Morality and religion relationship questions

Religion and Morality

morality and religion relationship questions

But, as with almost anything underpinned by religion, the pendulum swings bot. good”, we're back to the problems pointed out in the previous section. who support gay marriage for example, of not being “true” or proper or. There are many types of religious values. the concept of ethics from these topics. Free Essay: What is the relationship between religion and morality? The issues to be examined are conflicts concerning the free exercise of.

They point to the social and psychic costs that openly immoral conduct or covert and hypocritical behavior can entail. But others have rejected this approach either on the grounds that it is often not correct immoral people sometimes do very well or because it introduces essentially nonmoral motives into one's reasons for being moral.

Some who argue this way have contended that no self-interested reasons should be given for being moral: For these thinkers the voice of duty, in the words of George Eliotis "peremptory and absolute. These thinkers have argued that without at least some metaphysical or religious basis moral striving makes no sense.

This basis may range from the minimal belief that morality is not pointless or futile, that one's efforts do make a difference, to the stronger belief that, however much it may appear true that good people suffer for their commitments, moral acts and dispositions are, in the ultimate scheme of things, acknowledged and rewarded. It is noteworthy that discussion of the question "Why should one be moral? Hence, the separation of ethical theory from theology and philosophy of religion, which ethical theorists effected during the modern period, has to some extent been reconsidered.

It is interesting that this development was anticipated strongly in the work of Kant. To be sure, Kant is well known for his emphasis on the rational accessibility of moral norms and for his insistence that moral commitment must be autonomous, in the sense that it must be based on respect for the dictates of reason and conscience rather than on norms imposed from without and enforced by external rewards or punishments. Nevertheless, Kant's later writings, especially the Critique of Practical Reason and Religion within the Limits of Reason Alonewere focused largely on questions concerning the philosophy of religion.

In these writings, Kant developed the position that, to make sense, moral striving requires belief in a morally intentioned governor of the universe this was Kant's "moral proof" of the existence of Godand he began to explore the relationship between ethics and themes in biblical theology.

Foremost among these were the issues of sin, repentance, and the possibility of moral righteousness. Kant's discussions here are dense, but it can be said that, in perceiving the need to ground moral commitment in voluntarily assumed religious beliefs, Kant also recognized the difficulty of providing any clear and incontestable rational justification for being moral.

Thus his work highlighted the difficulty of sustaining moral commitment and opened up, as never before, the prospect of rational persons' defecting from morality. Discussing this problem under the rubric of the "radical evil" of the human heart, Kant introduced themes that were later developed by Christian theologians like Kierkegaard, Barth, and Niebuhr. Moral Theory and Religious Traditions This body of reasoned reflection on basic issues in morality and ethics provides a useful background for exploring the variety of concrete traditions of religious ethics.

Regarded superficially, these traditions display a bewildering variety of teachings and beliefs, making difficult any general conclusions about the relationship between religion and the moral life.

morality and religion relationship questions

But when they are assessed against the framework of concepts just presented, religious traditions display some common patterns. Moreover, identifying these common patterns also helps highlight some of the important differences between traditions. In approaching these concrete traditions with the framework of ethical assumptions as a guide, one should keep in mind one other important consideration: In his book Beyond Beliefthe sociologist Robert Bellah has suggested that religious evolution, like the evolution of other complex systems, often involves movement from simplicity to greater differentiation of structure pp.

In terms of moral ideas, this suggests a development of greater sensitivity to the full gamut of specific issues and questions identified by systematic ethical theory. We shall see that questions or distinctions barely occurring to thinkers or writers within a tradition during its earliest phases emerge as important issues later in the tradition's life.

In addition to looking at traditions synchronically in terms of their structure at any given moment, therefore, we must also look at them diachronically over the course of their development. The Superiority of Moral Norms and Independence of Moral Reasoning As we look at the variety of religio-ethical traditions, it is striking that a sense of the distinction between religious, ethical, and even legal norms is often not present, and that when it is, it is often a late development.

Furthermore, because the very distinctions are lacking, traditions do not always assert the superiority of moral norms over specifically ritual or religious requirements. This does not mean that these ideas are not present; often they are implicit and can be discerned only by a careful examination of how conflicts between norms are handled.

As I have already observed, most historical traditions tend to see the normative structures bearing on human life as an integrated whole, wherein moral requirements are fused with religious, ritual, and legal norms. In this respect it is often strained to speak of Jewish, Hindu, or Islamic "ethics. Incompletely understood as "law," halakhah is more properly thought of as sacred teaching or guidance, although it is also "law" in the sense that many of its specific requirements were upheld by public sanctions and punishments, when Jews were politically able to govern themselves.

In all, halakhah discusses specific commandments or normative prescriptions identified by commentators in scripture, including the Ten Commandments. While this body of norms does contain many requirements that are recognizably "moral," these are not clearly distinguished from what we would identify as ritual or religious norms.

Morality and Religion |

At a fairly late date in the development of the tradition, commentators would puzzle over why specific ritual commandments for example, the requirement that only the ashes of a red heifer be used in a specific ritual of expiation had been placed on a par with obviously important moral norms. But the early tradition tends not to make distinctions of this sort, and even later commentators who were rooted in this tradition agreed that all the norms of halakhah were equally sacred and equally incumbent upon the pious Jew.

In each case we have a legal-moral-religious teaching containing the totality of enjoined actions in an undifferentiated unity. Neither can it be said that many traditions display ethical theorizing in the contemporary sense of an effort to work out and to justify moral norms in rational terms.

Commentators on early Christian ethics have noted the striking difference between the tone of early Christian ethical writing and that of the surrounding Greco-Roman world. Whereas Greek and Roman thinkers were concerned with such questions as what constitutes "the good" for man and what patterns of conduct are most conducive to individual and communal well-being, Christian writers commonly established rules for conduct by citing biblical commandments, or by holding up as models for behavior exemplary persons in scripture.

Throughout, it is the hope for God's approval or the avoidance of his wrath that is pointed to as the principal reason for living a Christian life. As is also true for Judaism and Islam, not human reason but God's will remains the source and sanction for moral conduct. It is true that in our era each of the biblically based traditions has developed bodies of systematic ethical reflection, and it is also possible today to find treatises on Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain ethics.

Yet the separation of moral reasoning from other dimensions of the religious life is largely alien to all these traditions. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the appearance of ethical theorizing initially represents a response to the authority of Greek and Roman philosophy.

Thus, some of the earliest thinking about the relationship between religious and rational norms in these traditions—as for instance Sa'adyah Gaon's Book of Beliefs and Opinions ce and Thomas Aquinas's discussion of the forms of the law in his Summa theologiae 2.

Similarly, modern efforts to develop statements of Jewish, Christian, or Islamic ethics are very much a response to initiatives in philosophical ethical theory. The authority of Western thought has had a corresponding effect in stimulating thinkers in African and Asian religious traditions to develop systematic approaches to ethics.

But in all these cases, writers are usually compelled to begin their discussions with the observation that the moral teachings of their tradition are inseparable from its theological, metaphysical, or ritual dimensions. Are we to conclude, then, that the separation of ethics from these other aspects of religion is only a Western phenomenon, and one largely traceable to the classical philosophers of Greece and Rome?

It is true that systematic, rational thinking about morality—ethics in the modern sense—does emerge primarily in the Greco-Roman world, although one might also speak of ancient Chinese ethics in this sense.

Interestingly, in both these cases it was partly the breakdown of an older religious ideal that prompted rational reflection on the human good a theme we shall return to later. But while ethical theorizing per se may be culturally localized, a sense of the independence, special significance, and even superiority of moral norms with respect to other normative requirements is present throughout many of these diverse traditions.

Criticism of purely ritual efforts to please God, for example, is one of the hallmarks of the Hebrew prophetic tradition.

A man who is not good, what can he have to do with music? Neither the prophets nor Confucius, of course, would eliminate ritual from the life they believed human beings were called to live.

For both traditions of thought, a fulfilled human existence was a moral and religious whole. But their opposition to efforts to reduce morality to one lesser aspect of the religious life evidences their sensitivity to the importance and relative priority of the moral norms. This point could be further illustrated within a number of diverse traditions, but it becomes even clearer when we survey the historical development of religious thought.

Not only do traditions tend to highlight moral requirements as they develop over time, but major religious controversies and schisms giving rise to new religious traditions usually effect dramatic ethicization of aspects of the older traditions, thus indicating how important the issue is for diverse religious communities.

Many examples from the history of religions could be given: To be sure, each of these important moments of religious change involves more than moral reform nor are the allegations of the "reformist" tradition always correct. But it is noteworthy that in each of these cultural contexts the effort to highlight and assert the priority of the moral norms is of such urgency that it could well be an important contributing factor to major religious change. It is also noteworthy that in these quite different contexts change is always unidirectional; religions do not efface the distinction between religious and moral norms as they develop, nor do they subordinate moral requirements over time.

On the contrary, just as a theoretical appreciation of the importance of moral norms would suggest, traditions move toward greater clarity about the distinctiveness and relative superiority of moral requirements. One final matter deserves attention: The supreme guide to conduct in these traditions, it is said, is God's command, and because this command is not always moral, these traditions are fundamentally opposed to any idea of the distinctiveness or superiority of moral norms.

This viewpoint is associated with forms of divine command ethics in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Many believe it finds its strongest biblical support in God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac Gn. In fact, the issue of divine command ethics is a complicated one. Theoretical defenses of this position as voiced by al-Ghazali in Islam and by William of OckhamDuns Scotus, and Kierkegaard in Christianity usually arise in contexts where the very authority of the tradition is under attack by rationalist critics.

These defenses may seek less to represent the tradition in its integrity, therefore, than to place it beyond assault. Examined with less apologetic interests in mind, the traditions themselves do not necessarily support the religiously authoritarian reading they are given.

morality and religion relationship questions

While biblically based traditions trace their norms to God's will, this will is usually viewed in such ethicized terms as to render it unthinkable that God could ever require anything fundamentally wicked or immoral.

The Abraham-Isaac story in Genesis 22 is no exception to this rule. Readings based on this passage alone such as Kierkegaard's tend to omit the fact that, several chapters earlier, in Genesis In many ways, the episode in Genesis 22 reinforces this impression: The God of the Hebrew scriptures, unlike deities worshiped by idolators, does not demand the slaughter of children. Indeed, this was precisely the lesson drawn by most later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim commentators. In this single text, therefore, we see both sides of the biblical tradition: Taken together, these ideas do not suggest a religious attitude that would subordinate morality, but one that discovers moral intentionality at the tradition's highest level of authority.

Universality and the Moral Rules We have seen that the term universality has several distinct meanings when used in reference to moral rules.

morality and religion relationship questions

It signifies the fact that at least the basic rules of morality are the same across cultures. It also signifies that these rules are to be regarded as applying across cultural lines presumably to every human being.

All who are human are members of the moral community and bear the rights and responsibilities of this status. A survey of different historical traditions bears out the presence of these ideas, although historical development and other considerations sometimes render matters complex.

Common moral principles One of the most striking impressions produced by comparative study of religious ethics is the similarity in basic moral codes and teachings. These prohibit killing, injury, deception, or the violation of solemn oaths.

Lewis has called basic moral rules like these "the ultimate platitudes of practical reason," and their presence and givenness in such diverse traditions supports his characterization. Also remarkably similar are norms bearing on social and institutional life, especially economic relations.

While none of these traditions condemns private property though common possession is sometimes viewed as appropriate for the religious elite, or is thought to have prevailed during a utopian era at the beginning of timeall are solicitous of the needs of the disadvantaged or powerless and, in different ways, all encourage active assistance to the poor.

Christianity accomplishes the same end by encouraging extreme sensitivity to the plight of the weak or needy. Despite their other differences, Confucianism and Daoism share the Chinese conviction that the mark of just rule is a prosperous and happy peasantry.

Both laud generosity by the rich and powerful, and both vigorously condemn economic oppression and rapaciousness. The caste system of Hinduism, though opposed to any notions of social equality, aims at ensuring a livelihood and a share in the social product for all members of the community. This was accomplished by means of the jajmani patronage system, involving the exchange among castes of services and goods at socially established and protected rates.

Finally, while charitable giving in Buddhism goes largely to the monastic community and is directed toward spiritual attainment and not toward economic need, this community itself often has been a refuge for the poor and for orphans and widows. Furthermore, Buddhism espouses a vigorous ideal of shared prosperity in its conception of the duties of the righteous monarch cakravartin.

Similar assessments of individual moral worth Beyond these common moral principles, interesting normative similarities may also be identified with respect to the role played by individual decision and intention in the evaluation of moral worth. We have seen that while intention does not figure into the rightness or wrongness of a particular act, it is a crucial consideration in estimating the merit or blame of the moral agent.

This aspect of moral reasoning, as well as the centrality of the individual agent as moral subject, is apparently well appreciated by the major traditions under discussion, although again some historical perspective is needed. Very often during their earliest periods, traditions evidence an objective assessment of moral culpability: Similarly, the earliest strata of some traditions at times display notions of collective guilt whereby all members of a community are regarded as meriting punishment for the wrongdoing of a few.

Characteristically, however, these less differentiated ideas give way over time to greater precision in the assessment or apportionment of blame.

In the Hebrew faith, Ezekiel's rejection of collective punishment Ez. This process of differentiation becomes particularly apparent during moments of radical religious change. None of the "daughter traditions"—neither Buddhism, Christianity, nor Islam—defends the idea of corporate punishment, whereas all put much stress on intention in assessing individuals' deeds.

Jesus' criticism of religious and moral hypocrisy may not be fair to the Jewish tradition from which he sprang, but it is fully consistent with the spirit of greater interiority in the assessment of worth that marks the development of biblical faith. Much the same might be said of the Buddhist remolding of the doctrine of karman to the effect that karmic consequences are seen to derive from the willing of the agent rather than from the outward deed.

The importance of intention niyah in validating religious and moral observance in Islam and of the kindred concept of kavvanah in rabbinic Judaism exemplifies this same process of increasing precision in the assessment of individual worth. Differences between traditions Despite all these remarkable similarities, there are also important differences among the codes and teachings of these traditions. Thus, the permitted range of sexual conduct differs from tradition to tradition, with the concept of sexual chastity apparently not ruling out polygamy in some cases ancient Israelite religion, Islam, Confucianism but requiring monogamy and even recommending celibacy in others monastic Christianity and Buddhism.

Wrongful killing, too, is variously defined. For Jews and Muslims, killing is permissible if done in self-defense or to punish wrongdoers whose conduct is believed to threaten the community. The New Testamenthowever, suggests a stance in which even self-defensive killing of other human beings is prohibited. Buddhism and Jainism take this position one step further by discouraging the killing not only of human beings but of all sentient creatures.

Differences of this sort represent an important object of study. Why is it that traditions whose moral attitudes and teachings are in some ways similar tend to differ in other respects? But the significance of these differences for our basic understanding of the relationship between religion and morality should not be exaggerated.

morality and religion relationship questions

For one thing, these differences are manifested against a background of basic similarities in moral teaching. It is sometimes assumed, because religious traditions hold widely different religious beliefs, that their ethics must correspondingly differ; what is remarkable, however, is that these great differences in beliefs apparently do not affect adherence to at least the fundamental moral rules.

Furthermore, where moral differences do occur, they do so within the permitted range of moral disagreement. For example, even though Western religious moralists have vested sexual conduct with great importance often intolerantly imposing their norms on other culturesthere are many different ways in which societies can organize sexual conduct so as to fulfill the more basic moral objective of protecting human beings from injury.

In some circumstances the welfare of women and children might seem best accomplished by polygamous relations; in others, monogamy might be desirable. Changing circumstances within a single tradition can even recommend a movement from one pattern to the next, as has been the case for Judaism and, to a lesser extent, Islam. That traditions would differ over a difficult moral issue like this is almost predictable.

What would be surprising, and what would throw open to question any claim that religions are basically respectful of the moral rules, would be teachings that permit rape or other violently abusive sexual acts. But no major historical tradition tolerates anything of the kind. Some differences in these teachings are also traceable to differing moral ideals or standards of supererogation.

We have seen that, above and beyond the basic moral rules which are largely negative and prohibitorythere are a variety of positive encouragements to generosity, sharing, and self-sacrifice.

Since views of what is "above and beyond the call of duty" normally differ even within cultures and between individuals, it is not surprising that differences among religious traditions should be marked.

Indeed, some of the disagreements with respect to sexual conduct and killing just mentioned are also differences of this sort.


New Testament Christianity, for example, would interpret self-sacrifice to imply celibacy, disregard for material wealth, and abstention from physical self-defense. Buddhists and Jains adopt very similar norms possibly less for reasons of self-sacrifice or altruism than as part of a vision of spiritual self-cultivationwhereas Judaism and Islam tend to associate self-sacrifice with unstinting obedience to every provision of their respective religious laws.

This may require extreme efforts at charity and the willingness to accept martyrdom in the name of the faith, though neither tradition advocates poverty, celibacy, or the renunciation of self-defense. As important as they may be for the study of comparative religious ethics, however, these differences with respect to supererogatory ideals are matters about which reasonable and morally well-intentioned persons can disagree, and they do not affect the traditions' agreement about the basic moral rules.

The element of reciprocity here is aptly expressed by the Golden Rule of Christianity Mt. While Christians are justly proud of the moral wisdom represented by this simple decision procedure, the Golden Rule is by no means limited to Christianity. Jesus' teaching is initially drawn from Hebrew scriptures Lv. Within rabbinic Judaism a negative form of the Golden Rule "Do not do unto others. In the Analects Parallels like these led early missionaries and scholars to speculate on the possibility of historical borrowing or even parallel divine revelation in the East and the West.

But this similarity of moral perspective does not have to be attributed to anything more than the essential and universal logic of the moral reasoning process. While the Golden Rule is an impressive intuitive guide to responsible moral decision, its focus is too narrow. In making moral choices, we must consider not only the immediate neighbor but all other persons affected by our conduct or choice.

Hence the requirements of universality, objectivity, and impartiality in moral reasoning. In fact, the term impartiality, though widely used in moral theory today, is inappropriate, because it suggests detachment and distance in reasoning when what is really required is genuine empathetic concern for all those affected by our decisions.

In this respect either omnipartiality or omnicompassion would be a better term. When we examine the very highest reaches of religious thought, we are struck by the ways in which adoption of this perspective is encouraged. In the Western traditions believers are called upon to imitate God while trying to develop their own moral and religious lives. The various metaphors for God that express the traits to which believers should aspire convey this moral point of view: God is the creator and king of all the world, the righteous ruler in whom there is neither partiality nor injustice.

He is also a parent who loves his creatures with tender mercy and concern. Modeling their behavior on God's, Jews, Christians, and Muslims are thus called to distance themselves from selfish interests and to adopt an omnipartial point of view. Some Asian religions share this teaching. In the ancient Chinese and Confucian traditions, Shangdi "lord on high" and Tian "heaven" represent the standard of impartial justice. Knowing no favorites, Heaven judges by merit alone and casts out the unworthy.

Mystical traditions, which often place less emphasis on obedience to God and more on the adherent's experience of a transcendent reality, arrive at this standpoint in a different way.

No longer clinging to the self, one participates sympathetically in all of reality. The Daoist adept, in achieving mystical insight into the Way, participates in its spontaneity, generosity, and support of all living creatures.

It may be objected that the picture of universal compassion presented here is one-sided: Certainly these things are true. But once again, historical perspective is in order. One of the salient features of all traditional cultures is their tendency to view themselves as human, while outsiders, often all those beyond the narrowest boundaries of a local community, are looked upon as enemies, barbarians, or less than fully human. Frequently this assessment has a real basis in self-perpetuating conditions of conflict and vendetta that render every outsider untrustworthy and dangerous.

To some extent, we see this mentality in the early strata of many of the literate traditions, although even there universalist elements are discernible. For example, Genesis contains many passages in which Yahveh is depicted as little more than a tribal deity who fights without quarter on behalf of his people, whereas other passages display remarkable universality of perspective. Sometimes the two impulses are joined. A poignant example occurs in Genesis 21 when the working of the divine plan on behalf of Isaac's lineage leads Abraham to expel Hagar and her son Ishmael into the desert.

In a moving passage, Yahveh personally intervenes to save the lives of the abandoned pair. Though his first loyalties may be to Israel, the chosen instrument of his purpose in history, Yahveh reveals himself as a God whose compassion and concern transcend national lines. As traditions develop, one finds an almost invariant movement from relative particularity to greater universalism.

If such development can be found within the traditions, it once again shows itself most dramatically at moments of decisive religious change. Christianity's abandonment of Jewish religious law, for example, opened its community, "the new Israel," to a membership drawn from the entire ancient world.

morality and religion relationship questions

Paul's statement in Galatians 3: Similarly, Buddhism, by rejecting Hindu notions of caste, severed the geographical ties to India that had characterized Hinduism and, as a result, Buddhism became a world religion. But probably no tradition better illustrates this tendency to universalism coupled with the possibility of intolerance than Islam.

Over the centuries, Muslims' willingness to use the sword in defense of their faith has earned Islam a reputation, especially among Christians, as a paradigm of religious intolerance and persecution. In fact, Islam's record in this regard is much more complex than its foes admit. And even if some Muslims have promoted their faith through violence, it must be remembered that, in its essence, this faith has the most universalistic aspirations.

The object of Islam is precisely to bring all human beings, whatever their race or nationality, into submission to God's will. Islam would create one human community in which all share obedience to a high moral and religious standard and in which all merit the protection embodied by that standard. The fact that some Muslims have at times been prone to excess in promoting this objective may be thought of as an unfortunate consequence of the breadth of their moral and religious vision.

This vision is representative of the tendency of other major world religions to fulfill the promise of universality implicit in the moral point of view. Religions are not just bodies of teaching about right and wrong; they are total ways of life. As a result, it is not surprising that they provide answers, whether explicit or implicit, to some of the more urgent "transnormative" questions of morality, among them the questions of why one should be a moral person and how one can attain a morally estimable character.

Religious Morality Improves Social Cohesion The more a group shares and follows a common moral code, the more they will cooperate with each other. This cooperation brings success in conflicts with competitors, meaning that moral dispositions have become naturally selected facets of the human condition. However, we all cheat from time to time, and often the only thing that stops us from cheating is supervision by our peers.

If one believes a god, spirit, or dead ancestor is watching over us, we will act as if under a permanent degree of supervision. This enhances our moral rectitude, giving religious groups an advantage over non-religious rivals.

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This advantage has left an enduring footprint on the human brain. We have evolved a superstitious trigger for moral behavior, which works for atheists and theists alike. An experiment by Shariff and Norenzayan showed that when people were unconsciously primed about concepts related to gods, spirits, and prophets during a task to unscramble sentences containing those words, they were more likely to be generous in an economic game.

Another experiment by Jesse Bering showed that participants were less likely to cheat when they were told a ghost was in the room with them.

Thus, humans have evolved to increase their pro-social behavior by increasing their susceptibility for belief in judgmental deities and spirits. Religious belief is inextricably linked with our sense of morality on an unconscious level. Religious belief intensifies our willingness to display moral behavior, and the need to follow a moral code reduces the scrutiny that we apply to supernatural propositions. Religion uses morality to justify the claim that animals are excluded from divine rewards.

Religious Morality Grants Us Dominion Over Life Our evolutionary struggle for superiority over the beasts of the Earth has left us with a disposition for identifying and exaggerating our traits and abilities. Morality and love are seen as that which makes us special and distinct from an inferior animal kingdom. Religion finds itself in similar territory when claiming we have a unique purpose, a soul, and an afterlife that is off-limits to non-humans. To justify these claims, morality is co-opted by religion.

Morality is seen as a gift from the gods; a piece of their ultimate perfection that can be assimilated. In so doing, we become more like a god, and less like the animals beneath us.

We become special, superior, and closer to our archetypal image of perfection. All other life becomes inferior, immoral, imperfect, and immaterial. Through religion we display our propensity for attributing the most perfect aspects of our lives to something that is perfect in origin.

Morality and love are deemed to be sent from the gods because we want these human traits to be perfect. It is our way of enhancing ourselves; a form of self-apotheosis. This may appear to be a selfish and disrespectful belief to hold, but it is one that satisfies our evolved desire for superiority over the species that compete with us for survival.

Furthermore, it is a position that supposedly fits with the evidence. Animals will often kill indiscriminately for food, kill their own young, and leave their weaker offspring to die. However, it would be imprudent to say that animals are bereft of moral behavior. Primates, lions, and other pack animals co-operate in groups, look after their own, and appear to feel pain and anguish at the loss of a family member or ally.

The fact that our morality surpasses that of other species makes it easier to assume it has supernatural origins. Religious displays show the individual adheres to the morals of that religion. Religious Morality Increases Prestige To be thought of as a good person is to have an advantage in matters of trade and friendship. It matters not where you believe your morality comes from; only that people recognize and approve of your moral code.

Many people identify with religions to 'free-ride. Belonging to a religion establishes that one follows the associated moral code, leading to increased respect and prestige. If I saw a farmer or a businessman not belonging to any church at all, I wouldn't trust him with fifty cents. Why pay me, if he doesn't believe in anything? Religious Morality Generates Power Thousands of years ago, an individual demonstrating knowledge of divine rules and punishments would have been recognized as a wise prophet deserving of attention and respect.

Those espousing rules without supernatural backing are less important because the consequences of not following them are less severe. The respect that comes from being knowledgeable in these matters has brought wealth and power to the clergy, primarily because their blessing is sought by monarchs.

Hell can convince people to follow the rules. Religious Morality Establishes Control Belief in a supernatural being that passes judgement and wrath upon immoral humans will prompt individuals to unreservedly comply with the moral code endorsed by that being.