Rachels Chapter 4
Does Morality Depend on Religion?

The presumed connection

The Divine Command Theory

Natural Law

  • Reality is a rational order with values and purposes built in
  • the whole has an overall purpose or direction
  • b. the parts have their own functions or purposes within the grand design
  • good = natural and bad = unnatural
  • to act in conformity with this larger purpose or nature (hence these subsidiary ones) is natural and good
  • to act otherwise is unnatural and bad
  • The natural (moral) law is discoverable by reason -- not dependent on revelation.
  • Objections to Natural Law theory
  • Is cannot entail an ought:
  • does not follow from the fact that we do seek something
  • that we should do so
  • even proponents of nat. law do not identify every end that something actually does tend toward as its aim or function
  • sex does in fact produce pleasure (usually), but proponents of this view insist that that is not its purpose
  • The teleological view of nature is contrary to contemporary scientific understanding; no purposes built-in to nature
  • Christianity and the Problem of Abortion

  • Some people claim to have more direct religious insights into what's right & wrong
  • Perhaps -- though God's commands don't make things right -- they show us what is right; though not constitutive of goodness, they're informative about goodness (LH).
  • Some people claim scriptural authority -- that we are bound as Christians -- to take certain moral (and even legal) stances
  • that homosexuals should be condemned for their sexual practices
  • that abortion should be outlawed from the moment of conception
  • Three questions
  • Is the Bible a reliable guide?
  • What does it say?
  • What morals can be drawn from what it says?
  • Reasons to think the book itself unreliable
  • disbelief in God as its author
  • its obscure & sometimes seems to give contradictory guidance
  • Further reasons for doubting the morals people claim to draw from scripture
  • Bad Faith: they are reading in their own beliefs -- scripture as mirror
  • LH: no injunctions against smoking pot or snorting coke are found in the Bible
  • indeed the Bible says "I have given you every plant yeilding seed which is upon the face of the earth" (Genesis 1:29).
  • yet some people talk as if we have a clear obligation as Christians to forbid & punish these activities
  • no injunctions specifically against abortion
  • The most specific thing relating to abortion in the Bible: Ex.21:22 supports argument
    1. Murder is punishable by death (Ex. 21:12)
    2. Deliberately causing a woman to miscarry is punishable by a fine. (Ex. 21:22)
    3. Therefore: Abortion is not Murder.
  • Rachel's Conclusion
  • religious considerations do not provide definitive solutions to the moral problems that confront us
  • this realization does not depend on assuming that Christian belief is false
  • even if true, morality is an independent matter