Morality derives from the Judeo-Christian tradition and
derives from a law issued by a supreme being (God). Thus, the moral law results
from the understanding and interpretation of the canonical texts of the Bible.
Christian morality has emerged in the Greco-Roman world, the cradle of famous
philosophical schools that gave the world its wisest thinkers: Heraclitus of
Ephesus, Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. Ethics is one of the main
branches of philosophy and deals with the research of moral issues, trying to
find answers to questions such as what is good / evil, how to behave and what
is the rationale of human life. In this essay I shall assess the concept
of morality, most specifically morality in relation to god and whether it
derives from god, by overlooking some philosophical views on the matter.
Furthermore, I will determine any sort of similarities or differences between
religious morality and philosophical morality.
Initially, in history and in human life, the moral domain overlaps over the religious one. The fundamental categories in the moral domain are “good” and “evil”.In some religions, these extremes are identified by the dual system of the transcendent: there is either a group of divinities that provide good, order, life, health, and evil divinities that ruin order, bring illness, death and urge sacrilege.Man can choose between good and evil, be part of Ormazd’s or Ahriman’s group (in Mazdeism) to take a life of a saint or to worship the devil for certain advantages (wealth, long life, love). The right to choose is, however, conditioned by consequences. Those who are good will be saved and will be happy after death; those who choose evil will suffer, they will not get salvation, they will not resurrect to live forever in the light, in joy, but will rise to live in the eternal darkness, and in pain and suffering after the longing of God.But people are constrained by objective factors that do not depend on their free will. Albert Bayet wrote in 1904: “Whoever dares to beat a tree because it produces evil fruit is just as Xerxes ordered to beat the waves of the sea because he destroyed his flock.”The correlation and distinction between good and evil is at the choice of each and every morality, and religion. Satan was created as a good angel, after the rebellion he became evil. Evil and good relate to profane criteria that are neither ethereal nor uniform. What is good for some is bad for others. Medieval social structures were good for that time, keeping them in modern and democratic societies hinders the normal functioning of society, even communities inside the church, thus representing something bad. Religions and beliefs generally have a moralizing character, they promote the good: the sacred to whom you pray and consecrate is good, just and full of love; to which the moralizing dimension is added: it is omnipotent, it defeats the evil one, removes sins, sees them and knows them all. In moralizing religions, good and evil are not equivalent forces; good is stronger than evil, the suggestion that man should join the one who will be victorious, “good” (God) is promising; it gives man an end goal, respectively a reward. Should man choose to follow a good and pious life, he shall be rewarded with eternal life in heavens; but should man choose to turn away from God, he shall spend an eternity in hell. In the “Crisis of European Mind”, Paul Hazard addresses the question of social morality, in Part III, Chapter IV. He raises a very important question: “Is morality possible without faith in God?”. Hazard proposes to argue for the independence of the moral from religion, for an autonomous morality is superior to a religious moral, since it awaits no rewards or punishments and relates only to itself, whilst a religious morality, is never disinterested; it fears consequences and awaits rewards. But it goes on to suggest that a fully atheist society is a much better idea for practicing morality, for an atheist society would only be a self focused society, respecting a self imposed moral law, not a divine one.Moreover, among the thinkers who agree that morality isn’t based on divinity is Kant. Kant argues that morality based on religious motivation is ultimately egotistical, mainly because we act in accordance to our own happiness; we do what’s best for us and no more than that. Kant furthermore suggests that doing what we morally ought to do should not be conditioned by any self-interested motive. But how would we motivate ourselves to do what we’re morally ought to without regarding any selfish motives? One can argue that we ought to do morally good actions solely out of desire and pure altruism.
A great supporter of deism is William Lane Craig, who does not debate whether faith in God is necessary to act morally, but whether God is a necessary basis for morality to be significant. If morality is an arbitrary pattern of social conduct, there is no need for God to make people act according to this pattern. But to claim that morality is objective, (whether or not someone believes it or not), then God is necessary to substantiate objective morality because its standards are independent of standards of personal preference or cultural fashion. A non-objective or subjective morality, which Hazard supports, is an illusion / convention. Patterns have no moral significance, they are just an arbitrary mode that varies by place and time. William L. Craig presents three ways in which God is necessary for morality: 1) God is the basis of objective moral values ??- that is, what is taken as good or bad, independent of people’s opinions;2) God is the basis of objective moral duties – what we should or should not do; 3) God is the basis of moral responsibility – our last destiny depends on how we act morally. Firstly, moral values ??are defined by the unchangeable nature of God. An action is good or bad, no matter what people think. Social and individual views do not decide standards for good and bad. But God can establish moral standards that are independent of people’s opinions. Human value is the premise that people should be treated differently from animals. But for the atheists, people are simple animals. Evolution implies that moral values ??are the product of struggle for survival. This “flock” standard is arbitrary, not a real one. Moral values ??for atheists do not exist independently, even if you do not have to be religious to be moral, they are just descriptions of a behaviour produced by biological and cultural developments. In other animal species there is no question of crime, theft or rape. Then why do we think that our perspective is objectively true, and not a habit of our espionage? Free will, in terms of moral action, requires a distinct mind from the physical, so that the moral choices are freely taken. Biological determinism does not attribute moral significance to elections, but only actions of a puppet, and this is not a moral reputation.Secondly, moral duties are an obligation for people to do certain actions, whether they agree or disagree with them. For atheists, people are just animals (rational) without moral obligations. Then to whom do they have duties to? Atheism involves subjective impressions fixed by social and cultural pressure. There is no standard of what we should do. Thirdly and finally, the moral responsibility for deists implies that each person’s choice, together with the judgment of God, will determine the place he will rest in the afterlife but for the atheists, it is irrelevant how you act and how you live, because we all end up dead either way, there is no end goal. Having said that, let us return to the idea of ??an atheistic society. Why is it important to be moral when you are an atheist? Why would not everyone pursue only their own interests, not the social contract conventions? Doing good is not always a pleasant thing. A very strong willed man would not need morality, since he can avoid any sanction of breach of the social contract. Why would then a powerful man acts against his interests, since he is an atheist, and the social contract is just a convention? Any actions that involve self-sacrifice are irrational. The end result of an atheist society will be that no one will do good when it is difficult. Compassion and voluntary sacrifices are not pleasant, and thus unnecessary.Ultimately, concluding Craig’s theory, deism provides adequate responses to moral values, moral duties, and moral responsibilities. Values ??are rooted in the unchangeable nature of God, the duties are to God, and it matters whether we are moral because the ultimate destination of man is affected by his actions. Atheism, however, has a social contract of arbitrary social conventions. Determinism does not allow for completely free decisions. Without God, we have no one to whom to do our duty, so we have no reason to respect it, being just a formality. Furthermore, there are certain similarities and differences between Christian morality and philosophical ethics. The first point where philosophical ethics and Christian morality are similar is that man and his moral manifestations are at the heart of the concerns and observations. Both ethics and morality consider that the purpose of human life is happiness, but while the first seeks to acquire it on Earth, the latter sees it as fulfilled in acquiring salvation, only through Jesus Christ. The second point in which the two converge is the concept of good, which they both address and which they both have at the foundation of their value system. Christian morality and philosophical ethics also require doing good and avoiding evil. The essential difference lies in the way each of these systems understands and defines the concept of good. As for differences, Christian morality speaks of a teaching that comes from God, the one and the supreme master for all times and places. Instead, philosophical ethics can not speak of a unitary doctrine but of several systems of ethics based on different non-unitary philosophical systems.
fundamental difference lies in the value that man has. In Christian morality,
man has value in his creator, God. In ancient ethical systems, it has been postulated
that man is the measure of all things, but by an intrinsic value, only reported
As far as the
fundamental concept of the two are concerned, philosophical ethics emphasizes
human reason as the foundation of morality, being thus an intellectualist
concept. However, science (which ethics is based on) has so far failed to show
how it decides what is good and bad. Instead, Christian morality encompasses
the deeds of man in relation to the supreme good – God.
A last point in
which ethics and morals do not converge is the notion of virtue. The
philosophical virtue has as its subject the natural man and is synonymous with
happiness. Instead, Christian virtue serves a supernatural purpose, the
believing man being reborn through grace in Christ.