Can Morality Exist Outside Religion?
Morality is a very emotionally charged subject that has been hotly debated throughout history. It cuts right down to the core of who we are as human beings and some maintain, in one form or another, that it is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Because of this it has taken many shapes and forms over time and has as many different facets as there are people with differing viewpoints. To keep this cumbrous subject down to a manageable level and in an effort to steer clear of emotional discourse we will postulate our debate around the central premise given in the title and merely pursue the plausible deduction of whether or not morality can exist outside of religion.
The term morality as it appears in the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition is defined as “The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct” (American). What is this right or good conduct and how is it established?
Many people of the most widely held belief system of Western Religion, namely Judeo-Christianity, believe morality is of divine origin. Morality consists of a set of commands; it does not describe the way that the world is, but rather prescribes the way that the world ought to be; it tells us what to do. Morality is prescriptive. Just as carried things cannot exist without a carrier, and popular things cannot exist without admirers, so prescriptions cannot exist without a prescriber. If one has a set of commands, then there must be some commander that issued them. There must therefore be a commander of morality; a being that issued the commands that constitute morality. This being, however, cannot have been a human being. For a command only carries as much authority as does its commander, but the authority of morality exceeds the authority of any human being.
In fact, the commands that constitute morality carry ultimate authority; if morality prescribes that I perform one...