Original Research - Special Collection: Morality in history

A reflection on morality and religion

Jaco Beyers
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2847 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2847 | © 2023 Jaco Beyers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 March 2023 | Published: 27 November 2023

About the author(s)

Jaco Beyers, Department Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology, and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

The aim of this contribution is to reflect on the relation between religion and morality. An overview of the different theories of the origin of morality is provided. According to Blanchard, there are four traditional ways in which the origin of morality can be explained: (1) origin from nature, (2) origin from ourselves, (3) origin from culture and (4) origin from an objective moral law. The last instance creates the possibility for religion to be identified as the origin of morality. In reflecting on the relation between religion and morality one realises that the question that needs to be discussed is whether religion is indeed the provider of morality or not. It is also necessary to determine if religion is the guarantor for morality. The aim of this contribution is to reflect on the relation between religion and morality. An overview of the different theories of the origin of morality is provided. In reflecting on the relation between religion and morality one realises that the question that needs to be discussed is whether religion is indeed the provider of morality or not. It is also necessary to determine if religion is the guarantor for morality. What happens in a secularised society? Is it still possible for morality to exist in a secularised society? It is clear from an understanding of secularisation as differentiation – the separation of spheres – religion and morality can be separated and can exist independently in a secularised society. The influence of the evolution theory by Charles Darwin led to a new way of understanding the nature of morality. Some reflection on the influence of evolution on morality is presented here. One prominent recommendation resulting from this investigation is to emphasise that religion can provide the morals for morality.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This contribution reflects the intersection of anthropology, philosophy, religion studies and ethics. The discussion is based on a philosophical reflection on the relation between religion and morality.


Keywords

morality; religion; secularisation; evolution; Darwin; Blanchard; secularism

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

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