The theme of the book is fairly evident from the title Morality and Religion: Some Reflections. However, in the eight essays that are contained in this book we could make an attempt to explore only some of the issues that arise not only regarding the relation between Morality and Religion but also about the nature of Morality or Religion as such. We make no pretensions to have covered all the dimensions of this vast subject. However, all the authors have raised important issues that we hope will generate further interest in the subject.
G, C. Khan emphasizes the complex nature of the relation between morality and religion in his paper entitled 'On Morals and Religion,' He points out how religion is concerned with the spiritual quality of human living which need not necessarily be described in moral terms. It is true that in nature there is no ought. But the strict ethicist often believes that on the basis of reason alone one can find out the moral principles which determine what one ought to do. The question is, how does such a strict ethicist distinguish between genuine moral action, mere conformism and immoral actions in the ultimate analysis? If moral law as are simply the reflections of social regulations or laws then morality gets reduced into legality. The author discusses how belief in God's will as the ethical law finds its confirmation not only in myths but also in history. Sometimes moral commitment itself takes on the quality of a religious faith. In the final analysis, he points out how both religion and morality have a way of involving each other, in spite of being conceptually separable.
There can be no doubt that the twin requisites of morality are the capacity for self-reflection and freedom of the will. Both of these are distinctive characteristics of human beings. But the question may be raised whether the moral sense is innate. In 'Morality-The Secular Base of the Sacred', Aditya kumar Mohanty points out that one's moral view entails a world-view underlying it. Of these the Cosmo-centric world-view has the emphasis on the fundamental unity of human beings. The above-mentioned two traits of human beings can be explained as manifestations of the tendency to move towards a state of equilibrium which may also be the point of origination. If we accept this interpretation, then we can say that man not only occupies the highest evolutionary status but is also destined to reach the final goal of unity. Construed in this way, universalizability. is the acid test of morality. The quest for unity is expressed also in religion in the sense that it expresses man's urge to attain the highest state of existence. It arouses the dormant divinity in the individual. But, religious ideas can best be expressed through one's practice rather than words. Thus morality is closely related to religion. Mohanty believes that in spite of differences in religious ontologies and the ethics underlying different religions, the values implicit in them are secular. They transcend the limits of any specific features of the sacred.
Ashok Vohra draws our attention to the nature of religious and ethical statements, arguments and dialogues in 'Moral and Religious Beliefs: are the Two Related?" An important question, for example is, what is the role of an argument in ethical and religions dialogues? In fact, Vohra observes, how in both ethical and religions systems we find some relative statements about means- end relationships; these can be argued about. On the other hand, although some justificatory arguments can be advanced in favour of absolute religious and moral judgments, after a point they cannot be argued about. This is because they are not based primarily on intellectual arguments, empirical evidences or logical proofs. In fact, they reflect the manner in which we mirror ourselves or think how we ought to live. In this context, the author draws our attention to Wittgenstein's argument in support of the view that the faith in one's values or one's religious beliefs is a matter of love and trust. We can even imagine a religion which has no doctrinal propositions to talk about. In fact, religious discourse has a different usage for some of its key concepts like 'believe'. Similarly, there are many terms, like 'possible', 'probable' etc. which have no use in a religious language-game. Thus, in spite of apparant similarity in structure, scientific and religious language-games do not have enough similarity in their key concepts to allow a meaningful discouse; they even operate with two different notions of 'rationality'. However, he points out that the different notions of rationality instead of being conflicting are complementary. In both ethical and religions life, it is the lived life that is more important than any sophisticated arguments that one may advance to support them. But, in spite of sharing this Similarity moral and religious forms of life do not necessarily converge.
The feeling of awe and humbleness experienced by man when he contemplates the Universe of which he is a part is often termed as religious feeling. This, however, need not necessarily be associated with the belief in some god-like being (s), But, it is a common feature of human societies that the conception of a supernatural order of spirits, of gods or of impersonal forces which are in some sense superior to the forces conceived as governing 'natural' events is accepted as the source of meaning of experience. On the other hand, all human societies involve reference to a normative cultural order which places moral demands upon men.
Noted sociologists like Max Weber and Talcott Parsons have pointed out that religion is as much a human universal as language. This view is also generally confirmed by modem anthropology. However, the supernatural order does not always have a transcendental focus, if we consider primitive societies. It is mostly used by them as an aid to their worldly concerns like long life, health, good relations with one's own people and defeat of the enemy. The theorists of religion usually concentrate on either of the two questions-- (1) What religion is and (2) what religion does. It is in the context of the latter question that the close relation between religion and morality becomes evident.
When a thinker like Durkheim concentrates on this question he sees religion as an institution which is fundamentally involved with a concern for society. As is well known, Durkheim had based his research on totemism among the Australian aboriginals. Each of these clans had a diferent object, plant or animal which they held to be sacred and which symbolized their clan. This Durkheim saw as the original form of religion which, he asserted was closely associated with man's understanding of morality as group cohesion. In this study, he emplasized on the centrality of what is sacred rather than the supernatural. However, later studies of the Australian aboriginal's did not support his view unconditionally. Moreover, not all theorists of religion accept the distinction between the sacred and the supernatural as Durkheim does. Mircea Eliade, considered the sacred as central to religion but believed that the sacred often concerns also the supernatural and not just the clan or society.
Etymologically, the word 'religion' is usually derived from the Latin word 'religare' which means 'to tie'. This analysis helps to explain the power religions have over people. But, there is an alternative reading, in which the word derives from 'relegare' that means 'to read over again'. It has been suggested that this emphasizes the ritualistic nature of religions. Most religions involve the following three elements. (1) Belief in supernatural beings or at least power. (2) A code specifying rituals that are focused on sacred objects. (3) Forms of communication with supernatural power (s) through prayer. Although the systems of Buddhism and jainism do not explicitty involove (1), yet in so far as they involve (3), (1) also gets involved. It is in this sense that Buddhism and Jainism are also types of religion. Within many major religions like Christianity or Islam, a person of religious faith wishing to express gratitude and love to God turn their attention into being good persons and doing what is right or good. Many intensely moral individuals like Gandhi and Mother Teresa, have actually followed religious faith in the practice of moral virtues. In the Christian religion two important commandments are to love God and to love one's neighbour. Since love for one's neighbour can be viewed as moral, Christianity can be said to unite morality and religion. It we move farther back to the earlier religion-Judaism, the same close relation between the two becomes evident. A Muslim again is, by definition, one who follows God's will in all of his or her activities. It is obvious that the phenomenon of religious ethics admits of diversity relative to different religious systems. Sometimes a system of religious ethics simply appropriates the general virtues that are considered necessary in man's social life. These may cover relationships within the family life, respect for another person's life and property, truthfulness etc. But which among these virtues are central depends on the particular religion itself. According to a dictum attributed to him, Confucius regarded "insubordination as more reprehensible than a nasty spirit" [Max weber, The Sociology of Religion, Methuen and Co. Ltd, London, 1922 (English translation 1963), P. 210]. This indicates that he expressly regarded obedience to authorities within the family as the mark of a noble character. Yet, a directly opposite view of a virtuous life is found in such congregational religions as Christianity, where the test of the truly religious is the dissolution of all family relations. "Whosoever cannot hate his father cannot become a disciple of Jesus" (Ibid).
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