Exploring The Relationship Between Morality And Religion

1553 words - 6 pages

The relationship between religion and morality is one which has been, and continues to be, exhaustively discussed and debated by philosophers. Are the two hopelessly intertwined, or are they able to exist independent of one another? One argument which seeks to provide a solution to this matter of contention is the Divine Command Theory. In this paper, I will argue that the reasoning provided by the Divine Command Theory is an inadequate defence of the dependence of religion on morality because it fails to provide logical justification for God's moral dictates. First, I will begin by providing a closer examination of the Divine Command Theory and its implications. Next, I will introduce Plato's famous dialogue The Euthyphro, which critiques the Divine Command Theory's definition of morality, and introduce its famous dilemma, which poses two possible explanations for the correlation between God's command and morality as implicated in the Divine Command Theory. Subsequently, I will explore Rachels' argument in Elements of Moral Philosophy, which posits that neither alternatives proposed by the Euthyphro dilemma are acceptable because the first fails to provide reason for God's moral judgments, while the second is inconsistent with religious ideology. Next I will examine and refute a popular yet cyclical counter argument, which opines that God is inherently good, and therefore standards of goodness are found only within His nature and then presented to people for their good. Finally, I will conclude that due to the failure of the Divine Command Theory to prove the dependence of morality upon God's will, moral standards exist independent of religion.
In order to critique the Divine Command Theory, it is important to first understand it. According to the theory, morality is defined solely by the will of God, and no moral standards exist independent of His will. It is appealingly simple and unambiguous; once accepted, issues such as moral relativity and objectivity are rendered irrelevant. Actions can be neatly classified into three categories: those which God commands and are consequently pious, those which God condemns and are impious, and those which are unmentioned and therefore considered permissible. Not only does the theory offer a clear guideline for moral behaviour, but the nearly universal religious conception of repercussions in the afterlife provides strong impetus for conforming to these standards. Unfortunately, it is rudimentary interpretation of the relationship between religion and morality and therefore suffers from an array of shortcomings.
Plato's The Euthyphro, a dialogue written using Plato's teacher Socrates as the main speaker, exposes many of these shortcomings as well as the fundamental dilemma at the heart of the Divine Command Theory. In it, Socrates converses with a young man named Euthyphro on the subject of morality and piety, asking him for a definition of these terms. Euthyphro is unable to provide...

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