Does Morality Need Religion?

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Christian families across the world are raising their children on the “rules”, or the Ten Commandments of the Christian faith. They are taught in order to be a part of the Catholic faith they were to follow these rules, and if they did not follow them then they were being sinful, and must repent. But what about the people who are not religious? Is it correct to say that they cannot act morally since they do attend church? After extensive research, it is clear that religion is not needed for morality.

What It Is

According to the Marriam-Webster dictionary, the word moral is defined as “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior” (Marriam-Webster Dictionary).

How It Affects People

What society hears and learns as a child, or even just as people grown, greatly affects how they will be for much of their adult life. Naturally, if someone was born into a very religious family who already had a list of rules set out for them to follow, they would not think anything of it. This is a very good example of the Urie Bronfenbrenner theory. Along with people learning for themselves what is considered right or wrong in today’s society, they would also have these sorts of imbedded morals in them. These came from everything that one might have experienced as a child and are things that one most likely learned from the people that were closest to them; i.e. parents/guardians. This is called the microsystem level where the most direct contact with the child occurs.

On the Values Analysis model, the view of not needing religion for morality would be closer to the nurturant parent side. This side would be okay with morality needing religion or not. The nurturant parent would be able to easily see why people think someone can or cannot have religion to be moral, whereas people on the strict father side would firmly stand their ground in saying one must have religion to have morals and would most likely be very disappointed with anyone who broke any sort of religious rules that could possibly be seen as immoral.

Different Views

There is no doubt that there are many people who feel that morality and religion are connected (Smith, 2017, pg.16). It is believed that religion is essentially a base for morality and without religion, morality would cease to exist. For those that believe this, the following question is raised: what do they think about people who do not believe in a God of some sort, and yet abide by what us as a society have deemed to be moral? Not everyone is religious and/or learned how to be moral by a person high in power. These people could think killing, stealing, lying, and cheating were all bad and they did not even have to hear it from a religious standpoint.

One important point that John Arthur made in his argument against morality needing religion is that religion is not necessary to provide moral motivation (Arthur, 2017, pg. 24). He argues that most people do not have religious motives and when most people decide to do the right thing, they are doing it simply because it is the right thing to do or because they are doing it in consideration of someone else.

When someone is in the act of doing something wrong or morally wrong, they are not thinking of the consequences they could potentially face with God or a higher being, but instead they are thinking of “What if somebody sees me-What will he or she think?” (Arthur). If morality was so dependent on religion and people only did good deeds because their God told them to do so, they would be more worried about what God would say instead of what the rest of society thought.

Morality in Law

When a judge is having to make a decision on something, they are not letting their religious points of view get in the way. Mostly because they are being pressured to “do the right thing”, and if their religious point of view got in the way of that, problems would arise. When presented with issues like abortion, “Justice Scalia said, “I have religious views on the subject. But they have nothing whatsoever to do with my job”” (Blake 2012).

These judges have to do what is right in the situation, or what is going to be beneficial to the person, community, or topic at hand. A group of researches, “analyzed federal district and appellate court decisions on religious freedom and did not find different results for Catholic judges” (Blake). This just goes to prove that even religious judges are dropping what they know about they Catholic faith and doing what is morally right.


In conclusion, people’s beliefs are not only shaped by their religious upbringings but also by what they have learned as a child. So of course, whether a person grew up in a religious household or not, or even depending on what religion they practiced throughout their life would lead to them having different views on morality. After reading the articles on both points of view on morality needing religion or not and the way morality and religion play roles in different topics or issues, it is clear that religion is not needed for morality.


  1. Blake, W. (2012). God Save This Honorable Court: Religion as a Source of Judicial Policy Preferences. Political Research Quarterly, 65(4), 814-826. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/stable/41759316.
  2. Moral. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral.
  3. Smith, O. M., Smith, A. C., & Arthur, J. (2017). Does Morality Need Religion? In Human Ecosystems and Technological Change (7th ed., pp. 16-29).

Cite this paper

Does Morality Need Religion?. (2021, Mar 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/does-morality-need-religion/

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