Does Ethics Depend on Religion?

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Blackburn argues the death of God is not a threat to ethics, even though on the surface it appears to be that way. He considers the death of God to be far from a threat, instead acting as a catalyst for a new beginning in the field of ethics. Blackburn looks at the death of God as a good event for ethics, stating “Plato tells us that the ethical laws cannot be arbitrary whims of personalized Gods. Maybe instead we can make our own laws” (Blackburn 19). In this quote, he is suggesting we’d be better off making our own morals and ethics instead of following the teachings of a God. I agree with Blackburn in the respect that ethics does not depend on religion, but unlike Blackburn, I believe religion depends on ethics as well and is necessary to the functioning of our society.

We are born into our ethics, just as we are born into a religion, be it Christianity or Atheistic. From an early age we are indoctrinated, and the beliefs become so much a part of our life that the idea of questioning or doubting them is unimaginable. At a young age we don’t have the ability to question an idea as complex as the validity of a religion. We are young and naïve, assuming everything we learn in Sunday school and hear from our parents to be the truth. I don’t think a five year old is going to refute his parents on the birth of Christ during the car ride home from church. In this aspect, our ethics may be dependent upon our religion and what we are taught, acting as a compass we clutch onto as a guide through the thick jungles of our early years. Until obtaining the ability to decipher complex concepts such as abortion, our ethical values depend upon the teachings of the faith our parents expose us to or teach us as kids. As we grow older, we begin to question what we have been taught and wonder if we accept it all as truth or not.

After maturing and attaining more knowledge, we begin to develop our own set of ethics. We may still attend church on a regular basis and be firm believers, but challenge or disagree with some of its values. This situation confronted me a few years ago. Being raised in a Methodist church, gay marriage was shammed and taught to be a sin. I always agreed with this principle, not having any experiences or reasons to refute it. Then one day a good friend of mine opened up about his sexuality, telling me he was gay. He told me being gay is something he wished he wasn’t and has tried to prevent from happening, willing to do anything he could to be straight. It was just a natural feeling to him for as long as he could remember. I believe my friend’s testimonial; I now don’t opine being gay is a choice. Like he told me, who would ever choose to live a life of chastisement? At the time this event came up I was at the point in life where people begin to make their own set of values and ethics, which sometimes lead them to rejection of their prior faith or maybe make them switch to another religion or belief. When making our own set of morals and ethics growing up, we can then decide what religion, if any, is right for us. This is why I believe religion is dependent upon ethics. It also explains why so many people are baptized in their forties and why many Christians become Atheists after twenty years of following Christ. This is why ethics can lead a person to a religion, and not the other way around as Blackburn suggests.

In the situation above, instead of going through an external god, I made the decision on my own. Blackburn agrees with me in this respect and would have done the same thing. “The detour through an external god, then, seems worse than irrelevant. It seems to distort the very idea of a standard of conduct” (17). This is a powerful statement. Instead of turning to The Bible to see what it has to say on the matter of homosexuality, I formed my own opinion and then referenced to The Bible to see what it has to say on the matter, hoping it would back me up and reaffirm the...
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