Morality and religion relationship poems

Religion and Morality

morality and religion relationship poems

31 quotes have been tagged as morality-without-religion: Christopher Hitchens: ' We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least. “Is there a biologically evolved connection between kin detection. The marriage was eventually upheld; indeed, More became reconciled to it and to . it still retains to the virtue of a few moral prodigies who mediate Christ's own virtue, The religious poems he wrote years before he took orders dramatically.

In several dialogues this thought is connected with a belief in the immortality of the soul; we become like the god by paying attention to the immortal and best part of ourselves e. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is also tied to the doctrine of the Forms, whereby things with characteristics that we experience in this life e. This train of thought sees the god or gods as like a magnet, drawing us to be like them by the power of their goodness or excellence.

In Plato's Ion dthe divine is compared to a magnet to which is attached a chain of rings, through which the attraction is passed. This conception is also pervasive in Aristotle —22Plato's student for twenty years. Mention of the divine is not merely conventional for Aristotle, but does important philosophical work.

In the Eudemian Ethics b5—22 he tells us that the goal of our lives is service and contemplation of the god. He thinks that we become like what we contemplate, and so we become most like the god by contemplating the god. Incidentally, this is why the god does not contemplate us; for this would mean becoming less than the god, which is impossible. As in Plato, the well-being of the city takes precedence over the individual, and this, too, is justified theologically.

It is nobler and more divine to achieve an end for a city than for an individual NE b9— Aristotle draws a distinction between what we honor and what we merely commend NE, b10— There are six states for a human life, on a normative scale from best to worst: The highest form of happiness, which he calls blessedness, is something we honor as we honor gods, whereas virtue we merely commend.

It would be as wrong to commend blessedness as it would be to commend gods NE, a10—a The activity of the god, he says in the Metaphysics, is nous thinking itself b The best human activity is the most god-like, namely thinking about the god and about things that do not change.

Aristotle's virtue ethics, then, needs to be understood against the background of these theological premises. He is thinking of the divine, to use Plato's metaphor, as magnetic, drawing us, by its attractive power, to live the best kind of life possible for us. This gives him a defense against the charge sometimes made against virtue theories that they simply embed the prevailing social consensus into an account of human nature.

Aristotle defines ethical virtue as lying in a mean between excess and defect, and the mean is determined by the person of practical wisdom actually the male, since Aristotle is sexist on this point.

He then gives a conventional account of the virtues such a person displays such as courage, literally manliness, which requires the right amount of fear and confidence, between cowardice and rashness. There are tensions in Aristotle's account of virtue and happiness.

morality and religion relationship poems

It is not clear whether the Nicomachean Ethics has a consistent view of the relation between the activity of contemplation and the other activities of a virtuous life see Hare, God and Morality, chapter 1, and Sarah Broadie, Ethics with Aristotle, chapter 7. But the connection of the highest human state with the divine is pervasive in the text. One result of this connection is the eudaimonism mentioned earlier. If the god does not care about what is not divine for this would be to become like what is not divinethe highest and most god-like human also does not care about other human beings except to the degree they contribute to his own best state.

This degree is not negligible, since humans are social animals, and their well-being depends on the well-being of the families and cities of which they are members. Aristotle is not preaching self-sufficiency in any sense that implies we could be happy on our own, isolated from other human beings. But our concern for the well-being of other people is always, for him, contingent on our special relation to them.

We therefore do not want our friends to become gods, even though that would be the best thing for them. Finally, Aristotle ties our happiness to our end in Greek, telos ; for humans, as for all living things, the best state is its own activity in accordance with the natural function that is unique to each species. For humans the best state is happiness, and the best activity within this state is contemplation NE, b17— The Epicureans and Stoics who followed Aristotle differed with each other and with him in many ways, but they agreed in tying morality and religion together.

For the Epicureans, the gods do not care about us, though they are entertained by looking at our tragicomic lives rather as we look at soap operas on television. We can be released from a good deal of anxiety, the Epicureans thought, by realizing that the gods are not going to punish us. Our goal should be to be as like the gods as we can, enjoying ourselves without interruption, but for us this means limiting our desires to what we can obtain without frustration. They did not mean that our happiness is self-interested in any narrow sense, because they held that we can include others in our happiness by means of our sympathetic pleasures.

The Stoics likewise tied the best kind of human life, for them the life of the sage, to being like the divine. The sage follows nature in all his desires and actions, and is thus the closest to the divine. Morality and religion are connected in the Hebrew Bible primarily by the category of God's command. Such commands come already in the first chapter of Genesis.

In the second chapter God tells Adam that he is free to eat from any tree in the garden, but he must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Eve and Adam disobey and eat of that fruit, they are expelled from the garden. There is a family of concepts here that is different from what we met in Greek philosophy.

God is setting up a kind of covenant by which humans will be blessed if they obey the commands God gives them. Human disobedience is not explained in the text, except that the serpent says to Eve that they will not die if they eat the fruit, but will be like God, knowing good and evil, and Eve sees the fruit as good for food and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom. After they eat, Adam and Eve know that they are naked, and are ashamed, and hide from God.

As the story goes on, and Cain kills Abel, evil spreads to all the people of the earth, and Genesis describes the basic state as a corruption of the heart 6: This idea of a basic orientation away from or towards God and God's commands becomes in the Patristic period of early Christianity the idea of a will.

In the Pentateuch, the story continues with Abraham, and God's command to leave his ancestral land and go to the land God promised to give him and his offspring Gen. Then there is the command to Abraham to kill his son, a deed prevented at the last minute by the provision of a ram instead Gen.

Abraham's great grandchildren end up in Egypt, because of famine, and the people of Israel suffer for generations under Pharaoh's yoke. Under Moses the people are finally liberated, and during their wanderings in the desert, Moses receives from God the Ten Commandments, in two tables or tablets Exod.

The first table concerns our obligations to God directly, to worship God alone and keep God's name holy, and keep the Sabbath. The second table concerns our obligations to other human beings, and all of the commands are negative do not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet except for the first, which tells us to honor our fathers and mothers.

The Greeks had the notion of a kingdom, under a human king though the Athenians were in the classical period suspicious of such an arrangement. But they did not have the idea of a kingdom of God, though there is something approaching this in some of the Stoics. This idea is explicable in terms of law, and is introduced as such in Exodus in connection with the covenant on Mt. The kingdom is the realm in which the laws obtain. This raises a question about the extent of this realm.

The Ten Commandments are given in the context of a covenant with the people of Israel, though there are references to God's intention to bless the whole world through this covenant. The surrounding laws in the Pentateuch include prescriptions and proscriptions about ritual purity and sacrifice and the use of the land that seem to apply to this particular people in this particular place. But the covenant that God makes with Noah after the flood is applicable to the whole human race, and universal scope is explicit in the Wisdom books, which make a continual connection between how we should live and how we were created as human beings.

For example, in Proverbs 8 Wisdom raises her voice to all humankind, and says that she detests wickedness, which she goes on to describe in considerable detail. She says that she was the artisan at God's side when God created the world and its inhabitants. Jesus sums up the commandments under two, the command to love God with all one's heart and soul and mind see Deuteronomy 6: The New Testament is unlike the Hebrew Bible, however, in presenting a narrative about a man who is the perfect exemplification of obedience and who has a life without sin.

New Testament scholars disagree about the extent to which Jesus actually claimed to be God, but the traditional interpretation is that he did make this claim; in any case the Christian doctrine is that we can see in his life the clearest possible revelation in human terms both of what God is like and at the same time of what our lives ought to be like.

He takes the commandments inside the heart; for example, we are required not merely not to murder, but not to be angry, and not merely not to commit adultery, but not to lust see Ezekiel Jesus tells us to love our enemies and those who hate and persecute us, and in this way he makes it clear that the love commandment is not based on reciprocity Matt 5: The theme of self-sacrifice is clearest in the part of the narrative that deals with Jesus' death.

This event is understood in many different ways in the New Testament, but one central theme is that Jesus died on our behalf, an innocent man on behalf of the guilty. Jesus describes the paradigm of loving our neighbors as the willingness to die for them. This theme is connected with our relationship to God, which we violate by disobedience, but which is restored by God's forgiveness through redemption. In Paul's letters especially we are given a three-fold temporal location for the relation of morality to God's work on our behalf.

We are forgiven for our past failures on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice Rom. We are reconciled now with God through God's adoption of us in Christ Rom. And we are given the hope of future progress in holiness by the work of the Holy Spirit Rom. All of this theology requires more detailed analysis, but this is not the place for it.

There is a contrast between the two traditions I have so far described, namely the Greek and the Judeo-Christian. The idea of God that is central in Greek philosophy is the idea of God attracting us, like a kind of magnet, so that we desire to become more like God, though there is a minority account by Socrates of receiving divine commands. In the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the notion of God commanding us is central. It is tempting to simplify this contrast by saying that the Greeks favor the good, in their account of the relation of morality and religion, and the Judeo-Christian account favors the right or obligation.

It is true that the notion of obligation makes most sense against the background of command. But the picture is over-simple because the Greeks had room in their account for the constraint of desire; thus the temperate or brave person in Aristotle's picture has desires for food or sex or safety that have to be disciplined by the love of the noble.

On the other side, the Judeo-Christian account adds God's love to the notion of God's command, so that the covenant in which the commands are embedded is a covenant by which God blesses us, and we are given a route towards our highest good which is union with God. The Middle Ages The rest of the history to be described in this entry is a cross-fertilization of these two traditions or lines of thought.

In the patristic period, or the period of the early Fathers, it was predominantly Plato and the Stoics amongst the Greek philosophers whose influence was felt. The Eastern and Western parts of the Christian church split during the period, and the Eastern church remained more comfortable than the Western with language about humans being deified in Greek theosis. In the Western church, Augustine — emphasized the gap between the world we are in as resident aliens and our citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem, and even in our next life the distance between ourselves and God.

He describes in the Confessions the route by which his heart or will, together with his understanding, moved from paganism through Neo-Platonism to Christianity. Augustine accepted that the Platonists taught, like the beginning of the prologue of John, that the Word in Greek, logos is with God and is God, since the Intellect is the mediating principle between the One and the Many John 1: But the Platonists did not teach, like the end of John's prologue, that the Word is made flesh in Jesus Christ, and so they did not have access to the way to salvation revealed in Christ or God's grace to us through Christ's death.

Nonetheless, it is surprising how far Augustine can go in rapprochement. The Forms, he says, are in the mind of God and God uses them in the creation of the world.

Human beings were created for union with God, but they have the freedom to turn towards themselves instead of God. If they turn to God, they can receive divine illumination through a personal intuition of the eternal standards the Forms. If they turn towards themselves, they will lose the sense of the order of creation, which the order of their own loves should reflect. Augustine gives primacy to the virtue of loving what ought to be loved, especially God.

In his homily on I John 4: He held that humans who truly love God will also act in accord with the other precepts of divine and moral law; though love not merely fulfills the cardinal virtues wisdom, justice, courage and temperance but transforms them by supernatural grace.

The influence of Augustine in the subsequent history of ethics resulted from the fact that it was his synthesis of Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire after and Greek philosophy that survived the destruction of the Western Roman Empire, especially in the monasteries where the texts were still read.

To understand this, we need to go back into the history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. The church had to explain how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit could be distinct and yet not three different gods. The doctrine of the Trinity comes to be understood in terms of three persons, one God, with the persons standing in different relations to each other. The church came to talk about one person with two natures, the person standing under the natures.

This had the merit of not making either the humanity or the divinity less essential to who Jesus was. In the West knowledge of most of Aristotle's texts was lost, but not in the East. They were translated into Syriac, and Arabic, and eventually in Muslim Spain into Latin, and re-entered Christian Europe in the twelfth century accompanied by translations of the great Arabic commentaries. In the initial prophetic period of Islam CE —32 the Qur'an was given to Mohammad, who explained it and reinforced it through his own teachings and practices.

The notion of God's Allah's commands is again central, and our obedience to these commands is the basis of our eventual resurrection. Disputes about political authority in the period after Mohammad's death led to the split between Sunnis and Shiites.

Within Sunni Muslim ethical theory in the Middle Ages two major alternative ways developed of thinking about the relation between morality and religion. These standards that we learn from reason apply also to God, so that we can use them to judge what God is and is not commanding us to do.

He also teaches that humans have freedom, in the sense of a power to perform both an act and its opposite, though not at the same time. The second alternative was taught by al-Ashari d. He insists that God is subject to none and to no standard that can fix bounds for Him.

Nothing can be wrong for God, who sets the standard of right and wrong. With respect to our freedom, he holds that God gives us only the power to do the act not its opposite and this power is simultaneous to the act and does not precede it.

A figure contemporary with al-Ashari, but in some ways intermediate between Mu'tazilites and Asharites, is al-Maturidi of Samarqand d.

He holds that because humans have the tendency in their nature towards ugly or harmful actions as well as beautiful or beneficial ones, God has to reveal to us by command what to pursue and what to avoid.

He also teaches that God gives us two different kinds of power, both the power simultaneous with the act which is simply to do the act and the power preceding the act to choose either the act or its opposite. Medieval reflection within Judaism about morality and religion has, as its most significant figure, Maimonides d.

The Guide of the Perplexed was written for young men who had read Aristotle and were worried about the tension between the views of the philosopher and their faith. Maimonides teaches that we do indeed have some access just as human beings to the rightness and wrongness of acts; but what renders conforming to these standards obligatory is that God reveals them in special revelation. The laws are obligatory whether we understand the reasons for them or not, but sometimes we do see how it is beneficial to obey, and Maimonides is remarkably fertile in providing such reasons.

Aquinas, like Aristotle, emphasized the ends vegetative, animal and typically human given to humans in the natural order. He described both the cardinal virtues and the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, but he did not feel the tension that current virtue ethicists sometimes feel between virtue and the following of rules or principles.

morality and religion relationship poems

The rules governing how we ought to live are known, some of them by revelation, some of them by ordinary natural experience and rational reflection. But Aquinas thought these rules consistent in the determination of our good, since God only requires us to do what is consistent with our own good.

And from this natural willing are caused all other willings, since whatever a man wills, he wills on account of the end. The principles of natural moral law are the universal judgments made by right reasoning about the kinds of actions that are morally appropriate and inappropriate for human agents. They are thus, at least in principle and at a highly general level, deducible from human nature.

Aquinas held that reason, in knowing these principles, is participating in the eternal law, which is in the mind of God Summa Theologiae I, q.

Aquinas was not initially successful in persuading the church to embrace Aristotle. Aquinas was a Dominican friar. The other major order of friars, the Franciscan, had its own school of philosophy, starting with Bonaventure c. First, Scotus is not a eudaimonist. He takes a double account of motivation from Anselm —who made the distinction between two affections of the will, the affection for advantage an inclination towards one's own happiness and perfection and the affection for justice an inclination towards what is good in itself independent of advantage Anselm, De Concordia 3.

Original sin is a ranking of advantage over justice, which needs to be reversed by God's assistance before we can be pleasing to God.

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Scotus says that we should be willing to sacrifice our own happiness for God if God were to require this. Second, he does not think that the moral law is self-evident or necessary. But the second table is contingent, though fitting our nature, and God could prescribe different commands even for human beings Ord.

One of his examples is the proscription on theft, which applies only to beings with property, and so not necessarily to human beings since they are not necessarily propertied. Third, Scotus denied the application of teleology to non-intentional nature, and thus departed from the Aristotelian and Thomist view. This does not mean that we have no natural end or telos, but that this end is related to the intention of God in the same way a human artisan intends his or her products to have a certain purpose see Harechapter 2.

Modern Philosophy Europe experienced a second Renaissance when scholars fled Constantinople after its capture by the Muslims inand brought with them Greek manuscripts that were previously inaccessible. In Florence Marsilio Ficino —99 identified Plato as the primary ancient teacher of wisdom, and like Bonaventure cited Augustine as his guide in elevating Plato in this way.

morality and religion relationship poems

His choice of Plato was determined by the harmony he believed to exist between Plato's thought and the Christian faith, and he set about making Latin translations of all the Platonic texts so that this wisdom could be available for his contemporaries who did not know Greek. He was also the first Latin translator of Plotinus, the Neo-Platonist. Many of the central figures in the Reformation were humanists in the Renaissance sense where there is no implication of atheism.

The historical connection between Scotus and the Reformers can be traced through William of Ockham d. The Counter-Reformation in Roman Catholic Europe, on the other hand, took the work of Aquinas as authoritative for education.

However, Suarez accepted Scotus's double account of motivation. The next two centuries in European philosophy can be described in terms of two lines of development, rationalism and empiricism, both of which led, in different ways, to the possibility of a greater detachment of ethics from theology. Descartes was not primarily an ethicist, but he located the source of moral law surprisingly for a rationalist in God's will.

The most important rationalist in ethics was Benedict de Spinoza — He was a Jew, but was condemned by his contemporary faith community as unorthodox. Like Descartes, he attempted to duplicate the methods of geometry in philosophy. Substance, according to Spinoza, exists in itself and is conceived through itself Ethics, I, def. Everything in the universe is necessary, and there is no free will, except in as far as Spinoza is in favor of calling someone free who is led by reason Ethics, I, prop.

Each human mind is a limited aspect of the divine intellect. On this view which has its antecedent in Stoicism the human task is to move towards the greatest possible rational control of human life. Leibniz was, like Descartes, not primarily an ethicist. The rationalists were not denying the centrality of God in human moral life, but their emphasis was on the access we have through the light of reason rather than through sacred text or ecclesiastical authority.

After Leibniz there was in Germany a long-running battle between the rationalists and the pietists, who tried to remain true to the goals of the Lutheran Reformation. Examples of the two schools are Christian Wolff — and Christian August Crusius —75and we can understand Immanuel Kant —like his teacher Martin Knutzen —51as trying to mediate between the two. Wolff was a very successful popularizer of the thought of Leibniz, but fuller in his ethical system.

He took from Leibniz the principle that we will always select what pleases us most, and the principle that pleasure is the apprehension of perfection, so that the amount of pleasure we feel is proportional to the amount of perfection we intuit New Essays on Human Understanding, XXI, He thought we are obligated to do what will make us and our condition, or that of others, more perfect, and this is the law of nature that would be binding on us even if per impossible God did not exist.

He saw no problem about the connection between virtue and happiness, since both of them result directly from our perfection, and no problem about the connection between virtue and duty, since a duty is simply an act in accordance with law, which prescribes the pursuit of perfection.

His views were offensive to the pietists, because he claimed that Confucius already knew by reason all that mattered about morality, even though he did not know anything about Christ. Crusius by contrast accepted Scotus's double theory of motivation, and held that there are actions that we ought to do regardless of any ends we have, even the end of our own perfection and happiness.

It is plausible to see here the origin of Kant's categorical imperative. His idea was that we have within us this separate capacity to recognize divine command and to be drawn towards it out of a sense of dependence on the God who prescribes the command to us, and will punish us if we disobey though our motive should not be to avoid punishment Ibid.

The history of empiricism in Britain from Hobbes to Hume is also the history of the attempt to re-establish human knowledge, but not from above from indubitable principles of reason but from below from experience and especially the experience of the senses. Thomas Hobbes — said that all reality is bodily including Godand all events are motions in space.

Willing, then, is a motion, and is merely the last act of desire or aversion in any process of deliberation. His view is that it is natural, and so reasonable, for each of us to aim solely at our own preservation or pleasure. The second precept is that each of us should be willing to lay down our natural rights to everything to the extent that others are also willing, and Hobbes concludes with the need to subordinate ourselves to a sovereign who alone will be able to secure peace.

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral - Wikipedia

He argues for the authority in the interpretation of Scripture to be given to that same earthly sovereign, and not to competing ecclesiastical authorities whose competition had been seen to exacerbate the miseries of war both in Britain and on the continent Ibid.

John Locke — followed Hobbes in deriving morality from our need to live together in peace given our natural discord, but he denied that we are mechanically moved by our desires. He agreed with Hobbes in saying that moral laws are God's imposition, but disagreed by making God's power and benevolence both necessary conditions for God's authority in this respect Treatises, IV.

He also held that our reason can work out counsels or advice about moral matters; but only God's imposition makes law and hence obligationand we only know about God's imposition from revelation The Reasonableness of Christianity, 62—5.

He therefore devoted considerable attention to justifying our belief in the reliability of revelation. Frances Hutcheson — was not a deist, but does give a reading of the sort of guidance involved here. He distinguished between objects that are naturally good, which excite personal or selfish pleasure, and those that are morally good, which are advantageous to all persons affected. He took himself to be giving a reading of moral goodness as agape, the Greek word for the love of our neighbor that Jesus prescribes.

Because these definitions of natural and moral good produce a possible gap between the two, we need some way to believe that morality and happiness are coincident. This moral sense responds to examples of benevolence with approbation and a unique kind of pleasure, and benevolence is the only thing it responds to, as it were the only signal it picks up.

It is, like Scotus's affection for justice, not confined to our perception of advantage. TO show the lab'ring bosom's deep intent, And thought in living characters to paint, When first thy pencil did those beauties give, And breathing figures learnt from thee to live, How did those prospects give my soul delight, A new creation rushing on my sight? Still may the painter's and the poet's fire To aid thy pencil, and thy verse conspire! And may the charms of each seraphic theme Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame!

High to the blissful wonders of the skies Elate thy soul, and raise thy wishful eyes. Thrice happy, when exalted to survey That splendid city, crown'd with endless day, Whose twice six gates on radiant hinges ring: Celestial Salem blooms in endless spring. Calm and serene thy moments glide along, And may the muse inspire each future song! Still, with the sweets of contemplation bless'd, May peace with balmy wings your soul invest!

morality and religion relationship poems

George Whitefield"[ edit ] This work brought about Wheatley's initial fame. Published in Boston, Philadelphia and New Haven, it is an elegiac poem written in heroic couplets, in honor of Reverend Whitefield, an influential preacher in New England and the founder of Methodism.

Hail, happy saint, on thine immortal throne, Possest of glory, life, and bliss unknown; We hear no more the music of thy tongue, Thy wonted auditories cease to throng. Thy sermons in unequall'd accents flow'd, And ev'ry bosom with devotion glow'd; Thou didst in strains of eloquence refin'd Inflame the heart, and captivate the mind. Unhappy we the setting sun deplore, So glorious once, but ah!

Behold the prophet in his tow'ring flight! He leaves the earth for heav'n's unmeasur'd height, And worlds unknown receive him from our sight. There Whitefield wings with rapid course his way, And sails to Zion through vast seas of day. Thy pray'rs, great saint, and thine incessant cries Have pierc'd the bosom of thy native skies. Thou moon hast seen, and all the stars of light, How he has wrestled with his God by night.

He pray'd that grace in ev'ry heart might dwell, He long'd to see America excell; He charg'd its youth that ev'ry grace divine Should with full lustre in their conduct shine; That Saviour, which his soul did first receive, The greatest gift that ev'n a God can give, He freely offer'd to the num'rous throng, That on his lips with list'ning pleasure hung.

But, though arrested by the hand of death, Whitefield no more exerts his lab'ring breath, Yet let us view him in th' eternal skies, Let ev'ry heart to this bright vision rise; While the tomb safe retains its sacred trust, Till life divine re-animates his dust.

morality and religion relationship poems

O Thou bright jewel in my aim I strive To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach. I cease to wonder, and no more attempt Thine height t' explore, or fathom thy profound.

But, O my soul, sink not into despair, Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand Would now embrace thee, hovers o'er thine head. Fain would the heav'n-born soul with her converse, Then seek, then court her for her promis'd bliss.

Auspicious queen, thine heav'nly pinions spread, And lead celestial Chastity along; Lo!