What Is the Relationship Between Religion and Morality? | Owlcation
Humanists and atheists see no connection between religion and ethics, Do religious people stand a better chance of being moral than non- religious people ?. Feb 6, Clearly there is a relationship as Religion usually comes with a defined set of moral standards. However, the question is poorly worded and I. There are many types of religious values. out a further disparity between the morals of religious traditions, They note problems that could arise if religions defined ethics, such as.
We begin with the main reasons for the close relationship between religion and morality. Gods and morality share a place in the unknown. Conceptual Similarity Between Morals and Deities The gods that determine our fate beyond death are typically mystical, benign entities with a penchant for influencing the will of humankind.
At the dawn of civilization, morality must have appeared in a similar light; a formless force for how to live in peace. In the present, children lack the wisdom to learn morals other than through instruction, leading to a level of reverence for these mystical and highly beneficial laws.
The equally benevolent yet intangible qualities of morality will lead one to ascribe it to that which shares the same character gods. This conceptual similarity can even prompt the irreligious to associate morality with other forms of direct infusion, whether terrestrial, alien, or supernatural; such is the pervasiveness of religious thought when our minds attempt to comprehend the unknown. Religious Morality Improves Social Cohesion The more a group shares and follows a common moral code, the more they will cooperate with each other.
This cooperation brings success in conflicts with competitors, meaning that moral dispositions have become naturally selected facets of the human condition. However, we all cheat from time to time, and often the only thing that stops us from cheating is supervision by our peers. If one believes a god, spirit, or dead ancestor is watching over us, we will act as if under a permanent degree of supervision.Religion and Morality
This enhances our moral rectitude, giving religious groups an advantage over non-religious rivals. This advantage has left an enduring footprint on the human brain. We have evolved a superstitious trigger for moral behavior, which works for atheists and theists alike.
An experiment by Shariff and Norenzayan showed that when people were unconsciously primed about concepts related to gods, spirits, and prophets during a task to unscramble sentences containing those words, they were more likely to be generous in an economic game. Another experiment by Jesse Bering showed that participants were less likely to cheat when they were told a ghost was in the room with them.
Thus, humans have evolved to increase their pro-social behavior by increasing their susceptibility for belief in judgmental deities and spirits. Religious belief is inextricably linked with our sense of morality on an unconscious level. Religious belief intensifies our willingness to display moral behavior, and the need to follow a moral code reduces the scrutiny that we apply to supernatural propositions.
Religion uses morality to justify the claim that animals are excluded from divine rewards. Religious Morality Grants Us Dominion Over Life Our evolutionary struggle for superiority over the beasts of the Earth has left us with a disposition for identifying and exaggerating our traits and abilities.
Morality and love are seen as that which makes us special and distinct from an inferior animal kingdom. Religion finds itself in similar territory when claiming we have a unique purpose, a soul, and an afterlife that is off-limits to non-humans. To justify these claims, morality is co-opted by religion. Morality is seen as a gift from the gods; a piece of their ultimate perfection that can be assimilated.
In so doing, we become more like a god, and less like the animals beneath us. We become special, superior, and closer to our archetypal image of perfection. All other life becomes inferior, immoral, imperfect, and immaterial. Through religion we display our propensity for attributing the most perfect aspects of our lives to something that is perfect in origin. Morality and love are deemed to be sent from the gods because we want these human traits to be perfect.
It is our way of enhancing ourselves; a form of self-apotheosis. This may appear to be a selfish and disrespectful belief to hold, but it is one that satisfies our evolved desire for superiority over the species that compete with us for survival.
Furthermore, it is a position that supposedly fits with the evidence. Animals will often kill indiscriminately for food, kill their own young, and leave their weaker offspring to die. However, it would be imprudent to say that animals are bereft of moral behavior. Primates, lions, and other pack animals co-operate in groups, look after their own, and appear to feel pain and anguish at the loss of a family member or ally.
The fact that our morality surpasses that of other species makes it easier to assume it has supernatural origins. Religious displays show the individual adheres to the morals of that religion. Religious Morality Increases Prestige To be thought of as a good person is to have an advantage in matters of trade and friendship.
It matters not where you believe your morality comes from; only that people recognize and approve of your moral code. Many people identify with religions to 'free-ride. Belonging to a religion establishes that one follows the associated moral code, leading to increased respect and prestige.
Not surprisingly, criticisms of this sort engendered a reaction. Often accepting the claim that religion and morality were only problematically linked, thinkers more sympathetic to religion like Friedrich Schleiermacher or Rudolf Otto sought to develop an abiding place for religion independent of its moral significance.
Schleiermacher found this in the emotional state of "God-consciousness," while Otto found it in an essentially nonmoral sense of awe before the mysterious and transcendent.
Although Kierkegaard was fully appreciative of the value of morality, he believed that religious faith ultimately transcended ordinary human moral considerations.
In the story of God's command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Kierkegaard discerned a "teleological suspension of the ethical," according to which morality was essentially subordinated to religious concerns.
The Connection between Religion and Morality : Christian Courier
The emergence of ethics as a separate field of inquiry, the effort to distinguish morality from religion, and the countervailing effort to reassert a place for religion in human life all arise from a very particular cultural and social context. Nevertheless, the fact that systematic thinking about ethics emerged in the West, and that it generated a series of divergent explorations of the relationship between religion and morality, does not mean that this thinking or aspects of these views have no validity across cultural lines.
The physical sciences, too, have been most fully developed in the Western context, but the value of their findings, and even of their different hypotheses, is not limited to this setting.
In trying to understand the relationship between religion and morality, therefore, it may be useful to employ concepts and approaches developed over the past centuries by Western philosophers, theologians, and social scientists. If one keeps in mind that concepts or ideas developed in a Western context are at best tentative efforts to penetrate complex realities and that they may not be wholly applicable to moral and religious traditions elsewhere, this approach can provide an interpretive guide through diverse religious and moral traditions.
Definitions of Religion and Morality Surveying the modern body of thinking about religion and morality, one can identify a number of distinctive ideas. Foremost among these is an idea already mentioned: Religion involves beliefs, attitudes, and practices that relate human beings to supernatural agencies or sacred realities.
It addresses what has been called the problem of interpretability, which includes such persistent questions as the ultimate nature and purpose of the natural world and the meaning of death and suffering.
In contrast, morality has usually been thought of as a way of regulating the conduct of individuals in communities. It represents a response to the problem of cooperation among competing persons or groups and aims at settling disputes that may arise in social contexts.
Force also represents a method of adjudicating conflict, but morality differs from force by appealing to principles or rules of conduct that are regarded as legitimate, that is, as having a justification potentially acceptable to each member of the community. The complex interrelationship between religion and morality is illustrated by the fact that moral legitimation may sometimes involve appeal to shared beliefs involving the supernatural or the sacred.
But this is not a necessary aspect of moral justification, which can appeal to reason or to considerations of human welfare. The Superiority and Logical Independence of Moral Norms Philosophical analysis has also led to a series of more specific ideas about morality and ethics.
For example, moral norms are regarded as among the most authoritative guides to conduct.
This means that the dictates of morality are superior to and take precedence over self-oriented, or "prudential," considerations.
The fact that something is morally wrong is thus held to be a sufficient grounds for refraining from doing it. Moral philosophers have disagreed over the questions of whether self-interest may play any role in moral decision and whether moral rules may ever be qualified or suspended to protect oneself or those one personally cares for.
They have also disagreed over the larger question of whether these rules are absolute or permit exceptions. But that the dictates of morality have considerable authoritativeness and superiority is widely acknowledged. A tradition of philosophical analysis, beginning with Plato's dialogue Euthyphro and culminating in the writings of Kant, has also insisted on the logical independence of moral norms and their conceptual priority over religious and other requirements.
According to this line of thinking, human reason and conscience must be the final arbiter of right and wrong. Even religious norms and divine commands must be tested by the "autonomous" individual conscience. Recent discussions by philosophers and theologians have softened the contours of this view. Early rationalist claims that, to be acceptable, every religious command or requirement must conform to existing moral beliefs have been replaced by a recognition that religious teachings, in a dialogue with reasoned morality, can instruct and inform conscience.
But the point made by Plato centuries ago, that human reason is the final forum of judgment, is still widely accepted, since to subordinate reason to other considerations is to renounce the very possibility of rational discourse and justification. The Universality of Moral Norms The writings of Western moral philosophers also reveal broad lines of agreement about the nature and content of morality. By and large, for example, these thinkers have not been impressed by the position known as "ethical relativism," which holds that basic moral principles or modes of reasoning differ substantially from culture to culture.
While ethicists do acknowledge the truth of "cultural relativism," the view that accepted or prohibited modes of conduct vary among cultures, they have pointed out that this does not necessarily mean that fundamental principles are dissimilar. Different technical and social situations can cause common basic principles to yield different results in specific circumstances. For example, a general principle of respect for parents may produce a stringent ban on parricide in a technically advanced civilization but may lead to a custom of abandoning infirm or very elderly parents in hunter-gatherer cultures where there is no provision for sustaining the disabled and where dependency is regarded by all as shameful.
In contrast to the position of ethical relativism, most Western philosophers have subscribed to the essential universality of moral principles. This understanding, in fact, has several important meanings.
First, it implies the descriptive point just made: Second, it implies the normative claim that not only is this so but that it ought to be so. There is a universal standard of morality to which all persons are accountable. This standard is sensitive enough to the reality of specific circumstances to justify broad tolerance of differing social practices, but even so there are limits.
Thus, where a strict ethical relativist might conclude that "right" and "wrong" are definable only by the norms of a particular culture, nonrelativists have pointed out that certain cultural practices are so heinous that they cannot be judged morally acceptable without violating human beings' deepest moral self-understanding.
For example, the fact that some societies have practiced genocide against minorities in their midst cannot be thought of as making this conduct right. Some things are wrong no matter how widely they are accepted in particular societies. Finally, morality has been regarded as universal in the sense that its rules and protection extend to all who are human. Precisely because it is a reasoned method of settling social disputes and, hence, superior to force or coercion, moral discourse remains the preferred method of relating to all who are capable of this method of social adjudication.
Warnock has expressed the logic behind this view: If conduct is to be seen as regulated only within groups, we have still the possibility of unrestricted hostility and conflict between groups—which is liable, indeed, to be effectively ferocious and damaging in proportion as relations between individuals within each group are effectively ordered toward harmonious co-operative action. Thus, just as one may think that a Hobbesian recipe for 'peace' could securely achieve its end only if all Hobbesian individuals were engrossed within a single irresistible Leviathan, there is reason to think that the principles of morality must, if the object of morality is not to be frustrated, give consideration to any human, of whatever special group or none he may in fact be a member.
The Moral Rules Moral philosophers also display wide agreement on the most fundamental rules of morality. These include rules prohibiting persons from killing other persons, from inflicting injury on them, or from depriving them of freedom and opportunity. Other rules prohibit deception or the breaking of promises.
All these rules presume that the recipient of the action in question has not voluntarily consented to it. Thus, a surgeon is not regarded as wronging a patient by cutting into his flesh, nor is a stage actor regarded as practicing immoral deception.
In addition, these rules are clearly held to apply only where the persons affected by one's choice have not acted immorally in a way that necessitates breaking a rule with respect to them.
While killing others or depriving them of their freedom is ordinarily viewed as wrong, for example, it may be justified when individuals threaten harm to others, as in criminal conduct or aggressive war. These rules for personal conduct constitute only the minimum requirement for moral conduct.
They are largely negative in character, prohibiting certain forms of behavior but not requiring positive efforts on others' behalf. In addition to this, however, ethicists recognize supererogatory actions, performance of which is an occasion for moral praise but omission of which does not ordinarily merit condemnation or blame. These actions include forms of mutual aid, generosity, and self-sacrifice.
Along with respect for the basic rules, attention to these supererogatory requirements is ordinarily held to enter into the character ideals or standards of virtue that form part of a full system of ethics. Such ideals are separate from, but conceptually dependent upon, the understanding of right acts, since virtuous individuals are those who can be counted upon habitually to do what is right.
Kant's famous statement that the only thing that can be called "good without qualification" is the morally good will is not meant to identify the norm of right or wrong conduct for that, Kant believed, the test of the categorical imperative is required ; rather, it is directed to the assessment of individual moral worth. In this connection, it is important to note that the intention of the agent plays a major role in evaluating conduct in terms of such character ideals.
Since it is pointless to hold individuals morally responsible for the unforeseeable or uncontrollable consequences of their actions, the moral worth of persons is usually assessed in terms of what they intended to do, although morally acceptable intentions are ordinarily held to encompass reasonable prevision for consequences.
While moral theorists are widely agreed on at least the basic principles governing individual conduct and defining individual virtue, there is far less agreement on the norms or principles that ought to guide the conduct of social and economic institutions. At least for the context of industrialized societies, various competing theories have been advanced to justify everything from laissez-faire through welfare state societies to fully socialist and egalitarian systems.
This is no place to settle a debate that continues to be one of the most heated in contemporary moral literature.
Religion and Morality
It is important to note, however, that the very basic condition that moral principles be potentially acceptable to all persons tends to support views acknowledging a significant degree of social responsibility toward those who, through no fault of their own, are seriously disadvantaged.
Thus, even thinkers who minimize society's responsibility for social justice tend to endorse efforts to ensure equal opportunity and hardship relief. The "Moral Point of View" Behind these specific rules, many philosophers have also discerned a way of reasoning that is basic to moral judgment.
This involves, first of all, an element of imaginative empathy for the other persons affected by one's choices and a willingness to consider the impact of one's conduct on their welfare. In addition, it calls for a willingness to reason about moral choices in an impartial way, as though the agent were only one interest among all of those affected by a choice.
This perspective of impartiality is sometimes called "the moral point of view. Views that derive moral decisions from the presumed judgments of an ideal sympathetic spectator and those that see such choices as arising from the decisions of self-interested but impartial contractors are examples. Why Should One Be Moral? Delineation and justification of the moral rules have been the principal focuses of most moral theory.
Yet, beyond specific normative issues, a series of persisting questions has stood at the far side of ethical discussion and has been dealt with increasingly by ethicists, as the nature and content of the moral reasoning process have become better understood.
Religion and Morality
One of the most important of these questions is why one should be moral. Because this question can easily be misunderstood, its full significance and the difficulty of answering it may not be appreciated. If it is asked in the sense of why people in general should think and act morally, why morality itself should exist, then, to answer the question, it is necessary only to point to the general usefulness of morality as a method of settling social disputes.
In this sense morality is in everyone's interests. Again, if one who has adopted the moral viewpoint of impartiality and empathy for others asks why he or she should obey the moral rules, then it is necessary only to point out that impartial persons would certainly advocate obeying the rules they would choose.
But if this question is asked in its sharpest sense of why one should adopt the moral point of view in the first place, it becomes exceedingly difficult to answer.
This is especially true whenever acting morally occasions serious loss for the individual agent. Some philosophers have tried to answer this question in terms of the demonstrable longterm interest and welfare of the moral agent: They point to the social and psychic costs that openly immoral conduct or covert and hypocritical behavior can entail.
But others have rejected this approach either on the grounds that it is often not correct immoral people sometimes do very well or because it introduces essentially nonmoral motives into one's reasons for being moral. Some who argue this way have contended that no self-interested reasons should be given for being moral: For these thinkers the voice of duty, in the words of George Eliotis "peremptory and absolute.
These thinkers have argued that without at least some metaphysical or religious basis moral striving makes no sense. This basis may range from the minimal belief that morality is not pointless or futile, that one's efforts do make a difference, to the stronger belief that, however much it may appear true that good people suffer for their commitments, moral acts and dispositions are, in the ultimate scheme of things, acknowledged and rewarded.
It is noteworthy that discussion of the question "Why should one be moral? Hence, the separation of ethical theory from theology and philosophy of religion, which ethical theorists effected during the modern period, has to some extent been reconsidered. It is interesting that this development was anticipated strongly in the work of Kant. To be sure, Kant is well known for his emphasis on the rational accessibility of moral norms and for his insistence that moral commitment must be autonomous, in the sense that it must be based on respect for the dictates of reason and conscience rather than on norms imposed from without and enforced by external rewards or punishments.
Nevertheless, Kant's later writings, especially the Critique of Practical Reason and Religion within the Limits of Reason Alonewere focused largely on questions concerning the philosophy of religion. In these writings, Kant developed the position that, to make sense, moral striving requires belief in a morally intentioned governor of the universe this was Kant's "moral proof" of the existence of Godand he began to explore the relationship between ethics and themes in biblical theology.
Foremost among these were the issues of sin, repentance, and the possibility of moral righteousness. Kant's discussions here are dense, but it can be said that, in perceiving the need to ground moral commitment in voluntarily assumed religious beliefs, Kant also recognized the difficulty of providing any clear and incontestable rational justification for being moral.
Thus his work highlighted the difficulty of sustaining moral commitment and opened up, as never before, the prospect of rational persons' defecting from morality.
Discussing this problem under the rubric of the "radical evil" of the human heart, Kant introduced themes that were later developed by Christian theologians like Kierkegaard, Barth, and Niebuhr. Moral Theory and Religious Traditions This body of reasoned reflection on basic issues in morality and ethics provides a useful background for exploring the variety of concrete traditions of religious ethics.
Regarded superficially, these traditions display a bewildering variety of teachings and beliefs, making difficult any general conclusions about the relationship between religion and the moral life.
But when they are assessed against the framework of concepts just presented, religious traditions display some common patterns. Moreover, identifying these common patterns also helps highlight some of the important differences between traditions.
In approaching these concrete traditions with the framework of ethical assumptions as a guide, one should keep in mind one other important consideration: In his book Beyond Beliefthe sociologist Robert Bellah has suggested that religious evolution, like the evolution of other complex systems, often involves movement from simplicity to greater differentiation of structure pp.
In terms of moral ideas, this suggests a development of greater sensitivity to the full gamut of specific issues and questions identified by systematic ethical theory. We shall see that questions or distinctions barely occurring to thinkers or writers within a tradition during its earliest phases emerge as important issues later in the tradition's life.
In addition to looking at traditions synchronically in terms of their structure at any given moment, therefore, we must also look at them diachronically over the course of their development. The Superiority of Moral Norms and Independence of Moral Reasoning As we look at the variety of religio-ethical traditions, it is striking that a sense of the distinction between religious, ethical, and even legal norms is often not present, and that when it is, it is often a late development.
Furthermore, because the very distinctions are lacking, traditions do not always assert the superiority of moral norms over specifically ritual or religious requirements. This does not mean that these ideas are not present; often they are implicit and can be discerned only by a careful examination of how conflicts between norms are handled. As I have already observed, most historical traditions tend to see the normative structures bearing on human life as an integrated whole, wherein moral requirements are fused with religious, ritual, and legal norms.
In this respect it is often strained to speak of Jewish, Hindu, or Islamic "ethics. Incompletely understood as "law," halakhah is more properly thought of as sacred teaching or guidance, although it is also "law" in the sense that many of its specific requirements were upheld by public sanctions and punishments, when Jews were politically able to govern themselves.
In all, halakhah discusses specific commandments or normative prescriptions identified by commentators in scripture, including the Ten Commandments. While this body of norms does contain many requirements that are recognizably "moral," these are not clearly distinguished from what we would identify as ritual or religious norms.
At a fairly late date in the development of the tradition, commentators would puzzle over why specific ritual commandments for example, the requirement that only the ashes of a red heifer be used in a specific ritual of expiation had been placed on a par with obviously important moral norms.
But the early tradition tends not to make distinctions of this sort, and even later commentators who were rooted in this tradition agreed that all the norms of halakhah were equally sacred and equally incumbent upon the pious Jew.
In each case we have a legal-moral-religious teaching containing the totality of enjoined actions in an undifferentiated unity. Neither can it be said that many traditions display ethical theorizing in the contemporary sense of an effort to work out and to justify moral norms in rational terms. Commentators on early Christian ethics have noted the striking difference between the tone of early Christian ethical writing and that of the surrounding Greco-Roman world.
Whereas Greek and Roman thinkers were concerned with such questions as what constitutes "the good" for man and what patterns of conduct are most conducive to individual and communal well-being, Christian writers commonly established rules for conduct by citing biblical commandments, or by holding up as models for behavior exemplary persons in scripture. Throughout, it is the hope for God's approval or the avoidance of his wrath that is pointed to as the principal reason for living a Christian life.
As is also true for Judaism and Islam, not human reason but God's will remains the source and sanction for moral conduct. It is true that in our era each of the biblically based traditions has developed bodies of systematic ethical reflection, and it is also possible today to find treatises on Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain ethics.
Yet the separation of moral reasoning from other dimensions of the religious life is largely alien to all these traditions. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the appearance of ethical theorizing initially represents a response to the authority of Greek and Roman philosophy. Thus, some of the earliest thinking about the relationship between religious and rational norms in these traditions—as for instance Sa'adyah Gaon's Book of Beliefs and Opinions ce and Thomas Aquinas's discussion of the forms of the law in his Summa theologiae 2.
Similarly, modern efforts to develop statements of Jewish, Christian, or Islamic ethics are very much a response to initiatives in philosophical ethical theory. The authority of Western thought has had a corresponding effect in stimulating thinkers in African and Asian religious traditions to develop systematic approaches to ethics.
But in all these cases, writers are usually compelled to begin their discussions with the observation that the moral teachings of their tradition are inseparable from its theological, metaphysical, or ritual dimensions. Are we to conclude, then, that the separation of ethics from these other aspects of religion is only a Western phenomenon, and one largely traceable to the classical philosophers of Greece and Rome?
It is true that systematic, rational thinking about morality—ethics in the modern sense—does emerge primarily in the Greco-Roman world, although one might also speak of ancient Chinese ethics in this sense. Interestingly, in both these cases it was partly the breakdown of an older religious ideal that prompted rational reflection on the human good a theme we shall return to later.
But while ethical theorizing per se may be culturally localized, a sense of the independence, special significance, and even superiority of moral norms with respect to other normative requirements is present throughout many of these diverse traditions. Criticism of purely ritual efforts to please God, for example, is one of the hallmarks of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. A man who is not good, what can he have to do with music?
Neither the prophets nor Confucius, of course, would eliminate ritual from the life they believed human beings were called to live. For both traditions of thought, a fulfilled human existence was a moral and religious whole. But their opposition to efforts to reduce morality to one lesser aspect of the religious life evidences their sensitivity to the importance and relative priority of the moral norms.
This point could be further illustrated within a number of diverse traditions, but it becomes even clearer when we survey the historical development of religious thought. Not only do traditions tend to highlight moral requirements as they develop over time, but major religious controversies and schisms giving rise to new religious traditions usually effect dramatic ethicization of aspects of the older traditions, thus indicating how important the issue is for diverse religious communities.
Many examples from the history of religions could be given: To be sure, each of these important moments of religious change involves more than moral reform nor are the allegations of the "reformist" tradition always correct.
But it is noteworthy that in each of these cultural contexts the effort to highlight and assert the priority of the moral norms is of such urgency that it could well be an important contributing factor to major religious change.
It is also noteworthy that in these quite different contexts change is always unidirectional; religions do not efface the distinction between religious and moral norms as they develop, nor do they subordinate moral requirements over time. On the contrary, just as a theoretical appreciation of the importance of moral norms would suggest, traditions move toward greater clarity about the distinctiveness and relative superiority of moral requirements.
One final matter deserves attention: The supreme guide to conduct in these traditions, it is said, is God's command, and because this command is not always moral, these traditions are fundamentally opposed to any idea of the distinctiveness or superiority of moral norms.
This viewpoint is associated with forms of divine command ethics in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Many believe it finds its strongest biblical support in God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac Gn.
In fact, the issue of divine command ethics is a complicated one. Theoretical defenses of this position as voiced by al-Ghazali in Islam and by William of OckhamDuns Scotus, and Kierkegaard in Christianity usually arise in contexts where the very authority of the tradition is under attack by rationalist critics.
These defenses may seek less to represent the tradition in its integrity, therefore, than to place it beyond assault. Examined with less apologetic interests in mind, the traditions themselves do not necessarily support the religiously authoritarian reading they are given.
While biblically based traditions trace their norms to God's will, this will is usually viewed in such ethicized terms as to render it unthinkable that God could ever require anything fundamentally wicked or immoral.
The Abraham-Isaac story in Genesis 22 is no exception to this rule. Readings based on this passage alone such as Kierkegaard's tend to omit the fact that, several chapters earlier, in Genesis In many ways, the episode in Genesis 22 reinforces this impression: The God of the Hebrew scriptures, unlike deities worshiped by idolators, does not demand the slaughter of children.
Indeed, this was precisely the lesson drawn by most later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim commentators. In this single text, therefore, we see both sides of the biblical tradition: Taken together, these ideas do not suggest a religious attitude that would subordinate morality, but one that discovers moral intentionality at the tradition's highest level of authority. Universality and the Moral Rules We have seen that the term universality has several distinct meanings when used in reference to moral rules.
It signifies the fact that at least the basic rules of morality are the same across cultures. It also signifies that these rules are to be regarded as applying across cultural lines presumably to every human being. All who are human are members of the moral community and bear the rights and responsibilities of this status.
A survey of different historical traditions bears out the presence of these ideas, although historical development and other considerations sometimes render matters complex. Common moral principles One of the most striking impressions produced by comparative study of religious ethics is the similarity in basic moral codes and teachings.
These prohibit killing, injury, deception, or the violation of solemn oaths. Lewis has called basic moral rules like these "the ultimate platitudes of practical reason," and their presence and givenness in such diverse traditions supports his characterization.
Also remarkably similar are norms bearing on social and institutional life, especially economic relations. While none of these traditions condemns private property though common possession is sometimes viewed as appropriate for the religious elite, or is thought to have prevailed during a utopian era at the beginning of timeall are solicitous of the needs of the disadvantaged or powerless and, in different ways, all encourage active assistance to the poor. Christianity accomplishes the same end by encouraging extreme sensitivity to the plight of the weak or needy.
Despite their other differences, Confucianism and Daoism share the Chinese conviction that the mark of just rule is a prosperous and happy peasantry. Both laud generosity by the rich and powerful, and both vigorously condemn economic oppression and rapaciousness.
The caste system of Hinduism, though opposed to any notions of social equality, aims at ensuring a livelihood and a share in the social product for all members of the community. This was accomplished by means of the jajmani patronage system, involving the exchange among castes of services and goods at socially established and protected rates. Finally, while charitable giving in Buddhism goes largely to the monastic community and is directed toward spiritual attainment and not toward economic need, this community itself often has been a refuge for the poor and for orphans and widows.
Furthermore, Buddhism espouses a vigorous ideal of shared prosperity in its conception of the duties of the righteous monarch cakravartin.