Morality and Religion This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 2, 2012
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I have never set fire to an orphanage. I have no wish to. There are many who believe that we must heed the Bible and religion, claiming that it brings us morality and without it, we have none. It is true that up to this point in history morality and religion have been closely linked and are often used interchangeably. Whether we look at Judaism, Christianity, or ancient Greek philosophy, morality has always been a key component. Well, I have never set fire to an orphanage, and I do not follow the Bible. It seems there may be a little morality in me after all. If this is the case, then it is time we re-evaluate the relationship between morality and religion. It is time to treat these two ideas as the separate entities that they are.

There is a belief that we must have religion to have morals. However, many problems arise when we link morality so closely with religion. For starters, it has the unavoidable fate of being subjected to much hypocrisy. For example, the Bible tells us to not kill, (King James Bible, Exodus 20:13), so we must not do it. This rule is accepted by all major religions and the majority of atheists as well. However, the Bible endorses more controversial morals too. For example, there's the oft-cited passage, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (King James Bible, Leviticus 20:13) Here, the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong. This moral has been adopted as law in many religious households. They are less likely, however, to bring up some other Biblical morals, such as how it is a sin to wear clothing made of two types of materials (King James Bible, Leviticus 19:19), or that anyone working on the Sabbath must be put to death (King James Bible, Exodus 35:2). And then there's the Bible's moral view on rape. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says, “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her … he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman.” (New International Version)

I've found that religious people, on average, do not seem to endorse rape. This is because they do not get their morals exclusively from the Bible. Rather they choose passages that suit their lifestyle. But if the Bible is a moral compass, shouldn't Christians follow it faithfully? Of course, atheists derive their morals from elsewhere: themselves. They create their own belief structure, qualifying what is good and what is evil. If atheists are able to have morals that are separate from the Bible, so can the rest of us.

Another philosophical argument against linking morality and religion is that if our morals come from a divine being, what happens when the divine being changes his mind? If all of a sudden, God said that raping and murdering children was the moral thing to do, would it be?

In the Bible, all of God's morals carry consequences that will occur if they are not followed, typically involving eternal suffering. Those who claim that religion is the only source of morality are indirectly saying that without the fear of going to hell, they would have no motivation to follow the morals. Do these men and women believe the only thing standing between them and theft, murder, and rape is fear of punishment?

Morality is a hard thing to measure. It cannot be quantified. It is the internal fire of quality inside us that leads us to make the right decision, and I do not believe it burns if our decisions are made out of fear. On the surface, two men may look the same if they are doing the same deed. They may both be serving soup at a homeless shelter, but one man is doing it because he empathizes with these men and women and wants to help them. The other is volunteering only because he is afraid that if he does not, he will be punished. The argument could be made that it matters little to those being helped. However, only one is demonstrating true morality. And that does matter. I urge you to begin looking within. The next time you volunteer, ask yourself, Am I doing this because I want to make the world a better place, or because I want to save my soul?

I believe religion and morality are separate. Being strong in one does not make you strong in the other. We must be good for the sake of being good. We must help others for the sake of helping others. If we do not, then our actions mean nothing. I have never set fire to an orphanage – because it is wrong to set fire to an orphanage. I do not need the Bible to tell me that.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Michael Elam said...
Feb. 2, 2015 at 6:33 am
religion and morality seems to be some working teens that maybe does their work together so far religion and morality seems different but with religion one can be morally upright so with me i say that they are two things that should be always running same but in real sense they are not same for morality comes directly from God Himself
Iamransomed said...
Jan. 14, 2015 at 9:57 am
Without God there is no reason for morals because you are implying there is no God there is no heaven and when you die you die. So why would you need morals if you are just going to die and be forgotton. God gives a reason to live and a reason to do good. What is your reason?
nothingidc236 replied...
Oct. 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm
The truth is, morals are not needed. Morals are based on the beliefs of the individual person. But most people are conscious of their own morals and feel obligated to do them simply because they believe it is the right thing to do. In other words, most people feel guilty when they do something wrong. Lastly, people are more likely to do the right thing in fear of prison rather than a debatable afterlife.
RarelyJaded This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm
You're right, you do not have to have religion to have morality, and religion is not the SOURCE of morality. However, I and many others believe that religion is the reason for morality. God gave us morality so that our lives will be filled with love and not "survival of the fittest," or whatever crap applies to animals, but not US. Just my opinion, and I respect yours:)
AcrossTheUniverse said...
Jan. 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm
Not all religious people help other human beings for fear of punsihment! Certainly not the people I know. As for the Leviticus, you also hacve to take the history into context; for example, the first several chapters are about sacrifices. Do we make those anymore? No; thence they are irrelevant. A piece from the Catechism says "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is goo... (more »)
AcrossTheUniverse said...
Jan. 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm
You have a strong voice but your pont gets a lost a few times in the essay. I do agree that morality and religion are different: religion is ahuman institution that contains morality, beliefs on what is good and evil.
IsraelLover said...
Oct. 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm
I see what you're saying, and it's an excellent article, but consider this: People become moral from the enviornment, the culture they are raised in. HIstorically, before the days of the Bible and around it-- non-religious people weren't as moral as you are today. That begs the question, what has changed in society, that moral=good and immoral=bad, when it has never been that way in ancient history? Have you ever considered that it was the very impact of religion on culture that tran... (more »)
Read it all. said...
Sept. 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm
  There are a lot of flaws in your article and logic. I’ll try my best to cover them.   Morality doesn’t come from the bible or from religion. Morality comes from the right and wrong God has put in us. If we were made to worship the God of purity, innocence, and all knowledge then he knows what is hurtful to us. Just the same we are made in his image. Therefore I suggest that it isn’t from religion but from being modeled after God’s own image.   T... (more »)
blank said...
Aug. 16, 2012 at 8:22 am
I agree with you that morality should not be linked with religion; however, your quotations from the Bible have errors. I'll likewise quote, but it'll be too long to include here (check it out in the net :)). First is your usage of the Old Testament. The non-Jewish believers were ordered under a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10). God didn't change His mind, for all this was planned from the very beginning (II Thessalonians 2:13-14). Second is the philosophical argument... (more »)
bethani said...
May 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm
I love this article! I'm going to a Christian university and this is a big problem. Because religion is linked to everything, hypocriscy is everywhere. 
Kaykay49 said...
May 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm
interesting ...
Robert Hagedorn said...
May 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm
Google First Scandal.
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