Philosophy of Religion God and Morality Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1002 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Religious Ethics

God and the good: The divorce between religion and ethics

Theistic belief systems have generally prescribed behavioral codes for adherents that ultimately derive their authority from God or other supernatural entities. However, while the prescriptive role of religion has waned in increasingly secular societies, God and morality have actually become more closely entwined as philosophers turn to the persistence of moral responsibility to argue for the existence of a divine lawgiver, or else reject the possibility of God and morality together.

Some of the simplest religions attribute evil itself to personal or collective failures to conform to taboos or other supernaturally mandated rules for behavior. In these worldviews, disease, death, famine, and other misfortunes are direct results of transgressing the prevailing moral code:

They know that such sicknesses are unusual, and that they are proof that the inhabitants of the afflicted village have violated some important prohibition or failed to perform some important duty toward the mystic powers, and the illness shows that they are being visited by divine wrath (Aldrich166).

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The threat of divine punishment (and the countervailing rewards for good behavior) remains a motivating factor even for moderns who have otherwise abandoned most of the other paraphrenalia of religious life; God may nominally be dead, but the sentiment that universe still chastises sinners and repays the virtuous is alive and well.

On a deeper level, religious ethics regulate human conduct in order to restrict opportunities for the creation of suffering or evil, or to alleviate its inevitable effects. God demands some behaviors and forbids others, generating a template for how worshippers can be "good," and this system of obligations and prohibitions serves as the basis for both religiously informed law and personal morality. Since these codes of behavior emanate from religion, their prescriptive power hinges on religious belief:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Philosophy of Religion God and Morality Assignment

Virtually all religions include a code of moral conduct. […] Morality needs religion. And one respect in which it can be said that morality needs religion is that the goal of the moral life is unreachable without religious practice. […] In the premodern age and even today in large portions of the world, the relation between morality and religion was taken for granted (Zagzebski 344-5).

With the breakdown of religious certainty, human beings have been forced to search for new ways to identify, practice, and justify moral behavior. This search reached a zenith in Kant's attempts to work backward from moral certainty to a proof that God exists. While the argument is complex, it can be abstracted as a variant on the familiar cosmological proof: rather than establish a first physical cause or creator, Kant establishes a first moral cause and defines the divine in those terms (Palmquist 76). In so far as we are disposed to differentiate between right and wrong, he argues, we must inherently trust in some ultimate ethical arbiter and live our lives as if this arbiter exists with the authority to enforce its mandates.

This "proof," Kant points out (372), is compelling on grounds… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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