“Religion and Morality” Presented at the University of Cape Town – 27 Feb. – 1 Mar., 2019 (7 pages; with notes 15 pages)

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Department of Religious Studies
Univesity of Cape Town

Moral and Ethical Frameworks and Performances

Call for Papers

Convenors: Abdulkader Tayob; Andrea Brigaglia

In spite of deep-seated modernist suspicions, religions have been expected by the state and by societies to take some responsibility for morality and ethics. The close connection between moralities and religions has been recognized as an important part of social life. From Kant’s vision of religion rooted in ethics, to the challenges of globalization, ecological degradation and poverty alleviation in our time, religions are expected and often do respond with ethical values and virtues. This hope invested in religion is not always matched by social theory. Most contemporary and early modern scholars have not seen a close affinity between religion and true morality (ethics). The prevailing doxa is that the two are worlds apart. While freedom occupies an essential feature of a truly moral and ethical life, obligation and compulsion are believed to dominate religious life. The latter was characterised by very little scope for deviation and adaptation, which makes ethical choices difficult if not impossible. While closer attention to religious life has challenged these presuppositions, the prevailing prejudice is  hard to change. Religious moralities might be valued, but they are hardly regarded as truly ethical.

Recent interest in Aristotle’s virtue ethics has prompted a turn to the religious life worlds where ethics and morality are guided by a complex of beliefs, values and practices.  Theodicies (the justification for the persistence of evil) are only one among the many ways in which religious traditions frame human life on earth. Other ways of thinking about how religions frame ethics and ethical dispositions  might be conceptions of the nature of good or evil, conceptions of the human person, patterns of social and culture life that sustain moral life, or the future of the good in this world and the afterworlds. But conceptions of a moral life are not presented in clearly organized frameworks. They are embodied and lived through narratives and practices that sustain a moral and religious life for individuals and groups. And they are subtly malleable, but also resilient to winds of change.

This is a call for papers on the deep connection between religious traditions and morality as it is articulated in texts, beliefs, media, dispositions, practices, attitudes and emotions.

  • What are the conceptions of the good life and how are they formulated and framed in the foundational texts religious traditions?
  • How are ideas of religious ethics and morality embodied and sustained over a period of time. How do they meet the demands of change and challenges in political, economic or cultural contexts?
  • How are ethics and moralities sustained and transmitted through informal and formal educational projects?

Religion and Morality by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Religion and Morality[1]

Douglas R McGaughey
30 January 2019

Abstract

If there is anyone who was not (and today would not be) surprised about a disconnect “between religion and ethics, it would be Immanuel Kant.[2] Nonetheless, the two are deeply connected: there can be no morality without particular experience in the world and the transcendental conditions of possibility for which the term religion is appropriate.