Ethics vs Religion
We all know what a religion is and also think we know what is meant by ethics, but if one were to ask the difference between religion and ethics, most of us would draw a blank. After all, isn’t all religion ethics and we learn all moral values from it? Well, this is a question that is hard to answer, and despite ostensible similarities, there are differences between ethics and religion that will be highlighted in this article.
Religion has been the bedrock of all civilizations and cultures since ages and has helped people live together as a society. The concepts of hell and heaven have worked wonders to make people fearful and thus obey the rules of the society. Almighty god is up there and is keeping an eye on our conduct is a feeling enough to keep human beings moving along the right path. The concept of God is one rock solid foundation that has helped human beings in times of crisis all the time. The concept of life after death guides us to be virtuous as God will reward us in our next life or after life for our virtuous behavior. These are basic assumptions postulated in most religions of the world. God alone decides what is right and wrong, and we humans have to follow his command or wish. The laws of God or the religious laws are binding on all of us, and we cannot even think of tweaking them. We are led to believe that we are rewarded with pleasure when we are virtuous and have to face HIS wrath if we indulge in vices. Religion is a system of faith and emotion that brings solace to us in times of distress and gives many of us energy and strength during crisis.
The concepts of right and wrong and the rules of conduct that are recognized as acceptable in a culture are said to be the basis of ethics. Ethics of a culture is reflected in the moral fabric of the people. If you ask a person what ethics means to him, he would tell you that the feeling of ‘what is right and what is wrong’ is what ethics is for him. However, he would also tell you that it is because of his religious beliefs that he is able to decide on what is right and what is wrong. Ethics involves what the society accepts as standards of behavior. However, one’s own feelings do not decide ethics, as personal feelings often are found to be against ethics. If a person decides to do what he feels is right, he may be treading a path that is not ethical in the eyes of the society.
Ethics of people are often found to be reflected in the laws of the land. However, if you are following the laws of the land, you do not become ethical. If homosexuality is permitted by the law, but religion says it is unethical, and you feel the same way too, there is a conflict between religion and laws. However, despite religion finding objection with abortion, you know that it is ethical to abort as one should have a choice in when they need another member in their family. This is where ethics and religion are found at crossroads. For all practical purposes though, religion and ethics means the same to most of us.