Does morality need religion?Does morality need religion?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I'd agree with both posts above and say that morality can and does exist outside of religion and does not need to be founded in religion to be effective, binding, and culturally relevant. 

Morality is a social code. Breaking this code, one runs the risk of being removed from society; excommunicated literally. This is one of the primary functional principles of morality and it is presented in social contract theory this way:

morality consists in the set of rules governing behavior, that rational people would accept, on the condition that others accept them as well.”

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Humanitarians would agree that morality can exist outside of religion.  In fact, in our society, I think many people are attempting to embrase a sense of morality that purposefully exludes religion because so many people have been negatively affected by one religious experience or another.

Personally, I think morality originated with the idea of original sin and redemption.  To me, this is a religious principle, but it has been so watered down by now that society has come to accept morality on terms of "feeling" rather than a sense of absolute truth.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

No.  Morality absolutely does not require religion.  A person can be moral and hold strong moral convictions without being religious.

The only real contribution that religion makes to morality is that it provides a supernatural reason that explains why people should be moral.  It tells us that morality is the desire of a god or gods and that these beings will reward or punish us after death depending on how well we behave in this life.

However, it is quite possible to have morality outside of this way of thinking.  It is quite possible, for example, to create an ethical system that is based simply on the idea that all human life is valuable and that humans should be treated in ways based on this value.  This sort of an ethical system does not require that people be created specially by a god -- it simply assumes that they are special.

So there can be many bases for a system of morals or ethics.  Religion is one basis, but it is not the only one.

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