ADVERTISEMENTS: Religion and morality go together
In the West knowledge of most of Aristotle's texts was lost, but notin the East. They were translated into Syriac, and Arabic, andeventually (in Muslim Spain) into Latin, and re-entered ChristianEurope in the twelfth century accompanied by translations of the greatArabic commentaries. In the initial prophetic period of Islam (CE610–32) the Qur'an was given to Mohammad, who explained it andreinforced it through his own teachings and practices. The notion ofGod's (Allah's) commands is again central, and our obedience to thesecommands is the basis of our eventual resurrection. Disputes aboutpolitical authority in the period after Mohammad's death led to thesplit between Sunnis and Shiites. Within Sunni Muslim ethical theoryin the Middle Ages two major alternative ways developed of thinkingabout the relation between morality and religion. The first, theMu'tazilite, was given its most developed statement by ‘Abdal-Jabbar from Basra (d. 1025). ‘Abd al-Jabbar defines awrongful act as one that deserves blame, and holds that the right andwrong character of acts is known immediately to human reason,independently of revelation. These standards that we learn from reasonapply also to God, so that we can use them to judge what God is and isnot commanding us to do. He also teaches that humans have freedom, inthe sense of a power to perform both an act and its opposite, thoughnot at the same time. (For Mu'tazilite ethical theory, see SophiaVasalou,Moral Agents and Their Deserts: The Character of Mu'taziliteEthics and George Hourani, Islamic Rationalism: The Ethics of‘Abd al-Jabbar.) The second alternative was taught by al-Ashari(d. 935), who started off as a Mu'tazilite, but came to reject theirview. He insists that God is subject to none and to no standard thatcan fix bounds for Him. Nothing can be wrong for God, who sets thestandard of right and wrong. This means that ‘if God declared lying tobe right, it would be right, and if He commanded it, none couldgainsay Him’ (The Theology of al-Ash'ari, 169-70). Withrespect to our freedom, he holds that God gives us only the power todo the act (not its opposite) and this power is simultaneous to theact and does not precede it. A figure contemporary with al-Ashari, butin some ways intermediate between Mu'tazilites and Asharites, isal-Maturidi of Samarqand (d. 944). He holds that because humans havethe tendency in their nature towards ugly or harmful actions as wellas beautiful or beneficial ones, God has to reveal to us by commandwhat to pursue and what to avoid. He also teaches that God gives ustwo different kinds of power, both the power simultaneous with the act(which is simply to do the act) and the power preceding the act (tochoose either the act or its opposite). (For the work of al-Maturidi,see Ulrich Rudolph, Al-Maturidi and Sunni Theology inSamarkand.)
Religion and morality are closely connected with each other
Medieval reflection within Judaism about morality and religion has, asits most significant figure, Maimonides (d. 1204) who was born inMuslim Spain, and was familiar with much of the Muslim discussion ofthese questions. The Guide of the Perplexed was written foryoung men who had read Aristotle and were worried about the tensionbetween the views of the philosopher and their faith. Maimonidesteaches that we do indeed have some access just as human beings to therightness and wrongness of acts; but what renders conforming to thesestandards obligatory is that God reveals them in specialrevelation. The laws are obligatory whether we understand the reasonsfor them or not, but sometimes we do see how it is beneficial to obey,and Maimonides is remarkably fertile in providing such reasons.
A very different response to Hegel (and Kant) is found in the work ofSøren Kierkegaard (1813–55), a religious thinker whostarted, like Hegel and Kant, from Lutheranism. Kierkegaard mockedHegel constantly for presuming to understand the whole system in whichhuman history is embedded, while still being located in a particularsmall part of it. On the other hand, he used Hegelian categories ofthought himself, especially in his idea of the aesthetic life, theethical life and the religious life as stages through which humanbeings develop by means of first internal contradiction and thenradical transition. Kierkegaard's relation with Kant was problematicas well. In Either/Or he caricatured Kant's ethical thought(as well as Hegel's) in the person of Judge William, who is stuckwithin the ethical life and has not been able to reach the life offaith. On the other hand, his own description of the religious life isfull of echoes of Kant's Religion within the Boundaries of MereReason. Kierkegaard wrote most of his work pseudonymously, takingon the names of characters who lived the lives he describes. In theaesthetic life the goal is to keep at bay the boredom that isconstantly threatening, and this requires enough distance from one'sprojects that one is not stuck with them but can flit from engagementto engagement without pain (Either/Or, II. 77). This lifedeconstructs, because it requires (in order to sustain interest) thevery commitment that it also rejects. The transition is accomplishedby making a choice for one's life as a whole from a position that isnot attached to any particular project, a radical choice that requiresadmitting the aesthetic life has been a failure. In this choice onediscovers freedom, and thus the ethical life (Either/Or,II. 188). But this life too deconstructs, because it sets up the goalof living by a demand, the moral law, that is higher than we can liveby our own human devices. Kierkegaard thought we have to realize thatGod is (contrary to Fichte) ‘another’ (Sickness untoDeath xi 128), with whom we have to relate, and whose assistanceis necessary even for the kind of repentance that is the transitioninto the religious life. He also suggested that within the religiouslife, there is a ‘repetition’ of the aesthetic life andthe ethical life, though in a transformed version.
Religion essaysThere are many ways one can classify the word morality
They asserted that the ethical code can develop best and be most effective when separated from religion. It can understand by the fact that an act may be morally wrong while religiously right .Sometimes religion inspires conduct detrimental to social interests. Some practices like untouchability allowed by religion may not be allowed by morality. Likewise not all the moral values are embodied in religion. Moral laws are based on rational judgment while religion is predominantly emotional and non-rational.