Morality and Religion Revision

  • John Harris (1984) claimed that sexual ethics of any kind should not be seen in a moral context but rather as an issue of manners and etiquette.
  • See also harm principle of JS Mill
  • If there is a link what does it mean and how does it show itself?
  • In behaviour; e.g. for a religious believer bad actions on earth will be punished in next life
  • But if God does not exist then no punishment and so morality is meaningless
  • Plato and The Euthyphro Dilemma:
  • is something good because God commands it


Does God command that which is good?

  • The first position assumes God made moral law and that He is the source of morality
  • Humans act morally when they fulfil God’s will obediently.
  • God is the omnipotent creator of moral standards and without him there’d be no right or wrong
  • God is thus above morality, it is not independent of him but under his control
  • Problems with this is god’s commands could appear arbitrary or whimsical
  • But if God is not likely ever to demand the killing of all people with red hair because He just wouldn’t do that, He knows it is wrong, then His power is limited.
  • Other problems what about where God hasn’t expressly issued a command? Euthanasia?
  • Does anything He commands become a moral law? Don’t eat shellfish?
  • Many non-believers are still moral in the socially accepted sense, though they wouldn’t say they get their standards from God.
  • Isn’t fear of punishment the wrong reason to be moral?
  • The second position assumes that God operates by moral laws already in place in the universe; if so then again he is limited by them.
  • If God expects humans to fulfil his will obediently then that negates man’s freewill
  • If humans are not free to make their own moral choices then they are not truly free!
  • And they are not truly moral
  • A genuinely moral action cannot be coerced
  • And if God did demand humans surrender their freedom this way then He would not be worthy of worship!
  • Others argue from the fact of the atrocities carried out in the name of religion; Kierkegaard for example said we should not confuse ethics or morality with doing the will of God.
  • God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac clearly goes against conventional morality but perhaps we don’t understand God’s morality and being bound by the moral laws of society may actually get in the way of God’s purpose.
  • Is doing God’s will sufficient grounds for obeying a command or not doing something forbidden?
  • Jean Porter posed the dilemma about the terminally ill patient, suffering terribly, who wants to die but is told she mustn’t end her life because that usurps God’s authority. Is God’s authority so precarious? Is He so easily offended?

Cosmological Argument Revision

Define the argument

  • The idea that everything has a cause
  • Based on evidence and experience, a posteriori, is an inductive argument.
  • Aquinas’ first three of his 5 Ways
  • Summed up by the Kalam argument
  • If everything has a cause so must the universe and that cause must lie outside that cause is necessary and therefore that cause is God.
  • If God is a necessary being then he cannot be contingent upon anything else for his existence. But everything else is.



  • The fact that it is both a posteriori and inductive makes it weak. Based on the evidence available and the conclusion is not necessarily reliable.
  • First cause only necessary if we reject the idea of infinite regress.
  • So why not infinite regress?
  • Why God as the cause not something else?
  • Why exempt God from causation?
  • Why look outside the universe for a cause? Hume.
  • Also Russell ‘the universe just is – Brute Fact.’
  • Maybe cause and effect are just the way we see things not necessarily linked.



  • ‘nothing can come from nothing’ said Aristotle – how else did the chain come into existence unless it was caused by something outside
  • If we reject infinite regress then there must be cause and a reason and there is therefore sufficient reason to suppose that where once there was nothing there must be reason for the fact that there is now something and that it was deliberately willed into existence.
  • If God is as Anselm said ‘that than which no greater can be conceived’ then that would make him a necessary being, and could be the cause of the universe.
  • It is a logical argument – we see order, cause and effect all around us.
  • Does explain why it has this order and why beauty.



  • Doesn’t prove God exists
  • But neither does it prove he doesn’t
  • Faith must have a place
  • ‘Too great a leap.’ Hume
  • Simplest solution? Ockham’s Razor
  • Won’t convince a non-believer to believe but can provide extra strength to faith.


Extra documents

  1. AS RE Revision quotations: the cosmological argument
  2. PowerPoint: Describe the main strengths and weaknesses of the Cosmological Argument
  3. The Cosmological Argument (has 15 questions on)
  4. Cosmological Argument an introduction