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Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- John Arthur: Religion, Morality, and Conscience February 28, 2009

Filed under: itethic — hikaru011 @ 11:35 am

Otsuka Hikaru


Book: Contemporary Moral Problems

Book Review: Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- John Arthur: Religion, Morality, and Conscience

Library Reference: N/A

Internet Reference: N/A

Learning Expectation:

  • I expect to learn the if religion is the basis of having morality

  • Difference of Morality from Religion

  • Divine Command Theory


“To have a moral code, then, is to tend to evaluate (perhaps without even expressing it) the behavior of others and to feel guilt at certain actions when we perform them. Religion, on the other hand, involves belief s in supernatural powers that are created and perhaps also control nature, the tendency to worship and pray to those supernatural forces or beings, and the presence of organizational structures and authoritative texts.”

Book review:

I believe that because of all the beliefs that we have, we got to know what is right and wrong. Morality is about right deeds and wrong doings. But in the reading, it is said that religion is not the base foundation of our moral beliefs. For me, religion may not be the center on how morality evolves but religion plays a part. We believe that stealing and killing are immoral. These two acts can harm and destroy others. Thou shall not steal and thou shall not kill are two commandments of God. We know that this is immoral; these are violations of the moral law. I believe that these two came from our religious beliefs. But man motives for doing the right thing have nothing to do with religion. It is explained in the reading that if someone do good, it is because he does not want to harm others, or does not want to embarrass his family and friends. We need religion to act morally is said to be wrong. I think someway this is true. Most people are not religious at all yet act morally. For example, if he does not pray the rosary and does not hear the mass every Sunday, it doesn’t mean the he is immoral. Immoral acts are based on how people react to his society. Like stealing, for example, there are people who listen to mass, pray often, yet capable of stealing or doing wrong deeds.

Divine Command Theory is “claim that something is right because God wills it. It is shows that morally right are determined by the will of the single supreme deity. “Arthur rejects it because this theory says that all the things that God command are right, if it isn’t commanded by God, therefore it is wrong. I believe that what God commanded is right for Catholics and for non- Catholics, it may be wrong. For those who don’t believe in God, for pagans, may be the divine command theory is some what irrelevant to them. It is because not all of us believes and listens to the word of God. By not listening and believing is not an act of immorality. Catholicism is not the only religion exist in the world. All of us have different beliefs.

Integrative Questions:

  1. Is religion the basis of morality?
  2. What is Divine Command Theory?
  3. Did Arthur reject this theory?
  4. What is religion?
  5. How religion does differ from morality?

What I have learned:

I have learned that religion is not the basis of morality. What might right and moral for you might not be moral for others. Some of us don’t do immoral things because we don’t want to hurt or harm others not because of our religious beliefs.

Review Questions:
1. According to Arthur how are Morality and Religion different?

Morality is all about what is right from wrong. What actions that our society consider as proper and etiquette. Religion, on the other hand, involves beliefs in supernatural powers, like God.

2. Why isn’t religion necessary for moral motivation?

When we do things properly, religion has nothing to do with it. We act based on our instinct. For example, we don’t hurt others not because we’re scared that we might end up in hell but because we know that it is wrong.

3. Why isn’t religion necessary as a source of moral knowledge?

Religion, basically, teaches us what is right and wrong. I think religion is not necessary as a source of moral knowledge because there are many religions in the world. What is right for the Catholics may not be right for the Muslims. It became unnecessary because we all have different beliefs. Moral knowledge comes from within.

4. What is divine command theory? Why does Arthur reject this theory?

According to divine command theory, religion is necessary for morality because without God there could be no right and wrong.

Arthur rejects this theory because, as the definition above stated that God dictates us what is right from wrong. But the expressions “commanded by God” and “morally required” do not mean the same. If one thing is not commanded by God it does not automatically immoral.

5. According to Arthur, how are morality and religion connected?

In some way they are connected, but truly, morality and religion are independent from each other.

6. Dewey says that morality is social, what does this mean according to Arthur?

Arthur stated his four ideas. These are:

  • The existence of morality assumes that we posses a socially required language within which we think about our choices and which alternatives we ought to follow.

· Morality is social in that it governs relationships among people, defining our responsibilities to others and theirs to us. Morality provides the standards we rely on in gauging with family, lovers, friends, fellow citizens and even strangers.

· Morality is social in the sense that we are, in fact, subject to criticisms by others of our actions. We discuss with others what we do, and often hear them concerning whether our decisions were acceptable.

· Idea depends on appreciating the fact that to think from the moral view point.

Discussion Questions:

1. Has Arthur refuted the divine command theory? if not, how can it be defended?

Arthur is against the divine command theory. He explained what he think why he does not support this theory.

2. If morality is social, as Dewey says, then how can we have any obligations to non human?

For me, animal is also a living thing that God created. We should respect the animals and also their way of living.

3. What does Dewey mean by moral education? Does a college ethics class count as moral education?

A moral education teaches us how to act morally in accordance to the common law. I think an ethic class in considered as a moral education since it teaches us the morals of well human being.


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