JULY 09, 2018 by Stephen McLaren

However in the end, these differences are sometimes more matters of approach than of substance.  The moral system of German philosopher Immanuel Kant emphasised duty, responsibility and obligation, a view that ties in well with the moral codes of traditional religions that also emphasise duty, sanctions and rewards.

Kant’s view concerning his categorical imperative also closely parallels the Golden Rule, which is at the heart of most world religions. 

Religious believers, rather than concentrating on a strictly cerebral quest for higher ethical principles of justice, equity and truth, are often encouraged to look to god through scriptures or prayers to guide them in finding good morals.

A secular (all inclusive) view of morals can be found in some philosophies such as utilitarianism, pragmatism and humanism.  The goal of these three philosophies is to bring about the greatest social harmony , the greatest happiness or the greatest good for a society.  The emphasis here is to arrive at good morals by observing and practising those actions which will result in a benefit to society.  Humanists believe that while sacred scriptures can guide people in moral principles, these can sometimes be divisive and destructive as in the case of justifying holy wars, rejection of blood transfusion in saving lives or the belief that god favours one religion or ethnic group over another etc.  So while sacred scriptures are a guide to moral behaviour, religious believers need also to be aware that too literal or too narrow an interpretation of scripture can occasionally result in immoral behaviour.

One of the greatest gifts we have as human beings is our ability to reflect on our own human condition and to use our free will to make choices about our actions.  The wise use of free will also carries responsibilities that we share with others.  Humanists take this moral responsibility conscientiously.  We have a moral obligation to consider how our actions and choices affect the planet and our fellow human beings.  For both religious and non-religious people in a secular paradigm, problems such as climate change, poverty, pollution or starvation or avoiding war can be understood and may often be addressed through respect for scientific knowledge and a caring attitude to people of all races, religions and beliefs.

A good start in following moral principles is the recognition that the problems others have are also our problems.  And in the end, it is helpful to realise that we are all together in this search for moral harmony.  

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