Concepts of Morality

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Define and compare the concepts of morality, law, and religion by explaining the source of each and whether one or all rely upon each other.
Morality has to do with our ideas regarding what is right and what is wrong and how right and wrong behavior should be punished and rewarded. As with the law and religion parts, they rely upon each other by the minds of many people. When religious leaders speak out on moral topics, their opinions are often treated with special deference. They are regarded as “moral experts.” This raises the question of: “Whether morality depends in some way on religion?”  The answer to this question may be of considerable practical importance. If morality does depend on religion, the process of secularization, in the course of which religious belief and practice wither away, seems to pose a serious threat to morality.

Most of the discussion in this entry will address the issue of whether moral requirements (obligations) and prohibitions (wrongness) depend on a deity of the sort to which the major monotheisms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are committed. Discussions of whether morality depends on religion frequently focus exclusively on the deontological domain. Deontology consists of a system of requirements, permissions, and prohibitions. It is structurally similar to systems of law. Hence it’s natural to think of deontology as the domain of moral law. The question arises as to whether moral law's binding force depends on the authority of a divine lawgiver or religion belief expert.