An introspective look at moral theology
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01-07-2014, 09:26 AM
An introspective look at moral theology
I don't think I have posted this before, I did use the search function and reviewed about half of my oldest threads, so hopefully this sin't a re-do, if so, please accept my sincerest apologies for spam. In one of my past religious classes, of which I take a lot of, (to know ones enemy is to defeat them) and I posted this paper on the never ending morals question.

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Moral Theology is the study of how persons live in response to what God has done for them (Mueller 221).

Morality is concerned with human conduct but goes to a deeper level of personhood, such that our conduct is a reflection of who we are, a reflection of our character (Mueller 221).

Ethics can be defined as a discussion of the formation of human conduct… How responsible human beings capable of critical judgment should live using reflection on fundamental issues in description of concrete cases (Mueller 221).

Conscience is the voice of God written in our hearts, in accordance with the second Vatican Council. Natural law is considered one of the major sources of moral theology and answers the question: how do I know what is good or evil? Christians believe that natural law has been a factor in our decisions of what is morally right and wrong, good and evil (Mueller 222 – 227).

“This people who may personally and individually be moral and good people and have no intention of conflict and harm on others often share a Christian theory called the collective guilt “social sin.” (Mueller 257). The depths that theists go to fabricate the conception of sin knows no bounds, here you can be a good person yet you still have “social sin”. John Paul II said that social sins are “collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations or blocks of nations” (Mueller 258). Social sin becomes personal sin of individuals through complicity, indifference, or reluctance of those in a position to exert influence for change who do not do so (Mueller 258).

Catholic social teaching looks to gospel teaching to form the moral foundation the Catholic approach to questions of social justice. And assist the disciple in the ongoing task of reflecting on the challenge of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount and in discerning what it means in a consumer, technological, and globalized society to be poor in spirit and to embrace a sorrowing and the lowly (Mueller 260).


Secular morality is the aspect of philosophy that deals with morality outside of religious traditions. Modern examples include humanism, freethinking, and most versions of consequentialism. Additional philosophies with ancient roots include those such as skepticism and virtue ethics. Greg M. Epstein states that, "much of ancient Far Eastern thought is deeply concerned with human goodness without placing much if any stock in the importance of gods or spirits. Other philosophers have proposed various ideas about how to determine right and wrong actions. An example is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative: "The idea that actions can only be considered moral if they could be imitated by anyone else and produce good results."

A variety of positions are apparent regarding the relationship between religion and morality. Some believe that religion is necessary as a guide to a moral life. This idea has been with us for nearly 2,000 years. There are various thoughts regarding how this idea has arisen. For example, Greg Epstein suggests that this idea is connected to a concerted effort by theists to question nonreligious ideas: "conservative authorities have, since ancient days, had a clever counter strategy against religious skepticism—convincing people that atheism is evil, and then accusing their enemies of being atheists.

Others eschew the idea that religion is required to provide a guide to right and wrong behavior, such as the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics which states that religion and morality "are to be defined differently and have no definitional connections with each other". Some believe that religions provide poor guides to moral behavior.

Popular atheist author and biologist Richard Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion, has stated that religious people have committed a wide variety of acts and held certain beliefs through history that are considered today to be morally repugnant. He has stated that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis held broadly Christian religious beliefs that inspired the Holocaust on account of antisemitic Christian doctrine, that Christians have traditionally imposed unfair restrictions on the legal and civil rights of women, and that Christians have condoned slavery of some form or description throughout most of Christianity's history. Dawkins insists that, since Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Bible have changed over the span of history so that what was formerly seen as permissible is now seen as impermissible, it is intellectually dishonest for them to believe theism provides an absolute moral foundation apart from secular intuition. In addition, he argued that since Christians and other religious groups do not acknowledge the binding authority of all parts of their holy texts (e.g., The books of Exodus and Leviticus state that those who work on the Sabbath and those caught performing acts of homosexuality, respectively, were to be put to death.), they are already capable of distinguishing "right" from "wrong." (Boghossian 248).

The well-known passage from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, "If God is dead, all is permitted," suggests that non-believers would not hold moral lives without the possibility of punishment by a God. This is absurd as all one has to do is look at Scandinavian countries to see that this largely atheist area enjoys being at the top tier of civilization.

Phil Zuckerman, associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California, in his article, "Is Faith Good For Us" states the following: "A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries-those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics-are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations-wherein worship of God is in abundance-are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor, and destitute."

A study by Gregory S. Paul, entitled "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look," was done and the study's conclusion was that there was an inverse relationship between religion and poor societal health rates. What that means is that the higher the level of religious belief in a country, the lower the level of societal health (more violent crimes, suicides, teen pregnancies, etc.).

So it seems that a plethora of evidence exists to show that not only do we not need religion in our lives to be good humans, but that having it in our lives can be counter-productive and unhealthy.

Works cited


Mueller, J.J., Theological Foundations: Concepts and Methods for Understanding the Christian Faith. Winona: Anselm Academic, Christian Brothers Publications, 2011. Print.

Boghossian, Peter. A Manual for Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So what is your perspective? I know this has been beaten to death many times, but we do get new people daily, and perhaps they would like to provide some fresh insight into this morals question.

Comments? Opinions? Counters?

I am off to take the kids to water country for the day and will check back later to see if anyone was bored enough to respond Drooling

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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01-07-2014, 10:43 AM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 09:26 AM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  ... we do not need religion in our lives to be good humans, but that having it in our lives can be counter-productive and unhealthy.

Here's an excellent debate on this particular contention.
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01-07-2014, 11:57 AM (This post was last modified: 01-07-2014 12:05 PM by Deltabravo.)
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 09:26 AM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  I don't think I have posted this before, I did use the search function and reviewed about half of my oldest threads, so hopefully this sin't a re-do, if so, please accept my sincerest apologies for spam. In one of my past religious classes, of which I take a lot of, (to know ones enemy is to defeat them) and I posted this paper on the never ending morals question.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Moral Theology is the study of how persons live in response to what God has done for them (Mueller 221).

Morality is concerned with human conduct but goes to a deeper level of personhood, such that our conduct is a reflection of who we are, a reflection of our character (Mueller 221).

Ethics can be defined as a discussion of the formation of human conduct… How responsible human beings capable of critical judgment should live using reflection on fundamental issues in description of concrete cases (Mueller 221).

Conscience is the voice of God written in our hearts, in accordance with the second Vatican Council. Natural law is considered one of the major sources of moral theology and answers the question: how do I know what is good or evil? Christians believe that natural law has been a factor in our decisions of what is morally right and wrong, good and evil (Mueller 222 – 227).

“This people who may personally and individually be moral and good people and have no intention of conflict and harm on others often share a Christian theory called the collective guilt “social sin.” (Mueller 257). The depths that theists go to fabricate the conception of sin knows no bounds, here you can be a good person yet you still have “social sin”. John Paul II said that social sins are “collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations or blocks of nations” (Mueller 258). Social sin becomes personal sin of individuals through complicity, indifference, or reluctance of those in a position to exert influence for change who do not do so (Mueller 258).

Catholic social teaching looks to gospel teaching to form the moral foundation the Catholic approach to questions of social justice. And assist the disciple in the ongoing task of reflecting on the challenge of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount and in discerning what it means in a consumer, technological, and globalized society to be poor in spirit and to embrace a sorrowing and the lowly (Mueller 260).


Secular morality is the aspect of philosophy that deals with morality outside of religious traditions. Modern examples include humanism, freethinking, and most versions of consequentialism. Additional philosophies with ancient roots include those such as skepticism and virtue ethics. Greg M. Epstein states that, "much of ancient Far Eastern thought is deeply concerned with human goodness without placing much if any stock in the importance of gods or spirits. Other philosophers have proposed various ideas about how to determine right and wrong actions. An example is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative: "The idea that actions can only be considered moral if they could be imitated by anyone else and produce good results."

A variety of positions are apparent regarding the relationship between religion and morality. Some believe that religion is necessary as a guide to a moral life. This idea has been with us for nearly 2,000 years. There are various thoughts regarding how this idea has arisen. For example, Greg Epstein suggests that this idea is connected to a concerted effort by theists to question nonreligious ideas: "conservative authorities have, since ancient days, had a clever counter strategy against religious skepticism—convincing people that atheism is evil, and then accusing their enemies of being atheists.

Others eschew the idea that religion is required to provide a guide to right and wrong behavior, such as the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics which states that religion and morality "are to be defined differently and have no definitional connections with each other". Some believe that religions provide poor guides to moral behavior.

Popular atheist author and biologist Richard Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion, has stated that religious people have committed a wide variety of acts and held certain beliefs through history that are considered today to be morally repugnant. He has stated that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis held broadly Christian religious beliefs that inspired the Holocaust on account of antisemitic Christian doctrine, that Christians have traditionally imposed unfair restrictions on the legal and civil rights of women, and that Christians have condoned slavery of some form or description throughout most of Christianity's history. Dawkins insists that, since Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Bible have changed over the span of history so that what was formerly seen as permissible is now seen as impermissible, it is intellectually dishonest for them to believe theism provides an absolute moral foundation apart from secular intuition. In addition, he argued that since Christians and other religious groups do not acknowledge the binding authority of all parts of their holy texts (e.g., The books of Exodus and Leviticus state that those who work on the Sabbath and those caught performing acts of homosexuality, respectively, were to be put to death.), they are already capable of distinguishing "right" from "wrong." (Boghossian 248).

The well-known passage from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, "If God is dead, all is permitted," suggests that non-believers would not hold moral lives without the possibility of punishment by a God. This is absurd as all one has to do is look at Scandinavian countries to see that this largely atheist area enjoys being at the top tier of civilization.

Phil Zuckerman, associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California, in his article, "Is Faith Good For Us" states the following: "A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries-those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics-are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations-wherein worship of God is in abundance-are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor, and destitute."

A study by Gregory S. Paul, entitled "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look," was done and the study's conclusion was that there was an inverse relationship between religion and poor societal health rates. What that means is that the higher the level of religious belief in a country, the lower the level of societal health (more violent crimes, suicides, teen pregnancies, etc.).

So it seems that a plethora of evidence exists to show that not only do we not need religion in our lives to be good humans, but that having it in our lives can be counter-productive and unhealthy.

Works cited


Mueller, J.J., Theological Foundations: Concepts and Methods for Understanding the Christian Faith. Winona: Anselm Academic, Christian Brothers Publications, 2011. Print.

Boghossian, Peter. A Manual for Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So what is your perspective? I know this has been beaten to death many times, but we do get new people daily, and perhaps they would like to provide some fresh insight into this morals question.

Comments? Opinions? Counters?

I am off to take the kids to water country for the day and will check back later to see if anyone was bored enough to respond Drooling


Good post. I studied ethics at university and religion didn't come into it. I also studied religion and ethics didn't come into it.

One could argue, with force, that religion is antithetical to morality because the person who behaves in a certain way, out of selfish concerns about only his own life after death, isn't acting morally at all but only out of compulsion by another more powerful.

Morality involves making choices oneself about how to act and not simply doing as one is told and that is the main problem with Christianity and other religions, that believers act in the most unpleasant and immoral ways out of selfishness.

I have been rereading the NT after having read Joe Atwill and Ralph Ellis and they raise some very interesting concerns about Christianity and about, I think, morality.

My view now is that Christianity in its NT format is designed and contrived in a well thought out manner by people who did not necessarily believe in it.

I was particularly considering the versions of the conception as set out in the Gospels and what Atwill has said about the depiction of certain characters in the NT. In Matthew, for instance, Jesus is said to have been "begat" by Joseph and descended from King David. That establishes his pedigree. Then we have another Gospel, John, I think, which tells of Mary who is a married "virgin" OMG, and visits her cousin to tell her she has been visited by a spirit which tells her she is going go have a child with God. Mary says how she is so "blessed". "Gosh, l'il ole me".

Atwill says that these are just depictions of the Maccabees by Josephus as stupid and looking at this rationally, one has to think that whoever wrote John was portraying Mary as a simpleton who didn't know about sex and believed in spirits. The use of this device, a simpleton woman talking about spirits, is aimed at other simpleton women, like modern women who read horoscopes and tea leaves. There is nothing "moral" about it.

On the other hand, the NT describes its "god" as the "logos" and conveys a moral philosophy based on the golden rule. It starts with the Beatitudes and continues in various parables which interpret, correctly or incorrectly, the application of this moral philosophy.

What I take from the NT is that it was written by people who believed that most of those around them, religious types, were morons, while they themselves believed in a reason based moral philosophy. They were faced with a dilemma. How does one get morons to adopt a reason based morality?

The answer is obvious and it is precisely what the NT does. It weaves this philosophy into a tale based on a character who people recognized and respected and it imbues that person with all the characteristics which would make the simpletons accept him as their "messiah".

The best example of a modern exposition of a reason based moral philosophy is Kant's categorical imperative which tells us to act so that the maxim upon which we act can be applied universally.

This is where I have a problem with some posters here. To me this is a restatement of the golden rule while some here can't see that and go on about the categorical imperative not taking into account "consequences". That shows a misunderstanding of reason based morality and ethics. What is meant by not looking at the consequences is that if it is the consequences that one looks at, then one could be "moral" by accident because something one did had a good result, even though that was not the intention and, conversely, someone could do something which was intended to be good but it went wrong. So, morality has to look at the reasons behind one's actions, not the consequences, although in most cases good intentions and actions do result in the intended "good" consequences.

I think it is impossible now to read the Old Testament, for example, and derive any form of morality from it other than by accident which in any way relates to what people believed 2000 years ago. The stories in it are highly suspect, possibly only allegorical, possibly fictionalizations of real events, folk lore, legends. Was there a flood? As it turns out, yes. Was there a patriarch called Abraham? Who knows. Was he genetically or are "his" descendants genetically any different from the stock of people they came from? Plainly not.

And, where does this take us in terms of morality that this religion gave rise to the notion of a Messiah? Nowhere.

Romans were a mixed bunch. On the one had they were thuggish psychopaths like the Claudian emperors. On the other hand they were Epicureans and Stoics who believed that the "good life" involved living according to common sense and reason.

Out of this blend of pagan barbarianism and Greek wisdom we see emerge Christianity with its blend of myths and logos.

What I have to ask myself is whether this just "happened" as some vociferous posters here suggest or whether it was a political work and a reflection of ideas which were around at the time.
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01-07-2014, 03:48 PM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
Quote:Conscience is the voice of God written in our hearts, in accordance with the second Vatican Council.

This seems to be a major difference between religious views and secular views. Edward Westermarck wrote the following in 1906 concerning the origin of moral values:
"The objectivity ascribed to judgements which arise from our unconscience as intuitive knowledge comes from the similarity of the mental constitution of men."

There is considerable scientific evidence that our conscience originates in our own subconscious mind, but no evidence of "the voice of God written in our hearts". Even theists seem reluctant to discuss the mechanics of such an idea. It seems to be merely a poetic phrase quoted from the bible with no basis in reality.
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01-07-2014, 07:56 PM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
if there is no God, what reason is there why people should not live however they want?
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01-07-2014, 08:01 PM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 07:56 PM)δοῦλος Wrote:  if there is no God, what reason is there why people should not live however they want?

No reason. That is the best part.

If you mean "why don't we murder each other for sport", that is a question that has been answered many times. Do a google search "where do atheists get morality". You will find all kinds of great stuff.
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01-07-2014, 08:26 PM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 07:56 PM)δοῦλος Wrote:  if there is no God, what reason is there why people should not live however they want?

You can't possibly be THAT stupid.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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01-07-2014, 08:27 PM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 08:26 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  
(01-07-2014 07:56 PM)δοῦλος Wrote:  if there is no God, what reason is there why people should not live however they want?

You can't possibly be THAT stupid.

I don't know about that. Some people are exceptionally stupid.

(31-07-2014 04:37 PM)Luminon Wrote:  America is full of guns, but they're useless, because nobody has the courage to shoot an IRS agent in self-defense
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01-07-2014, 08:40 PM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 08:26 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  
(01-07-2014 07:56 PM)δοῦλος Wrote:  if there is no God, what reason is there why people should not live however they want?

You can't possibly be THAT stupid.

why do you say that?
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02-07-2014, 01:19 AM
RE: An introspective look at moral theology
(01-07-2014 08:40 PM)δοῦλος Wrote:  
(01-07-2014 08:26 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  You can't possibly be THAT stupid.

why do you say that?

It is offensive to imply that you can't be moral without god. I think your question is innocent enough. The short answer is we behave morally because we feel it is the right thing to do. No divine commandment or fear of the after life required Dodgy .
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