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Religion’s moral objectives Research Paper


Introduction

Background

This report sets out to analyse religion and demonstrate its influence on morality, politics, the economy and perceptions of life by the society. The report also explores how major religions play significant roles in human life. This is why they have been able to survive for generations and continue to be held onto tightly by the society even today.

Objectives

The first objective of this research is to discuss a religious story that has moral objectives and ethical perspective on how people act and react, their lifestyles and behaviours. The second objective is to articulate the effect of religions on the economy and the political establishments of a society.

The impact of religion on a country’s diplomatic relationships is also examined. The third objective is to highlight the effect of religion on mind celerity. It shall describe soul purity, and spiritual ruminate within the human essence.

Scope

This research explores the effect of religion on human life with focus on how it influences the actions taken by the community. The study reviews the impact that religion has on the economic and political outcomes of a nation.

It also talks about the influence of religion on the mental and physical well being of an individual by providing balance. The research does not delve into the harmful impacts of religion and it therefore omits the negative effects of religion on society.

Procedure

Twenty unique resources were referenced in this report. These resources comprised of ten primary resources and ten secondary resources such as articles and editorials. All the resources used were reliable and the credibility of their authors was verifiable. The wide range of resources used helped to present diverse ideas on the topic from the views of many well-versed scholars on the issue.

Considering that the subject matter dates back many centuries, some of the resources used are old, having being published many years ago by historians and religious scholars. The most difficult part of the report writing was deciding on which parts of the many volumes of valuable information to incorporate into the paper.

The existence of a lot of information on the impact of religion on society made it necessary to focus on only a fraction of the available resources. However, once the relevant material had been decided on, it was possible to engage in an in-depth review of the material and therefore come up with a well-informed paper on the topic.

Economic scholars were referenced to provide insight on the impact of religion on the economy of nations. Views expressed by renowned religion scholars were used to elaborate the effects that religion has on the mind of the individual.

Objectives

Objective 1: Religion story with a moral and ethical perspective

  • The Good Samaritan Story

The Christian holy book, the Bible, is used as a handbook for daily living providing practical principles for Christians on how to deal with other members of the society. It contains many stories that can guide the members of the religion in their everyday life.1

One of the stories contained in the bible that has a moral and ethical perspective is that of the Good Samaritan. The story is about a Jewish man attacked by robbers as he travels from Jerusalem to Jericho. The robbers beat him badly, rob him off all his possessions, and leave him for death by the road.

Fortunately, a priest happens to pass by the same way and sees the victim. However, he does not do anything to help him. A Levite (who is also a religious figure) comes along but leaves the dying man by the road.

Finally, a Samaritan comes along the same way and when he sees the victim, he feels mercy for him. He performs first aid on him and takes him to an inn where he can be taken care of. He pays for the cost that the innkeeper will incur and promises to come back and pay any further cost.

  • Moral objective

The chief moral objective of this story is that we should help those in need. Specifically, the story raises the question of helping people from different cultures. In the historical setting of the story, there was animosity between Samaritans and Jews and they regarded each other with suspicion and disdain.

The story point out that we should be willing to help even people who are not in good terms with us. The story also praises altruistic acts by members of the society. The Good Samaritan used his own funds to ensure that the injured man is taken care of.

Payton and Moody (2008) assert that the story helps us understand philanthropy as moral action. This story also teaches that anyone in need, or who might benefit from the help of a Christian, is his or her neighbour. This includes those people that the Christian has been taught to avoid or disdain.

The story highlights the fact that people are more likely to ignore their moral obligations when they are faced with danger. The road between Jerusalem to Jericho where the attack on the traveller had taken place was treacherous and many attacks by robbers took place along this route.2

Anyone who stopped to help him would therefore have been putting himself in danger since the robbers could have been nearby. The story ends with Jesus saying, “Go thou and do likewise” and this suggests that people are morally required to help others even if it might cost us.

  • Ethical Perspective

Ethics is a system of principles by which actions by members of the society are deemed as either “right” or “wrong”. The story praises ethical behaviour by members of the society. This is because ethical behaviour is the foundation of a productive and well functioning society.

Without an ethical foundation, every person would act in their own self-interest and this could lead to a breakdown of the society. The Good Samaritan story encouraged communal bonds where people could live in peace and harmony with each other.

The story teaches that people should put the interests of others before their own needs. One is expected to go out of their way to help those in need even if this requires some risk on their part. The Priest and the Levite in the story refused to help the injured man since they were concerned about their own well-being.

The Samaritan is exhorted for his deeds since he helped the injured man even though he could have come to some harm himself by stopping to help. The ethical stance of the story helps to reinforce good ethical conduct by the community members.

Objective 2: Effect of religion on economy and politics

  • Effect on Economy

Religious beliefs and practices have a considerable influence on the economic performance and political organisation of a country. McCleary and Barro note that each of the major religions employs some mechanism for “promoting work effort and wealth accumulation, which contributes to economic success”.3

Followers of the religion are therefore likely to engage in activities that foster economic development. This premise is especially true for the protestant movement. Grier observes that many social scientists agree on the existence of a correlation between Protestantism and economic development and the rise of the middle class.4

Religion is able to influence the economic performance of the individual by playing a part in the development of qualities such as work ethics, honesty, and thrift. In most cases, religion has a positive impact on the economy since it exhorts values such as hard work.

Weber suggested that the “Protestant work ethic” was responsible for the economic prosperity in Prussia.5 This assertion is corroborated by Spenkuch whose research on modern day Germany reveals that religion results in a positive work attitude that results in good economic outcomes.6

By favouring material success, economic activity is promoted and this results in success because of religion. In addition to this, Grier notes that Christianity encourages individual efforts and believers are encouraged to invest and save.7

Christianity exhorts its followers to be industrious in business and to manage carefully their earnings. Investment and a saving culture act as driving forces for economic growth and prosperity.

Capitalism, which is favoured by all Western countries, has emerged as the most successful economic system in the world. Religion has played a part in propagating capitalism in a number of ways. Specifically, Protestantism has been responsible for the prevalence of the spirit of capitalism in many western nations.8

Weber argued that by providing a spiritual sanction for work in a calling, the protestant movement was able to facilitate the rise of capitalism.9 Members of this religion follow the Bible which encourages a working culture as can be deduced from the assertion that, “He who will not work shall not eat”.

People who rely on welfare are shunned since self-reliance is the desired trait.10 Religion encourages people to pursuit economic prosperity since this success is seen as a visible manifestation of their faith. For example, the 16th century preacher John Calvin viewed economic success as an outcome of a person’s religious faith and a sure sign that God was working in the individual.11

  • Effect on Politics

Religion also plays a major role in political establishments. This is because political establishments reflect the morals and values of the society. Christianity has played a major role in political institutes for many centuries since it was the state religion of the great Roman Empire. The union between church and state, which began under Emperor Constantine, led to Christianity exerting a lot of influence in political affairs.12

Religion is also a useful tool for controlling the conduct of people. The major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, all call for abidance with a strict code of moral conduct for the followers. They also specify the responsibilities of the good citizen and therefore help the political institutes to create good citizens.13

Another outcome of religion is that it unifies the people who practice it. This unity is desirable since political institutes are set up to govern over people of diverse cultures and differing social standing.14 Religion is able to accommodate all the individuals in the society and give them a common identity.

With this common identity, civil law that promotes the religions values can be established and implemented for the harmonious existence of the society. The political apparatus are able to function better because religion promotes morality.15 Without religion, the community could be unruly and this would make it difficult for any political institution to function effectively.

Religion has been used as the basis for uniting armies to fight together for a common cause. In historical times, countries in Europe allied with each other based on their religions. The crusades that took place in the 11th century were viewed as “wars of liberation” and the crusading armies were made up of Christians from European nations.16

Diplomatic relationships between countries are also influenced by religious affiliations.17 Countries have also been known to form diplomatic ties based on their religion. The League of Arab States, which is a regional union of Arab states with 22 members, is made up of members who share religious beliefs.

Over 90 percent of the citizens in the Arab League are Muslims and this is the major basis of the union. Because of these ties that are strengthened by the common religion, the organisation has been able to facilitate political and economic growth of the member states.

Objective 3: Effects of religion

  • On mind celerity

One of the positive outcomes attributed to religion is mind celerity. Celerity implies swiftness in mind action and for this to take place; the mind has to be free of clutter. Without religion, man is doomed to spend a lot of energy trying to figure what his purpose on earth is and try to understand why things happen the way they do.

In such a condition, man is likely to fall into the pitfalls of self-pity, disillusionment and depression. This is because the world is full of senseless violence and unexplainable suffering. Without religion to help man makes sense of this reality, a person’s mental state will be clouded. Religion offers celerity by shedding light on human issues and offering a solution to the problems that man faces.18

Religion also emphasises that man is limited in capacity and he is not capable of understanding everything that goes on around him. He therefore has to be content with believing that there is a reason behind even the most random act. By offering man these assurances, religion frees man from obsessing and worrying.

Man is then able to obtain a clarity of mind and satisfaction that aids in developing celerity. Religion also illuminates the path that one is supposed to follow to reach some approved end. Since the path is clear, mind celerity can be achieved. Without religion, man is bound to stumble without a definite direction.

  • Soul Purity

Religion also introduces the concept of the soul, which is the pure form of man. This soul is essential for the concept of afterlife advanced by all the major religions to be held. An emphasis is placed on the purity of the soul. Derrida observes that the Jewish Morning Prayer says, “My Lord, the soul you gave me is pure… you preserve it inside of me and it is you who will take it back again someday”19.

The purity of the soul is therefore a foundation pillar of the religion and all followers of the religion desire to attain the purity of their souls. Religious people are on a quest to find salvation. This salvation is attained when the soul cleans all matter from itself and regains its original state of purity.

Man’s spirit is able to aspire and reach holiness by virtue of the fact that God deposited it in him. The Christian faith stresses in the indestructible nature of the soul. The soul is believed to outlast the human body and once a person dies, his soul lives on. The redemption of sins that causes the purity of soul is therefore a major tenet in the religion.

  • Spiritual ruminate within the human essence.

Spiritual rumination is the act of meditating deeply on spiritual matters. Religion lays emphasis on the fact that man is not only a physical being but also a spiritual creature.20 Individuals are challenged to reassess their lives and attitudes and make sure that they are aligned with their religions believes.

Spiritual rumination causes one to recognise the psycho-spiritual truths that are not obvious to all.21 Most religions aim to foster a spiritual transformation in their followers.

This transformation is catalysed by spiritual rumination where the individual lets the holy texts speak to them. By viewing himself as a spiritual being held in the current physical form only for a short while, man is driven to aspire to spiritual truths.

Spiritual rumination also results in physical benefits for the individual. By promoting mental well being, religion is able to assist people to enhance their physical well-being. Levin (2010) admits that the idea of “a religion-health connection” is held in high regard by many clinicians who observe dimensions of psychological well-being in individuals who have religious inclinations.22

The mental well-being caused by religiosity reduces the risk of a person developing conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure that are caused by stress and depression. Religion also challenges people to take care of their bodies that house their eternal souls.23 Religious people are therefore more likely to exercise and avoid excesses that will lead to unhealthy bodies.

Conclusion

The main conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that religion plays a major role in the lives of individuals throughout the world. Through religious stories contained in holy texts, one can learn moral and ethical values. These lessons act as a reference point for conduct and they assist people to live in harmony with one another.

The paper has argued that religion has a positive influence on economic outcomes. Because of the values taught by religious organisations, people have been pushed to be more economically productive and this has led to great development.

The research also indicated that religion plays a major role in maintaining spiritual and physical health in individuals. One can therefore make the conclusion that religion will continue to play a major role in societal life even as human civilization advances in the coming decades.

Bibliography

Basten, C & F Betz, Marx vs. Weber does religion affect politics and the economy?, European Central Bank, Frankfurt, Germany 2011.

Beauregard, M, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, HarperOne, New York, 2007.

Beck, E, God Underneath: Spiritual Memoirs of a Catholic Priest, Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, Massachusetts, 2002.

Clark, G, Christianity and Roman Society, Cambridge University Press, Oxford, 2004.

Coward, H & G Smith, Religion and Peace building, SUNY Press, Boston, 2004.

Derrida, J, Acts of Religion, Routledge, NY, 2001.

Ellison, C, ‘The religion–health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions’, Health Education & Behavior, Vol. 25, No.1, 1998, pp.700–720.

Esping-Andersen, G, The three worlds of welfare capitalism, Polity Pr., NY, 1990.

Grier, R, ‘The effect of religion on economic development: a cross national study of 63 former colonies’, KYKLOS, Vol. 50, No. 1, 1997, pp.47-62.

Iannaccone, R, ‘Rationality and the “Religious Mind”’, Economic Inquiry, Vol. 21, No. 2, 1998, pp. 373-389.

Keenan, J, Moral Wisdom: Lessons and Texts from the Catholic Tradition, Rowman & Littlefield, New Jersey, 2010.

Levin, J, ‘Religion and Mental Health: Theory and Research’, Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2010, pp. 1-14.

Luther, M, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, Tennessee at Stanford University, Memphis, 1968.

McCleary, R & R Barro, ‘Religion and Economy’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2006, pp. 49-72.

Rietbergen, P, Europe: A Cultural History, Routledge, NY, 1998.

Spenkuch, L, The Protestant Ethic and work: Micro evidence from contemporary Germany, MPRA Paper, Berlin, 2010.

Tyerman, C, Who Went on Crusades to the Holy Land? Herford College, Oxford, 1998.

Weber, M, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, Allen & Unwin, London, 1904.

Willems, K, Constantine and Christianity: the formation of the Christian State Church, The Concord Review, London, 1993.

Wolin, S, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.

Footnotes

1 J Keenan, Moral Wisdom: Lessons and Texts from the Catholic Tradition, Rowman & Littlefield, New Jersey, 2010, p. 212.

2 M Luther, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, Tennessee at Stanford University, Memphis, 1968, p.10.

3 R McCleary & R Barro, ‘Religion and Economy’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2006, p.52.

4 R Grier, ‘The effect of religion on economic development: a cross national study of 63 former colonies’, KYKLOS, Vol. 50, No. 1, 1997, pp.47-62.

5 C Basten & F Betz, Marx vs. Weber does religion affect politics and the economy? European Central Bank, Frankfurt, Germany, 2011, p.23.

6 L Spenkuch, The Protestant Ethic and work: Micro evidence from contemporary Germany, MPRA Paper, Berlin, 2010, p.45.

7 Grier, op cit, p. 50.

8 R Iannaccone, ‘Rationality and the “Religious Mind”’, Economic Inquiry, Vol 21, No. 2, 1998, p. 379.

9 M Weber, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, Allen & Unwin, London, 1904, p.12.

10 G Esping-Andersen, The three worlds of welfare capitalism, Polity Pr., NY, 1990, p.134.

11 Basten & Betz, op cit, p. 23.

12 K Willems, Constantine and Christianity: the formation of the Christian State Church, The Concord Review, London, 1993, p.212.

13 Greg Clark, Christianity and Roman Society (Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p.32.

14 P Rietbergen, Europe: A Cultural History, Routledge, NY, 1998, p.143.

15 H Coward & G Smith, Religion and Peace building SUNY Press, Boston, 2004, p.212.

16 C Tyerman, Who Went on Crusades to the Holy Land? Herford College, Oxford, 1998, p.41.

17 S Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006, p.163.

18 E Beck, God Underneath: Spiritual Memoirs of a Catholic Priest, Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, Massachusetts, 2002, p.145.

19 J Derrida, Acts of Religion, Routledge, NY, 2001, p.164.

20 M Beauregard, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, HarperOne, New York, 2007, p.33.

21 Derrida, op cit, 161.

22 J Levin, ‘Religion and Mental Health: Theory and Research’, Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2010, pp. 1-14.

23 C Ellison, ‘The religion–health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions’, Health Education & Behavior, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1998, p.716.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Religion’s moral objectives'. 11 April.

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