Religion and Ethics Essay
The difference between truth and false is always considered to be an easy difference to make. If anyone lies about something then anything he will say will be implied as false, if he is telling the truth it will be true, this is one of the huge misconceptions in life. The difference between truth and false is immense. The answer to; how to distinguish between truth and false is most logically given as, the correct fact is true and an incorrect statement is false though the answer totally depends on the knowledge of that person related to the topic in discussion and how he perceived the question.
Similarly there are opinions and facts. An opinion is the person’s own perception about the topic and it is given to the best of knowledge of that person and how he thinks about it based on his acceptance or negation of the issue, a fact however is based on the exact result of actual events, irrespective of how anyone perceives it. Based upon the results of a known fact a person may choose to make a personal claim, which can be proved right or wrong based upon the correct implication of that fact. There exist methods and criterion on how to determine the claim as right or wrong. A subjective claim however cannot be proved right or wrong as it is based on the person’s own beliefs, preference, opinion, or perception.
When a person hold some beliefs, values and practices about a culture his viewpoint to that culture is called Cultural Relativism, and when he is judged on a specific event or fact his moral judgment will base on the reaction that he gives related to that event, this judgment is called Ethical Subjectivism.
While debating religion and ethics we come to hear people saying “it is your own opinion”. This statement means that the person holds a personal response and claim on that topic and considers himself free to deliver his own opinion.
While calling something an opinion, person usually contrasts it with some real events, and those real events are called facts. Philosopher explain this difference by identifying facts are actual occurrences of the world regardless of what anyone thinks about it – and opinions as personal beliefs about that event. To quickly identify opinions and facts we can apply the Perry Weddle method, in which we ask for the person who claims it. If it is a fact it won’t belong to a specific person or group of persons and will be accepted globally, while, if it is an opinion it will relate to some people and they will use it to describe their own perception of the claim.
This method however cannot be applied in every case as there is a vague margin between what can be implied as an opinion and what as fact. There are some events that some people will declare as fact and some as opinions. This gives rise to the concept of objective claims and subjective claims. The claims made by people can be of two types, either they can be proved by some globally accepted reality or they can’t. These concepts can be explained by some examples. For example there are different claims on the origin of life, some people believe the fact that life originated from life and the first form of life was created as life. This theory is called “Bio-genesis”, the supporters of this belief declare this claim as fact and accept it as an exact event, On the other hand there were some people who believe the origin of life from non-life or “A-Biogenesis”, those who accept it as a fact base their beliefs on this theory and consider it as non-negotiable. This two claims are considered as subjective claims and are respected and accepted, as no research has proven any of them wrong. The objective claim on the other hand, is a claim that can be proved by some factual reality. Considering the same example, if in some years a scientific research results in answering the question about the origin of life this research will be accepted as a fact in the whole world. After the acceptance of this research if a person claims in favor of this research his claim can be proved by the help of that scientific research and can be declared as true, and if a person claims against it, he can also be proved wrong by giving the reference to that fact, and will eventually be proven as wrong. Both of these claims made will be considered objective as there exists fact that can prove them either true or false.
The key to understanding morality has been the observation that different cultures have different morality. Most people reject the idea of universal truth as myth and they refer to it as a subjective issue. According to this claim the customs practiced by a culture cannot be declared as correct or incorrect and they should not be judged over any selection. It is the moral code of the society that within the society determines the right or wrong nature of that act.
There exist arguments both in favor and against Cultural Relativism and are described below:
Arguments in favor
- Different cultures have different moral codes and they should be respected.
- Right and wrong are subjective and they vary from culture to culture.
- If people from different cultures have different morality related to an event, they shouldn’t be objectified on their choice as they have the right to accept that code.
- In a multicultural society it is better to stay tolerant and not objectify others to avoid feud.
- If cultural relativism is accepted, it will mitigate the difference between right or wrong.
- It will prohibit cultural improvement if it is needed, like the improvement many people tried to deliver like Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King.
- It will allow everyone to act as per his will and while doing so they people might start hurting each other physically or morally. And no one has the right to harm anyone based on what he or she believes.
Ethical subjectivism suggests that there should be no objective moral values, as they can never be accepted as facts and are not based on universal truths. Instead, ethical practices are considered true or false by the attitude and actions the people deliver based on that ethical morality. An Ethical Subjectivist may argue on something he really hates, but it does not imply the thing itself is hateful or wrong, another person who negates this thinking is not making a intellectual mistake but just holds a different opinion and a different morality.
Ethical Subjectivism play a major role in deciding emotional response of a society. There is a direct relation in decisions made under morality and emotions that are caused by it. If a person acts unethically within cultural bounds, he is likely to receive, disgust, hate, anger or in extreme cases punishment by the society. It may give rise to emotions even within the person like shame, guilt and embarrassment. On the other hand, acting ethically gives rise to positive emotions towards that person like love, gratitude and admiration, and even empathy that motivates people to perform in social activities.
In my opinion cultural relativism refrains a community to decide between good and evil. The difference between good and evil are not subjective and they should be accepted as objective. Freedom is the basic right of everyone but it restricts us in taking actions that revoke others freedom. Any person who takes cultural relativism seriously loses the ability to accept positive change and turns into a mindless animal who is incapable of finding the meaning to life.
The implication of the statement “If God is dead, everything is permitted” is an extreme view, accepted by the atheist group. It implies that morality is strictly dependent on divinity and it cannot be justified in other ways. This statement links God and morality in such a way that if God is no more, then no one is bound to perform ethically, and there is nothing left as “morally right or wrong”. This theory in which for anything to be morally correct is by default the command of God is called Divine Command Theory.
Divine Command Theory
The Divine command theory is an ethical view developed by the believers of Divinity. Its followers accept that all morality comes from God. The believers of this theory give reference to their holy books (Quran, Bible and Torah). The idea that religion and ethics are connected and it leads to explaining religion’s role in developing morality. This theory provides an ethical framework which can set moral values in a society. The believers of this theory accept that God is eternal and to follow His commands we will have to follow the rules He made in the holy books.
God’s commands never depend on what anyone thinks about it, they are unobjectionable and are must to follow in any case. If a community decides killing as a moral behavior it cannot be accepted as it directly conflicts with the commandments of God.
Everyone who disobeys God will be accountable for it and no power can restrict God from taking this action. Similarly if God wants to reward anyone He can and will and no one can question His distribution of favors. Those who believe in this theory have strong reference of these holy books to support their claim.
The reference to God’s sovereignty is dated back to the origin of life on this earth and even before the existence of time itself. The holy books teach us about strict rules to follow to maintain a peaceful structure in the whole world.
There are many objections given by a minority of people on this theory. One major objection is the interpretation of God in different religions. The objection is based on the number of religions and how to check if the commandments in any specific book are correct to follow as they have been many variations in the content of these books.
God’s commands can be misinterpreted as not all people on earth have equal intelligence and ability to understand a commandment. God’s commandments against murder and killing are common in all holy books but there are references to events where God ordered killing and violence as cure to injustice and extremism. Though those commandments are clear and scenario based but the critiques use it as a point to justify immorality is not linked to God.
The Natural Law theory
The Natural Law theory is a moral theory of jurisprudence. This theory suggests that law should be based on morality and ethics. And what is then accepted by Natural Law will be accepted as right and wrong. This law finds its power by referring to to certain universally accepted standards in morality and ethics.The Natural Law theory claims that laws are inherited from nature and they are to be followed regardless of the obligations made by a government whether or not the laws of the government are according to these laws or not. Divine laws are inspired by principles made by God.
The difficulties that arise in following Natural Law theory are basically because there is no general acceptance of this law as effective in political, moral and ethically correct. It is sometimes interpreted as far from operations of a judicial structure. However this point can be marked invalid as Natural law obliges its followers to not act against the present government.
In my opinion Divine Command theory is more logical and correct and gives a better structure of an ethically correct community. It gives the construction and implementation of a coherent and good ethical environment. However one should consider the relation between this theory and its philosophical merits. The majority of people follow this theory because it is accurate as well as relevant to epistemic, aesthetic, and metaphysically correct in order to develop a sustainable and comprehensive society.
Accepting a theory can flourish our interpretations and provide us a meaning to look at certain facts. Facts are needed to develop truthful theories about morality and ethics and apply them in our society. Correct interpretations are however necessary to make factual propositions. These theories in turn help us to make sense of the facts that are giving rise to them. Definition of these facts are subsets of these truths that have been verified. We can conclude that facts without a supporting theory are meaningless and difficult to accept.