Does Morality Depend on Religion?

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Most twentieth and early twenty first century work on morality has had little or nothing concrete to say about religion. Even when the speakers talk about this controversial topic, they tend to be patronizing and almost inevitably brief. Similarly, most philosophers of religion have had no significant say in morality. From the beginning of the Greek philosophy, religion and morality have been closely intertwined. This begs the question: are they connected, related?

Before describing the relation between morality and religion, the nature of morality and religion must be discussed. What is morality? What is religion? Despite their common use, these terms of frustratingly tough to define.

What does morality mean?

 Morality is a very subjective term that can be considered as a set of standards that would be accepted by someone who can be seen as right and honest. Morality is what sets someone apart. Morality is the area of behavior that is concerned with making judgments about what one ought to do, about what is right or wrong, good and bad, about duty and obligation. But this is a very complex concept because it is very difficult to draw a hard line between moral judgments and other forms of judgment.

Is morality objective?

Let’s say you drive over the set speed limit to get your sick kid to the hospital, is that good or is that bad? Morality is what society sees as right and acceptable. They’re the standards of thoughts, behaviors and actions that everyone in society agrees to follow. When you see it like that, morality does sound like law. While there are some things that are considered immoral, they are not criminal. Objective morality is a belief that morality is universal, which means it isn’t up for interpretation. Religious people will say morality is objective because they define morality as commandments of their god. 

Is morality relative?

If morality is based on the theory that right or wrong, good or bad, and truth or lie is different for different people and cultures, then it’s relative. Your morality is stranger than any idea that people have about it. Each culture is right about their fundamental moral beliefs because it is basically cultural acceptance. So, it’s not the idea that each culture has different beliefs, it’s the idea that each culture is correct about their fundamental beliefs. Popular relativism implies an action or behavior is right if your culture approves of it.

Do animals have morality?

Scientific studies suggest animals have consciousness so they have feelings. They might not have language like us but then you don’t really need a language to have basic subjective experiences. Even experiments suggest animals do make moral choices but that does not mean they possess any sense of morality, at least not naturally. Studies suggest some animals are indeed capable of behaving morally. They have a primitive sense of morality, but not like humans.

Does morality depend on religion?

It is not always easy to distinguish matters of religion from those of morality. For example, in our society at the present time many people believe smoking is a sin, but still many people smoke freely and publicly. Most people do not see smoking as a sin. Similarly, some people see morality and religion as undeniably connected, while others see them as separate. Religion and morality are not synonymous. Though religion may depend on morality, but morality is independent of religion. An action or behavior is considered morally right if it’s commanded by god and wrong if it is forbidden.

Can morality exist without religion?

Many people say you need your religion to be a moral person because it is simply impossible to be morally right without religion or god. Morality and religions have strings attached to each other since religion is concerned with much more than morality, and morality itself is a pretty vague idea. Can you be 100% sure that an atheist cannot be a person of morality? Well, morality exists outside of religion. In fact, it predates the development of religions and beliefs in god. Morality can be a learned experience. Thus, atheists do not behave any less morally than religious believers.

Is morality innate?

Some studies suggest that a human sense of morality is genetically innate and that babies may understand morality. The ability to tell right and wrong in our behaviors and behaviors of others, is a product of evolution. Psychological and neuroscience research tells us humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Several studies suggest that, even before babies can speak or walk, babies can judge the goodness or badness of others’ actions, feel empathy and compassion. Morality is our inner sense of right or wrong, and good or bad.

Is morality a social construct?

It’s true that society has many rules about how to behave, speak, eat, and do, but not all social expectations are based on the grounds of morality. It can be said that morality is a social construct, which changes with time and from place to place. But there are culturally established standards of right and wrong, so some would argue that morality is neither socially constructed nor unconstructed. The truth is the need in humans to follow the social norm is an evolutionary process and a plausible case can be made that moral beliefs can be explained through human evolution.

Would there be morality without man?

At least not on earth because the norms of morality require a rational faculty and humans are the only entity on earth that possess such faculty. Morality is almost always subject to people’s convenience, but humanity is not a convenience. It is not possible to know what morality would look like without humans. Morality will have no meaning without humans in the picture because morality helps shape the very foundation of the human nature.

Is morality real?

It can be argued that morality is very much real in the same way that a language is real. If there is such thing as right or wrong, good or bad, then morality is real. Saying morality isn’t real is like saying language isn’t real. It is relative to a person, culture, religion or philosophy.


Morality comes from the Latin word moralis which means manner, character or behavior. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct of a particular philosophy, religion, or culture. Or it can be derived from the standards that a person believe and follow. Morality exists to guide the behaviors of people living in a community or society so everyone can live together peacefully. But as humans evolve and learn new things, their moral change. This is why morality isn’t stagnant. It evolves with time as people learn new experiences and beliefs.


Harris, Alan. Teaching Morality and Religion. England, UK: Routledge, 2018. Print

Diener, Paul W. Religion and Morality: An Introduction. Kentucky, United States: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. Print

Wainwright, William J. Religion and Morality. England, UK: Routledge, 2017. Print

Stivers, Tanya, et al. The Morality of Knowledge in Conversation. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print

Author: Sagar Khillar

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