You are on page 1of 15

Introduction Man is naturally a moral being with rational capability whether learned or ignorant, civilized or savaged, rich or poor,

theist or atheist; human behaviors are morally characterize because man feels constrained to guide his conduct by rules and codes which are distinctly moral in character. However, religion is also part of our human history and it is the moral man that participates and practice religious service and rituals. So, the game between religion and morality has long been established right from when man turn to the metaphysical being know as God for his spiritual needs and want. The discussion of Morality without religion raises the question of whether religion is necessary for moral behavior. Even though societal norms of morality and virtue ought to be universal elements of all religions, acceptable moral behavior may differ from religion to religion. Religious traditions by themselves are also generally diverse, with different sects or forms of heterodoxy, and will disagree over various topics. Morality then becomes a subjective phenomenon. However, the manner in which human beings can develop morals without religion is often the cause of heated debates and arguments. Whether morality can exist at all without religion is the core of the issue. As we proceed in this intellectual work we would attempt to look into this philosophical problem. In justifying our aim we will adopt the following methodological hints; what is morality? What is religion? Can there be morality without religion? We will be considering the reason why they can be morality without religion and then cap it up with a conclusion.

1. What Is Morality When we talk of morality a lot of questions comes to mind, what kind of behavior or attitude could be term as moral? And who determines what is moral? In a bid to find answers to these questions, Philosophers around the world have debated the meaning of morality for centuries. However, it is a word too subjective to be either denoted or defined. Aristotle, often referred to as the father of philosophy, advised that one could determine what is moral by examining the mean between two less desirable extremes. For example, we can feel fear either too much or too little but that having fear at the right time, of the right things and so on is the mean and the best.1 Plato argued that to know the good is to do the good.2, therefore, those who behave immorally due so out of mere ignorance, not defiance. Furthermore, Plato believed that a moral person is a truly happy person; and because people always desire their own happiness, they always desire to do that which is moral. While both theories of morality are appealing and rather convincing, neither attempts to define exactly what it is. 2. What is Religion? In contrast to morality, the word religion is etymologically debatable. The root word could be the Latin word religio meaning obligation or a bond or the Latin word religare meaning to tie or bind. However, from research many scholars prefer religare. This uncertainty about the word contributes to the abundance definitions that are assumed today. In its primary meaning, religion is the worship extended by men to an extramundane and supramundane personal being, on whom they believe to be dependent in their lives and fortunes

1 2

Aristotle; Nicomachean Ethics Ed. Roger Crisp, Oxford: (Cambridge University Press, 2004)p.18 Cf. http://www.123helpme.com/preview.asp?id=127457 25the October 2010.

and whom they seek to make propitious by special observances.3 It is in this primary sense that the word "religion" will here be used; so by morality without religion what is meant is morals without supernatural sanctions. 3. CAN THERE BE MORALITY WITHOUT RELIGION? Yes, There Can Be Morality without Religion. The divorce of morality from religion can be traced back to Kant who created a controversy that is known as pet theory of independent morality which advocates that man can be moral without religion. According to him, morality and religion are closed systems which are not interrelated.4 3.1.Argument for morality without Religion. a. Morality as Part of Human Nature Morality being part of the human culture is one of the major factors that separate humans from other earthly creatures. A wild tiger hunts, kills, and eats animals almost every day. It does not calm its animalistic frenzy to ponder whether it is right or wrong to kill the animal. It does not look up at the sky and thank God for providing its dinner. It just gouges itself until it cannot eat anymore and then decides what to do with the carcass. Most humans are raised with morality gotten through different forms. Religion is just one tool used to help guide morality on the right course. Take away religion and there would still be societal norms, law, and family values to take its place but take away morality and religion is invalid. Humans will always have the sense of morality, and without it

3 4

Cf. Celestine N. Bittle; Man and Morals, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Pub. Company, 1950), p. 332 Cf. Celestine N. Bittle; Man and Morals, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Pub. Company, 1950), p.330

human existence will be in great chaos and anarchy because everyone will go about doing his or her own things as it appeals to him. b. The morality of our Ancestors If we say that there cannot be morality without religion that suggests that our forefathers are not morally oriented because they passed on before religion took its root in our society. Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal? Humans must have worried about the functioning of their communities well before the current religions arose, which is only a few thousand years ago. In fact, in Africa this sense of morality has been with us right from the time of our forefathers till our present time. This could be seen in the light of the community King, chiefs or head that are found in our local communities, they help to make sure that peace is encouraged and promoted, that lives and property are saved, also that the moral life of their communities is secured and promoted. Perhaps, they needed no religion to tell them that stealing is bad or that killing is bad and evil. Besides, they already had the concept of morality and that can be seen in the conception of what they termed taboo which is pronounced whenever something contrary to the culture and tradition of the land is done (i.e. what is seen as moral for the people). Not that religion is irrelevant but it is an add-on rather than the wellspring of morality. These facts are incompatible with the story of divine creation. Our evolved intuitions do not necessarily give us the right or consistent answers to moral dilemmas. What was good for our ancestors may not be good for human beings as a whole today, let alone for our planet and all the other beings living on it. But insights into the changing moral landscape (e.g., animal rights,

abortion, euthanasia, international aid) have not come from religion, but from careful reflection on humanity and what we consider a life well lived. In this respect, it is important for us to be aware of the universal set of moral intuitions so that we can reflect on them and, if we choose, act contrary to them. However, the point is that religion is not the source of this moral intuition. c. Enlightened Self-Interest There could be morality without religion because of the principle of enlightened self-interest.5 Under this principle, it makes perfectly good sense for a person to treat others kindly and helpfully. The treatment will likely cause them to reciprocate with similar behavior, thereby increasing the person's happiness. Conversely, if a person treats people selfishly and abusively, the usual response is to retaliate against, ostracize, or otherwise punish the wrongdoer. And it is not just the victims who recognize the wrongdoer as a dangerous person who should be avoided. Those who witness or learn about the wrongdoing are likely to feel the same way. Therefore, those who do not believe in religion may act morally not necessary because of religion but because of their own self interest of which he do not need religion to tell him. d. There is no Common Moral Principle Shared by all Religion Do to the heterodoxy nature of religion in our present time; there is no common moral principle in all the religion. This has lead to a kind of conflict of moral view from different sects of religion we have in the world. For instance, while one religion is saying that gay marriage, euthanasia, and marrying of more than one wife is morally wrong; another will be giving a very contrary opinion to what has been said by the other religion. In other words, there is no common agreement among the religions as it regards what is moral and what is not moral.

http://www.humanismbyjoe.com/morality_without_religion.htm 27th October, 2010

According to Richard Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion has stated that religious people have committed a wide variety of acts and held certain beliefs through history that are considered today to be morally repugnant.6 In support of his position he argued that Hitler and the Nazis held broadly Christian beliefs that helped inspire the Holocaust through Christian anti-Semitism, that Christians have traditionally imposed unfair restrictions on the rights of women, and that Christians supported slavery through most of the religion's history. Furthermore, religion has led people to commit a long litany of horrendous crimes, from Gods command to Moses to slaughter the Midianites, men, women, boys and non-virginal girl, through the crusades, the inquisition, the thirty years war, innumerable conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Moslems, and terrorist who blow themselves up in the confident belief that they are going straight to paradise. Again, The God of the Christian Bible is further portrayed as evil in many places. For example: "I will bring evil upon them, even my fierce anger, says the LORD; and I will send the sword after them, till I have consumed them." (Jeremiah 49:37) How can a being that has fierce anger and does evil things be a source of morality? In the Bible, words having to do with killing significantly outnumber words having to do with love. In Genesis 6:17, God becomes a mass murderer by planning "to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die." In fact, it is intellectually dishonest for Christians to believe that they offer an absolute, firm moral guide outside of secular logic and secular reason.

Cf. Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion./ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality_without_religion 27th October, 2010

e. Is God Necessary for Morality? If God is necessary for morality, then whatever God deems moral is moral. Therefore, why praise God for what He has done if He could have just as likely done the opposite, and it would have been equally moral. If whatever God says goes, then if God decreed that adultery was permissible, then adultery would be permissible. If things are neither right nor wrong independently of God's will, then God cannot choose one thing over another because it is right. Thus, if He does choose one over another, His choice must be arbitrary. But a being whose decisions are arbitrary is not worthy of worship.7 Furthermore, if goodness is a defining attribute of God, then God cannot be used to define goodness. If we do so, we are guilty of circular reasoning. That is, if we use goodness to define God, we cannot also use God to define goodness. Again, if one does not believe in God, being told that one must do as God commands will not help one solve any moral dilemmas. Some philosophers, therefore, come to the following conclusion that the idea that a moral law requires a divine lawgiver is untenable.8 f. Are Atheists really less Moral than Believers? If religion were necessary for morality, there should be some evidence that atheists are less moral than believers. People of faith regularly allege that atheism is responsible for some of the most
7

Cf. 1. Theodore Schick, Jr., "Morality Requires God . . . or Does It?" Free Inquiry (Summer 1997), pp. 32-34.

Cf. Ibid., pp. 32-34.

appalling crimes of the twentieth century. Are atheists really less moral than believers? While it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion; delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history, or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Considering the Holocaust; the anti-Semitism that built the Nazi period, it was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. Not only that, for centuries, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful. These facts do not justify religion as the source of morality in anyway. g. Religion does not Provide Objective base for Morality If religion really provided the only conceivable objective basis for morality, it should be impossible to posit a non-theistic objective basis for morality9. But it is not impossible; it is rather easy. Clearly, we can think of objective sources of moral order that do not require the existence of a law-giving God. Morality is really questions about happiness and suffering. If there are objectively better and worse ways to live so as to maximize happiness in this world, these would be objective moral truths worth knowing. Whether we will ever be in a position to discover these truths and agree about them cannot be known in advance and this is the case for all questions of scientific fact. But if there are psychophysical laws that underwrite human wellbeing then these laws are potentially discoverable. Knowledge of these laws would provide an enduring basis for an objective morality. In the meantime, everything about human experience
9

Cf. Sam Harris; The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos 2010.

suggests that love is better than hate for the purposes of living happily in this world. This is an objective claim about the human mind, the dynamics of social relations, and the moral order of our world. While we do not have anything like a final, scientific approach to maximizing human happiness, it seems safe to say that raping and killing children will not be one of its primary constituents. In addition, one of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is religion, Incompatible religious doctrines have Balkanized our world into separate moral communities, and these divisions have become a continuous source of human conflict. The idea that there is a necessary link between religious faith and morality is one of the principal myths keeping religion in good standing among otherwise reasonable men and women. And yet, it is a myth that is easily dispelled. h. Social Factors- Empirical Studies Empirical studies indicate that religious societies are NOT more moral than those that are more secular in their cast. There are examples of societies and cultures that have moral codes without a belief in a deity and there are efforts to establish a moral order that is not founded on religion. Their efficacy as compared to moral traditions stemming from or dependent upon some religious tradition remains to be determined. However, the secular basis for morality may be more effective in securing social cohesion and non-violent resolutions to conflicts than a morality based on religious beliefs. More so, Nietzsche argued that religion obstructs human moral development or rather in his blunt formation; God is a gross answer, an indelicacy against thinkers at bottom merely a gross

prohibition for us you shall not think, thus he avers, God is dead and humanity is release from the shackles of religion will open the way for authentic moral development.10 3.2.Argument against Morality without Religion Advocates of Christian Ethics attempt to point out to people who side with the preceding position their lack of understanding concerning both God and the nature of man. They argued for the inseparability of morality from religion, for them there is a mutual relation between morality and religion. In support of their stands, they opine the following argument against morality without religion. a. Religion as an integral part of morality Religion is the sum of the duties which obligates man to render honor and homage to God as the Supreme Being and creator of man.11 Looking into the nature of man, man is an individual, a social animal and a creature of God endowed with the natural knowledge of right and duties which constitute what we term morality. However, he can no more cease to be a creature of God than he can cease to be an individual or a social being. So the duties of man toward God the creator of man forms the integral part of religion. Thus, religion is an integral part of morality. b. The Ultimate end. The morality of an action is determined by its end or purpose. Where there is multiplicity of ends, one of them must be the ultimate end.12 If God is the ultimate end of man, then to exclude religion from morality is to destroy morality. St. Thomas Aquinas in support opines, in his prima

Cf. Avi Sagi; Religion and Morality, (Amazon Library)p.5 Celestine N. Bittle; Man and Morals, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Pub. Company, 1950), p.330 12 Cf.Ibid., p.332.
11

10

10

Secundae I-II of the Summa Theologica that the final cause is the principle of all moral acts and this final cause should by God13 The consequence of this kind is affirmed in the Intellectuals like Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Tillich and many others who have followed them have tried to create a godless society, a society free to create its own ethical system without the constraints of Godgiven mandates. What can we expect if these leaders are able to advance their model for a system of ethics that has no need for God? The Nazi holocaust began with a subtle shift in attitude that judged the value of people based upon their cost benefit ratio to the state. First, it started with sterilization and euthanasia of people with severe psychiatric illnesses. Soon all those with chronic illness were being exterminated. Before too long, all patients who had been sick for five years or more, or were medically unable to work and unlikely to recover were transported to killing centers; what started as "mercy killings" in rare cases of extreme mental illness soon expanded to mass extermination on an unprecedented scale. Before long all those who could not work and were medically evaluated as incapable of being rehabilitated were killed.14 How did the medical profession in Germany become nothing more than an instrument of death in the hands of the Nazis? First, one's view of the nature of man had to change from that of a spiritual being to that of a purely physical being of no universal value beyond what society places on the individual. Through years of assault upon traditional morals and biblical truths, the German people began to see mankind through the eyes of German philosophers like Nietzsche

13

Veron J. Bourke; Ethics: A Text Book in Moral Philosophy, (New York: The Macmillan Company 1951)p.397

14

Leo Alexander, Medical Science under Dictatorship (Flushing, N.Y.: Bibliographic Press, 1996), p. 9.

11

and Heidegger. These men viewed humanity as strictly flesh and blood, different from the animals only in progression, not in basic nature.15 c. The Truth of Religion The truths and duties pertaining to the relation of man to God, is the very foundation of the moral order. This truths and duties are found in religion. More so, the concept of obligation and sanction are unintelligible, if the concept of God and of mans essential relation to God are deleted from the moral order; nothing would remain but coercion and physical force. Evaluation and Conclusion From the foregoing, we have made an attempt to look into the issue; can there be morality without religion? Yes there can be morality without religion. In support of this position we have been able to point out within the corpus of our intellectual exercise some of the reasons why morality can exist without religion. However, as an addendum, to hold that there cannot be morality without religion is to create a problem about the nature of God the supreme deity of religion. This problem threatens the goodness and justice of the Supreme Being. In other words, he should be held responsible for the moral decadence that is found in our society today. However, not that religion is irrelevant but it is an add-on rather than the wellspring of morality. And the claim of inseparability of morality from religion is a mere theoretical hypothesis, such an ethical system is one built on sand. It would not stand the test of time or the waves of adversity. Perhaps, it is evident that Religion promotes moral principle in a way but is not essentially the source of morality.

15

Ibid.

12

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Aristotle; Nicomachean Ethics Ed. Roger Crisp, Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 2004 Avi Sagi; Religion and Morality, Amazon Library
Sam Harris; The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos 2010

Leo Alexander, Medical Science under Dictatorship, N.Y.: Bibliographic Press, 1996 Theodore Schick, Jr., "Morality Requires God . . . or Does It?" Free Inquiry Summer 1997
Celestine N. Bittle; Man and Morals, Milwaukee: The Bruce Pub. Company, 1950 Cosmas Maduakonam Ekutosi; Basic Issues in Ethics Veron J. Bourke; Ethics: A Text Book in Moral Philosophy, New York: The Macmillan Company 1951 Internet materials. Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion./ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality_without_religion 27th October, 2010 http://www.humanismbyjoe.com/morality_without_religion.htm 27th October, 2010 http://www.123helpme.com/preview.asp?id=127457 25the October 2010.

13

Introduction 1.What Is Morality 2. What is Religion? 3. CAN THERE BE MORALITY WITHOUT RELIGION? 3.1. Argument for morality without Religion. a. Morality as Part of Human Nature b. The morality of our Ancestors c. Enlightened Self-Interest d. There is no Common Moral Principle Shared by all Religion e. Is God Necessary for Morality? f. Are Atheists really less Moral than Believers? g. Religion does not Provide Objective base for Morality h. Social Factors- Empirical Studies 3.2. Argument against Morality without Religion a. Religion as an integral part of morality b. The Ultimate end. c. The Truth of Religion Conclusion.

14

15