Should religion and ethics be separatedShould religion and ethics be separated

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes, there is a separation between religion and ethics.  You can act ethically without following the tenets of your religion.  Usually religions are based on general ethical principles, so if you follow your religion’s guidelines you should be also acting ethically.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The basis of most religions (and having attended parochial schools and studied other religions in class, I have some knowledge) is "love others as you love yourself".  That is basically the Golden Rule, and an ethical way of living--treat others as you would like to be treated.  If everyone followed that, then the world would most certainly be a better place regardless of a person's religious or lack of religious views. 

It is never fun to be attacked...in person or online (which is easier to do since you do not look the person in the eye, know the person with any depth, or feel like anyone can see you or find you after a harsh comment is made) but if every person would think about how he or she would like to be approached in a matter of disagreement and approach an issue with such thought, consideration, and love behind it, I believe the people of the world would be more able to find compromise for the points of contention. 

The Ten Commandments are undeniably religious, but we should also consider them.  Take away the "rules" which mention God, and you've basically got ethical behavior:

Honor your Father and Mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

Come to think of it, even in most societies (founded on religious freedom or not) these are the laws of man.  You steal? You're arrested.  You murder? You can expect jail time and possibly the death penalty.  If you lie on the stand in court, you can be arrested and spend time in jail (if you lie in outside of the courtroom, not many people want to be your friend...consequences abound!)  It's not against the law to be envious of your neighbor's wife or belongings, but jealousy doesn't make for stable relationships.  Dishonoring your parents isn't against the law, but abusive behavior can lead to jailtime or time in a mental facility if the abuse is deemed dangerous enough.  The same can be said for adultery...it's not against man's law to have an affair, but the behavior afterward may cause abuse, violence, and vengeful feelings and could lead to breaking man's law as well as God's.

Thinking of it this way makes it more difficult to blur the lines between religion and ethics.

 

 

 

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I think it can both ways. They are harmonious yet they can be separated as well.

Religion and ethics go hand and hand. Religion is more or less based on ethical principles. On the other hand, I do not think that one has to be religious in order to be ethical. It really just depends on how you look at it. I know atheists who have ethical values.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Being brought up as a Christian, I certainly believe that a religious background helps to teach a person ethical behavior. People without a strong religious background may find it tougher to distinguish between right and wrong in their younger years. By no means do all religious people practice good ethics, but people who honor their religious beliefs usually have a good sense of ethical behavior. Do the two go hand in hand? Obviously not, since anyone can attain a high ethical standard without believing in a god.

copelmat's profile pic

copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Although religion and ethics are complementary, they are not symbiotic. Clearly, one can be ethical without being religious and one can certainly be religious without being ethical. Should they be separated? No, there's no need. However, we should not be so foolish as to mistake one for the other.

clairewait's profile pic

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

Posted on

You seem to be judging those who are "religious" a bit harshly, if you don't mind me saying so, lynn30k! Is it not possible to be "religious" as you seem to define it and "ethical" without being good, kind and honourable people out of fear? As someone who has a definite set of religious beliefs and likes to think of himself as ethical, I don't think that it is so easy to draw a dividing line between these two categories. In fact, I probably agree more with pohnpei397 in arguing that the majority of people's ethics are shaped by their religious or non-religious stance.

I agree.  I'm not a fan of attacking nor defending religious beliefs via the World Wide Web - however, if we look at this from a purely statistical standpoint - I think we would find that the majority of those people who consider themselves "ethical" do so as a result of a religious faith.

#3 - you seem to be speaking mainly of "secular humanists."  Sure they exist, but I think they are a minority in this discussion.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

You seem to be judging those who are "religious" a bit harshly, if you don't mind me saying so, lynn30k! Is it not possible to be "religious" as you seem to define it and "ethical" without being good, kind and honourable people out of fear? As someone who has a definite set of religious beliefs and likes to think of himself as ethical, I don't think that it is so easy to draw a dividing line between these two categories. In fact, I probably agree more with pohnpei397 in arguing that the majority of people's ethics are shaped by their religious or non-religious stance.

lynn30k's profile pic

lynn30k | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

They can certainly be separated. Religion is, essentially, belief in a supernatural being. Ethics is the way we act and treat others, especially when we think no one knows. So if the only way to have a person act ethically is to have them believe in a religion, then by all means, be religious. But the two are far from inseparable. Ethical people can also find it solely withing themselves to be admirable people. Personally, I would much rather be around people who are kind and honest because it is simply the right way to be, than around people who do so because they are afraid of being judged by a supernatural being--or who do whatever they please, and "fix" it by "confessing". I have friends who are both religious and non-religious, and the only thing I really care about is that they are good, kind, and honorable people, for whatever reason they do it.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Personally, I do not see how ethics and religion can possibly be separated, especially for people who believe in religion.

After all, most religions have an aspect of ethics to them.  They are partly about faith, but they are partly about how people are supposed to act.  I do not see how it is possible or even desirable to stop people from acting based on their religious ethics.

I do think that some religion-based ethics are not moral or good.  However, I do not think that religion-based ethics are any worse than ones that are not based on religion.

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