An Exposition on James Rachels:
“Does Morality Depend on Religion?”
James Rachels argues that morality and religion are separate entities. He states that “morality is a matter of reason and conscience, not religious faith” and that “right and wrong are not defined in terms of God’s will.”i He uses the Divine Command Theory, the Theory of Natural Law, and the use of religious scripture and tradition to establish how and where the two subjects are separated.
Rachels believes that there is a societal presumption about the connection of morality and religion. He notes that in the US, when it comes to matters that involve moral questions it is members of the clergy that are called in as consultants. According to Rachels, it is the popular belief that morality and religion are inseparable and the members of the clergy have a “special moral insight.” This belief combined with the opinion that “morality can only be understood in the context of religion” is the source for the popular public opinion regarding the interconnectedness of morality and religion.
The Divine Command Theory is used to create the first chink in the armor surrounding the popular opinion regarding the interconnectedness of morality and religion. The Divine Command Theory is described to mean “that ‘morally right’ means ‘commanded by God’ and ‘morally wrong’ means “forbidden by God.’ ” One problem with this view is that it will be rejected by atheists, since they reject the existence of God. The second problem impacts believers as it renders God’s command arbitrary. Rachels uses Exodus 20:16; “God commands us to be truthful,” as evidence towards his claim. He states that “the reason we should be truthful is simply that God requires it,” and that by itself “truth telling is neither good nor bad.” If this is the case then God could have “given different commands just as easily.” If rightness could be decided on a whim, that makes God’s commandments indiscriminate and arbitrary. Rachels...
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