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Religion Without Morality? Is That Possible?

Updated on March 6, 2012

Is Religion in some way or other necessary for morals for morality? Is it even useful if not necessary? The issue I will discuss pertains to the connection between religion and the usefulness of religion in regards to morals. First, I will cover the connection between religion and morality; second, I will explore religion's usefulness in moral standards; third, I will assert; that although religion is useful in establishing morality or morals it is not necessary. In conclusion, I will prove that there is not a need for religion in order for there to be morality.

There are some seemingly valid arguments for the necessity of religion in order to maintain morality in society. If we speak specifically about 'Bible Principles' stated in the common bible for christian religion's and taught at Christian churches, persons can say that these teachings give a standard for moral actions required by God to be good.

Indeed these teachings are valid and useful in a moral society. The lessons in the bible teach society to respect each other and hold each others lives and property in high regard. The reasons for following these guidelines are motivated by the threat of hell fire and brimstone, eternal damnation, and losing their 'eternal life', which are a punishments no true believer takes lightly. In actuality, the willingness to follow a religious teaching comes from a moral standard of wanting to be good. This standard comes from and inborn nature and also life experiences , which shape our moral thoughts for what is good. For a person to be interested in the teaching of the theist prospective, he or she would have to have the desire to be good(moral). The desire to be good would, certainly, have to come first. If he has no desire to learn what is good and to be good, then he would not join this sort of group at all.

There is a common ground that an atheist and a theist share, both have a personal set of moral standards they follow. The motivation of these standards comes from the cause and effect of actions. For example, an atheist or theist knows if they steal they will risk some sort of punishment. The motivation to do good can come from God, law enforcement, guilt, or society's views of them.

Morals are driven by a person's belief in what is right or wrong. These beliefs are established by society to maintain order. Without moral standards existing, people would act only in their own best interest, no matter what the affect their actions would have on others. These standards are created by the society that sets them. For example, because it is immoral to eat a cow in some parts of India does not make it immoral to do so in America. Also, it is common in Europe for a child to drink wine at dinner time, in America that practice would be unacceptable.

Morals are also set by self interest. We tend to do what is morally right in order to please others. This is our pay off. If we please others, they will think we are great, which in turn serves our self interest. As I have proven, morals are a social and personal issue based on a feeling of what is right or wrong by itself.

Religion is a separate issue, dependent on moral issues considered to be right or wrong. Religion is a useful tool for a moral society, not a requirement. Religious teaching can re-enforce positive moral attitudes using God's punishments and rewards. If people are taught that an all knowing, ruling God is always watching and waiting to judge with consequences or rewards for that behavior, this would motivate people to do what is morally good., what God says is good (thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, etc.). This is one way to control the behavior of people in a society. A tool that is useful, but not necessary. Theist have punishments and rewards also, if you break a law there is a threat of a fine or imprisonment. If you act as society dictates, using a positive moral standard with regard to proximity, you are accepted and held in high regard.

In conclusion, it would be reasonable for us to determine that religion and morals or morality are two separate states. Morality can exist without religion, but religion cannot exist without morality.


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    • KimberlyLake profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Lake 

      5 years ago from California

      @Steve thank you for your comment and input. I appreciate that you took the time to read my article.

    • profile image

      Steve Luke 

      5 years ago

      Content of the post isn't bad but the topic of the post and the subject of the post. The subject says "Religion without Morality? Is that Possible?" And the article is "Morality without Religion? Is that Possible?" Those are two very different subjects.

    • KimberlyLake profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Lake 

      6 years ago from California

      @Miles Thank you for your comment. I will think about your suggested question, it is a good one and worth looking into.

    • MilesArmbruster profile image


      6 years ago from Somewhere on the journey

      Actually, as a Christian, I am never motivated by hell, fire, or brimstone. Not once, not ever. I am motivated out of a love for God, and a love for the people around me. I never do what is right out of fear, I do what is right to please God and to serve people.

      To answer your question, however, since religion is the practices, rites and principles that a person lives by out of their beliefs, it is fair to say that religion defines morals. So no, you can't have morals without religion. For example, if you believe in Care Bears, you will have specific ways to worship, and principles that you live by. Your moral perspective will be defined by what you believe the Care Bear religion dictates. Since people can make a religion out of anything, even non-belief, it is easy to see why people have such bizarre morals. Philosophers have argued for centuries whether morality can be derived from nature. The general consensus is that nature does not, in itself, have any sense of morality.

      I think that the question you really want to ask is, can you have morals without a God who provides a standard for what is right and wrong. Then the next question you need to ask is whether the human heart is essentially good or essentially bad.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      An interesting movie that helps define the issues is "Time Changer," available on Amazon.

    • Anaya M. Baker profile image

      Anaya M. Baker 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I agree, religion is not necessary for morality. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that morality that comes out of desire for reward or fear of punishment is not morality at all, its a response. I don't go 20 miles over the speed limit because of my morals, I do it because it is against the law and I don't want to suffer the repurcussions of breaking that law. Whether the law in question is civic, political or religious, it can't be considered a moral. Morality is action, choice or knowledge that stems simply from an innate conviction that it is right or good. We should do good things because they are the right thing to do, not so that we can get into heaven.


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