig deeply, we find that the Faith commences with “all have sinned”, and this ‘throws a spanner’ into moral theories. The faith also talks of a code, as summarised in the Ten Commandments and the sermon on the Mount. However, the “morality” that comes from God is repentance of sins, faith in Christ, and growing in grace and knowledge, which are spiritual codes in that this is the way we would fulfill all commandments from God.

You may see from this that morality is not imposed by an authoritarian God (albeit we see all authority from God), but that of freely understanding and deny our propensity to act immorally, and the need to act according to the teachings of the faith, which imparts to us a moral standing before God.

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