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Religion, Morality, and Ethics


Chapter 10 Religion, Morality, and Ethics Religion, Ethics, & Morality Morality is living according to standards of conduct. Ethics is evaluation and interpretation ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Religion, Morality, and Ethics

Chapter 10
  • Religion, Morality, and Ethics

All that we are is the result of what we have
thought it is founded on our thoughts, it is
made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts
with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the
wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the
carriage. All that we are is the result of what
we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts,
it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks
or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows
him like a shadow that never leaves
him. --Buddhism Dhammapada 1-4
These classes of living beings have been declared
by the Jinas earth, water, fire, wind grass,
trees, and plants and the moving beings, both
the egg-bearing and those that bear live
offspring, those generated from dirt and those
generated in fluids. Know and understand that
they all desire happiness. By hurting these
beings, people do harm to their own souls, and
will repeatedly be born as one of
them. --Jainism Sutrakritanga 1.7.1-2
The philosopher Kao said, Mans nature is like
the ke willow, and righteousness is like a cup or
a bowl. The fashioning of benevolence and
righteousness out of mans nature is like the
making of cups and bowls from the ke willow.
Mencius replied, Can you, leaving untouched the
nature of the willow, make with it cups and
bowls? You must do violence and injury to the
willow before you can make cups and bowls with
it. If you must do violence and injury to the
willow in order to make cups and bowls with it,
on your principles you must in the same way do
violence and injury to humanity in order to
fashion from it benevolence and righteousness!
Your words, alas!, would certainly lead all men
on to reckon benevolence and righteousness to
calamities. --Confucianism Mencius 6.1.1-2
Well then, said the Lord of the River, what
should I do and what should I not do? How am I
to know in the end what to accept and what to
reject, what to abide by and what do discard? Jo
of the North Sea said, From the point of view of
the Way, what is noble or what is mean? These
terms merely express excesses of contrast. Do
not hobble your will, or you will be departing
from the Way. What is few, or what is many?
These terms merely express states of fluctuation.
Do not strive to unify your actions, or you will
be in conflict with the Way. --Taoism
Chuang-tzu, book 17
You must not carry false rumors you shall not
join hands with the guilty to act as a malicious
witness You shall neither side with the mighty
to do wrong--you shall not give perverse
testimony in a dispute so as to pervert it in
favor of the mighty--nor shall you show deference
to a poor man in his dispute. When you encounter
your enemys ox or ass wandering, you must take
it back to him. When you see the ass of your
enemy lying under its burden and would refrain
from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it
with him. You shall not subvert the rights of
your needy in their disputes. Keep far from a
false charge do not bring death on those who are
innocent and in the right, for I will not acquit
the wrongdoers. Do not take bribes, for bribes
blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of
those who are in the right. You shall not oppress
a stranger, for you know the feelings of the
stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the
land of Egypt. --Judaism Exodus 231-9
Jesus . . . taught them, saying Blessed are
the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they
will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they
will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who
hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they
will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for
they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they will see God. Blessed are those
who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you
when people revile you and persecute you and
utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my
account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
great in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before
you. --Christianity Matthew 51-12
They ask you about drinking and gambling. Say
There is great harm in both, although they have
some benefits for men but their harm is far
greater than their benefits. They ask you what
they should give in alms. Say What you can
spare. Thus God makes plain to you His
revelations so that you may reflect upon this
world and the hereafter. They question you
concerning orphans. Say To deal justly with
them is best. If you mix their affairs with
yours, remember they are yours brothers. God
knows the just from the unjust. If God pleased,
he could afflict you. His is mighty and
wise. --Islam Holy Koran 2219-20.
The Jain religion is justly famous for its
doctrine of ahimsa, or nonviolence. It is based
upon the idea that all living beings have soul
and desire happiness. Can you see how this
belief implies the need to do no violence to any
living thing, even bugs and trees? If you do
not believe trees or mosquitoes have souls, does
that change the moral idea?
The Judaic commands seem to insist on justice and
good treatment even to ones enemies. Do you
think this is realistic? The war picture (not
found) is taken from the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Can one be good to ones enemies in a
situation of war? Do you think truly good,
religious people would refuse to go to war?
Mencius was arguing in the third quotation that
becoming a good and moral person could not be a
matter of changing our own nature. Indeed,
Mencius is famous for arguing that human nature
is inherently good. Do you think that is true?
All three of the references from the Abrahamic
religions talk about being concerned for the
poor. Yet, as the picture shows (not pictured?),
people are starving in this world. Do you think
we all do have an obligation to save the poor?
Why? Why does God care?
The Buddhist excerpt suggests the famous concept
of karma, namely, that what we are now is the
result of actions and thoughts done in the past.
So in a sense, those who suffer now are feeling
the effects of their own evils, and the main
reason not to do evil now is so that a future
life is not harmed. Do you think these ideas
explain our motivations for moral actions? Do
they, for example, help you care for the poor
more, or less?
Chuang Tzu, like other Taoists, taught the ideal
of nonaction. In the fourth excerpt, he is
suggesting that in the larger reality of the Tao,
the Way, there is no right or wrong. Why then
should we bother with morality? Do you think
that, in the big picture of things, morality does
not really matter? Is this view religious in
any way?
The Amish farmer is directed by his religious
commitment to avoid modern technologies. The
Amish are also traditionally pacifists. They
also tend to stop education for their children at
the eighth grade. Ultimately, these are
religious values for the Amish. Do you think he
might be right about some and not about others?
How might he decide if he can follow some moral
ideals and not others? If there is some
nobility in this way of life in obedience to God,
how does it compare to the terrorist, who kills
innocent people, he believes, in obedience to God?
Religion, Ethics, Morality
  • Morality is living according to standards of
  • Ethics is evaluation and interpretation of
    morality, often aiding in the establishment or
    revision of moral codes.
  • Morality and ethics are not necessarily or
    automatically religious. They only become
    religious when they are understood as expressions
    of or responses to that which is experienced or
    perceived as ultimate or transcendent.
  • (Hall et al in Richter et al, 257)

Religion, Ethics, Morality (cont.)
  • In most ancient societies religion and morality
    were effectively coterminous. (Smart)
  • Sometimes ethics and religion can be in conflict
    (e.g., the sacrifice of Isaac/Ishmael)
  • Symbiosis---theocracy (e.g., Taliban, HRE)
  • Ethics and morality without religion.
  • Religious morality can be seen as response to a
    flawed world

Why be moral?
  • personal merit, karma
  • rewards or punishments
  • love of God
  • practicality
  • other . . . ?

External and Internal Sources of Morality
  • written in stone?
  • Christianity
  • Buddhism
  • Confucianism
  • Judaism
  • Islam

Sources of Morality
  • Three sources
  • religion
  • nature
  • autonomous human nature

Sources of Morality
  • Three sources
  • Divine Command Theory ethics that conform with
    Gods commands
  • Abrahamic faiths
  • What happens when Gods commands seem immoral?

Sources of Morality
  • Three sources
  • Divine Command Theory ethics that conform with
    Gods commands
  • Natural Order
  • Confucianism
  • Taoism

Sources of Morality
  • Three sources
  • Divine Command Theory ethics that conform with
    Gods commands
  • Natural Order
  • Autonomous Human Reason
  • Buddhism
  • Aristotle

Religion and Culture
  • Religion against Culture
  • Religion of Culture
  • Religion Above Culture
  • Religion the Transformer of Culture

Religion and Violence
  • Silence
  • Complicity
  • Opposition
  • End-time/religious use of violence

Augustines Just War Theory (cf. dharma yuddha,
Islamic theory, et al)
  • declared by legitimate authority
  • right intention (promote peace)
  • last resort
  • proportionality
  • reasonable chance of success
  • moderation

Religious Morality and Rational Morality
  • Religious Morality vs. Rational Morality
  • Religious Morality completed by Rational Morality
  • Religious Morality Separate from but
    aesthetically related to Rational Morality

Religious ethics is then essentially a creative
enterprise striving for harmony between images
and actions. It begins with images of who we are
and who we could be. These images, symbols, and
metaphors are given within religious traditions.
Systems of religious ethics create the conditions
within which there might be an aesthetic
fittingness between a persons (or a peoples)
sense of identity--the self-image that is shaped
through religious symbols, myths, and
rituals--and behavior that visibly manifests that
self (or corporate self) through action. People
try to act in ways that fit their self-image.
Religious ethics is a living drama. It provides
a stage upon which human beings create a dynamic
sense of self through the medium of action.
(Richter et al, 276-77)