John Arthur: Religion, Morality and Conscience

March 2, 2009

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems by James E. White (7th Edition)

Library Reference: N/A

Amazon Reference:


Quote: “It seems wrong to conclude, automatically, that morality cannot rest on anything but religion. And it is also possible that morality doesn’t have any foundation or basis at all, so that its claims should be ignored in favor of whatever serves or own self-interest.”


In this chapter, John Arthur, argued a major issue between religion, morality and conscience. Arthur was able to contrast morality and religion by asking what would be the society look like if there’s no presence of what we called as ‘moral codes’. Perhaps, the concept of justice and ‘being fair’ would become a great issue to most people. John Arthur clearly defined what religion is all about. Religion is something essential for providing ‘motivation’ to morality. He also noted that religion serves as a ‘guidance’ to lead a person from what is right and what is wrong. Although religion doesn’t really provides guidance straightforwardly, it reminds us that in every actions that we do or done in the past, we are responsible for it – people have their own convictions.

This chapter also discussed something about the Divine Right Theory, which is quite relevant to what religion wants to portray. Without that ‘someone’ who will serve as the ‘law-maker’, things might be different from now. People commit themselves to follow these ‘decrees’ they have received from their respective religions. Without this ‘higher authority’ that will lead them, morality won’t be something we have right now – understanding the difference from good to bad.

Arthur was able to discuss how morality became socially important. Morality can and will influence people to another people, and vice versa. One’s morality affect other’s – same goes to the other. In this chapter, he discussed four ways how morality is social: first, morality involves language. Second, morality involves in a group of people – a community should I say. Third, people criticize each other’s morality – whether negative or positive feedback. And fourth, morality has something to do with ‘conscience’ – on how people react on it.

What Arthur wants to point out to readers is that morality is something we should take seriously – and how we handle it in our own little way. As far as individuality is concern, we are still different when it comes to dealing the ‘social nature’ of our morality. Everybody is still dependent on thinking what morality is for them.

What I’ve learned:

  • Divine Right Theory
  • How we should look into religion, morality, and conscience
  • What are the issues we are facing right now in accordance to the chapter


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