To What Extent is Morality Faith-Based?
The question on the extent to which morality can be said to be founded in faith generates additional questions on whether the principles of morality are dependent on God. Moral principles in any society are derived from different belief systems whose sources can be from religious doctrines to super natural powers. The main objective of most of the moral values is to minimize the suffering of innocent individuals while at the same time putting the needs of other means of the society ahead of one’s own selfish interests. Deriving moral principles from the dictates of faith is based on the understanding that meta-ethical understanding of morality is relatively intelligible.
Keyword: Morality, faith, God, Theist, Atheist
Morality provides man with the framework of distinguishing right from wrong. Moral principles in any society are derived from different belief systems whose sources can be from religious doctrines to super natural powers. There have been debated on the relationship between morality and the existence of an all-powerful and super natural being (Wood, 2002). This is because of the difficulty that exists in the ability of different moral agents to find the link between a moral God and an evil society. The main objective of this paper is to assess the extent to which morality can be said to be founded on faith.
Morality and its dependence on God
The question on the extent to which morality can be said to be founded in faith generates additional questions on whether the principles of morality are dependent on God. Theists whose claims are that morality is a product of reason and not subject of religion often believe that God does not exist (Wood, 2002). If there is no God, then it would be prudent to ask questions on why it is wrong to kill or steal. Even if an individual does not have the intention to kill or steal, then what would be the driving force for criticizing someone who commits these activities? This is based on the understanding that in the view of theists, morals are completely relative and arbitrary. Religious believers hold the assumption that in the absence of God there will be no criterion of distinguishing the evil from the good (Sacks, 2005). This is because such criterion is beyond the whim of an individual. This can be said to confer the meaning that in the absence of God it will be impossible for man to provide answers to the question, “Why is Y wrong?” it is important to note that in every society there are sets of laws and principles which determine morality. These laws are respected by both the atheists and the believers in the existence of God (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008).
Most of the ethical systems base the foundation of their principles on values which are used in the determination of different issues that affect the relationship between different members of the society (Jeynes & Martinez, 2007). The main objective of most of the moral values is to minimize the suffering of innocent individuals while at the same time putting the needs of other means of the society ahead of one’s own selfish interests (Sacks, 2005). The main point of contention from the perspective of the theist is that e ethical system from which the atheist derives his moral principles are entirely arbitrary and cannot be justified on any other grounds rather than the assertion that he or she acts or beliefs in that system because of his innate moral desires (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008).
It is this meta-ethical anxiety that leads a theist to ask the question, “Why is anything morally wrong if God does not exist?” This question when asked from a genuine perspective without the fear of punishments of the possibility of a rewards, then there is no reason to do god or differentiates that which is good from that which is wrong (Wood, 2002). To this extent it is possible to argue that faith based morality is founded on that which is not visible. It is the responsibility of the believers to operate in accordance to the desires of a god that they are yet to see or speak to. From the biblical perspective the Ten Commandments form part of the ethical morals that define the way different members of the society are to associate with each other and with God. These moral codes have inherent rewards and penalties that come with them. For those who choose to disobey the dictates of morality, a promise of punishment characterized by an everlasting fire is guaranteed (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008). However, those who live in accordance with the requirements of the moral principles have promises of everlasting and beautiful life in heaven (Wood, 2002). Faith-based morality from this arguments help in the development of an understanding that without these sets of conditions accompanying belief in the requirements of God, them there is no reason to be good. This system of thought has been argued to be simplistic in understanding the intentions of God. As the all-powerful and creator of man, God is perfectly good. He is the originator and perfect epitome of grounds of goodness. The fact that He defines good means that morality is dependent on Him (Sacks, 2005).
Faith-based morality and the source of good
An effective and elaborate understanding of the connection between faith and morality must be understood in relation to the existence of God and his goodness. Believes in the existence of God hold the assumption that they follow the principles that define morality derived from faith based assumptions because it the will of God and that the will of God is always good (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008). The statement, “The will of God is good” can be used in the development of an understanding that God is good. From a general perception for the statement “A is good,” to make sense, it would be important to state what “good” means. God is the essence of good. In fact it is also possible to argue that God forms the necessary ground for all good. This definition of good does not communicate any information since it has not been defined independent of God (Wood, 2002). If Gods says that it is good to be good, then how will the people know that it is good? One possible response to this question in the process of developing faith based moral principle is that it is the true nature of God to be good (Dionne & Chen, 2001). This means that God becomes the ground on which all elements of good are defined. The process of defining God is inclusive of the element of good. Failure to adhere to this understanding would mean that an individual is in opposition with the intentions of god hence the main cause of wrongdoings in any society (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008)
Atheists cite suffering of man and different killings instigated by men against their fellow men in the presence of n all powerful God. Theists fail to understand the concept that the universe is under the command of an all-powerful God (Wood, 2002). Man does not have the moral authority to determine what is good or bad without the interventions of a moral lawgiver. This means that he does not have the power to define the best time for God to intervene. Faith-based morality is essential in the development of an understanding of what God expects from man (Sacks, 2005). This means that it is not possible to use reason as the background of developing an understanding of moral concepts. This is based on the understanding that pure and practical reason, coupled by a good understanding of the knowledge does not lead one to morality. Accepting reasons as the foundation of morality while rejecting the existence of God can be likened to the desire to borrow from the biblical revelation of justice and retribution while ignoring the source of the dictates of the bible (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008).
Deriving moral principles from the dictates of faith is based on the understanding that meta-ethical understanding of morality is relatively intelligible (Dionne & Chen, 2001). The intangibility arises from the understanding that while man is free to exercise his will while acting as a moral agent, he must be guided by the requirements of divine commands (Wood, 2002). Reason is an essential element in the definition of the way man conceptualizes different aspects of morality. Reason is often the foundation of knowledge and it is therefore through reason that a moral agent is often able to develop an understanding of the source of moral laws and the intentions of the lawgiver (Steinberg & Wanner, 2008).
The question of the extent to which morality is faith-based can be understood in relation the belief in the existence of God. From biblical teachings human life is considered of high dignity and originating from the creator. God has the authority of providing principles on how to protect human life because he understands that which is right and wrong for his creation. Being the standard by which good is defined, God is the foundation of morality and all principles must be derived from his commands and that which he forbids or permits.
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