Friday, March 27, 2015

Religious motives for being moral

Often people assume that the only religious motives for being moral are those of getting to heaven and avoiding hell. These are often thought to be mercenary motives. But this is not the only kind of religious motivation for being moral. You might want to be moral  because it fulfills the purpose for which God created you.

4 comments:

unkleE said...

Or even that you want to please God, or even that you think it is the best way to live.

Surely only someone who doesn't understand christianity would think we try to be moral to earn salvation.

B. Prokop said...

If that were the only motive for "being moral", how does one explain Saint Paul's expressed acceptance of his own damnation, if only that would bring about the conversion of his countrymen?

"For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race."
(Romans 9:3)

Jezu, ufam tobie!

Jakub Moravčík said...

I think there is one essential differece that has to be stressed, and it leads exactly between worlds which contain hell ant the ones which don´t. In world in which only heaven exists, nevertheless where it isn´t sure that you will attain it, you have a lot to gain but nothing to lose: if you won´t gain heaven, you simply perish in death. But in worlds where hell exists, you can lose absolutely everything if you get there, you would even wish your own non-existence more than being eternally damned. And because, unfortunatelly, the second kind of world is actual, my first aim of everything is, nolens volens, to avoid hell (and so being moral is a means to this end for me, although I really don´t say that I would kill people in world where hell doesn´t exist), so the purpose is negative. Doesn´t matter if my being in hell is "objectively" better than non-existence in contrast with my non-existence being subjectively better than being eternally in hell.

But it seems that (some) mystics would like to eternally suffer in some "holy hell" if that would glorify God (his absolute sovereignity, his holy whim, etc.) more, and it seems that to suffer eternally for God (and still loving him) is more "anti-selfish" than being happy in heaven. To be honest, such stances give me a feeling of absurdity, but I am sure that mystics would say that that´s because of my spiritual nurslingness ...

It even seems that christianity should want us to lose consciousness of our own existence in heaven, because it is selfish in a sense - consciousness emegres when reason turns to itself, while it should completely turn to God ...

(End of intellectual outpour on "why to be moral?" topic)

John Moore said...

Well, why would you even want to fulfill the purpose for which God created you? Why would you want to please God? Probably because it feels right and makes you happy. So there you go - every motive can be understood in terms of goal-pursuit. It doesn't have to be mercenary, but it's still a form of goal-pursuit.