Rachels Chapter 4 Does Morality Depend on Religion?

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Rachels Chapter 4
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
On the surface, religion seems
connected with morality, and atheism
seems to have no place for it.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
God decides what is right or wrong –
whatever God commands is right, and
whatever God forbids is wrong.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
God decides what is right or wrong –
whatever God commands is right, and
whatever God forbids is wrong.
(If God did not command or forbid, then
nothing would be right or wrong.)
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
Advantages:
1) Solves the objectivity problem for
morality.
2) Solves the motivation problem for
morality.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
Problems:
The Euthyphro Dilemma
Plato
427-348 BCE
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Euthyphro Dilemma
Do the gods love something because
it is already good,
or is something good only because
the gods love it?
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Euthyphro Dilemma
Do the gods love something
because it is already good,
or is something good only
because the gods love it?
God
Morality
God
Morality
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
This abandons the Divine
Command Theory
The Euthyphro Dilemma
Do the gods love something
because it is already good,
or is something good only
because the gods love it?
God
Morality
God
Morality
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
Something is right or wrong only because
God commands it.
Problems:
1) How could anyone do this, including
God? It’s mysterious.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
Something is right or wrong only because
God commands it.
Problems:
2) This makes God’s commands arbitrary
(without any moral reason).
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Divine Command Theory:
Something is right or wrong only because
God commands it.
Problems:
3) This theory provides the wrong reasons
for moral principles (e.g., “Child abuse is
wrong”) – if God did not exist, they would
not hold.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Natural Law Theory:
1) Everything has a nature, which includes a
specific purpose.
2) The natures of things determine what is
good for them to do.
3) Morality knowledge comes from reason,
which helps us to discover the natures of
things.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Natural Law Theory:
Objections:
1) What is natural is not always good:
self-centeredness and disease, e.g.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Natural Law Theory:
Objections:
1) What is natural is not always good:
self-centeredness and disease, e.g.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Natural Law Theory:
Objections:
2) You cannot determine how things
ought to be just by learning how they are
(Hume on fact vs. value)
You cannot derive a
statement of the form
“X ought to be”
David Hume
1711-1776
from any number of
statements of the form
“X is the case.”
The Explanation Question
For instance, consider the
following argument:
P1. People value their own
children more than they value
the children of others.
C. People ought to value their
own children more than they
value the children of others.
The Explanation Question
P1. People value their own
children more than they value
the children of others.
C. People ought to value their
own children more than they
value the children of others.
--Even if this conclusion is true,
this is a bad argument for it: it
moves from an “is” to an
“ought”.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The Natural Law Theory:
Objections:
3) Modern science has shown us that not
everything has a purpose: things happen
because of cause and effect, not in order
to fulfill a natural purpose.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Apart from the Divine Command Theory
and Natural Law Theory, is there any
connection between morality and
religion?
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Rachels: Consider a particular question,
like the morality of abortion.
Does religion tell us how we should
think about this?
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Obstacles in applying religion:
A) The moral advice given in scriptures is
old, and does not clearly address
contemporary problems (workers’ rights,
extinction of species, funding of medical
research, etc.).
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Obstacles in applying religion:
B) The scriptures can be ambiguous (e.g.,
being rich, abortion).
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Obstacles in applying religion:
C) Tradition can be ambiguous (e.g.,
Catholic teaching concerning abortion,
slavery, women’s rights, the death
penalty, etc.).
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Obstacles in applying religion:
It looks like people first make up their
minds about morality, and then look to
scriptures or the tradition to back them
up.
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
Rachels’ conclusion:
Morality and religion may be connected in
some ways, but at bottom they are
independent: morality is a matter of reason
and conscience, not faith.
*The arguments offered here do not assume
that any specific religions are true or false.*

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