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Religion and ethics

Level 5 - DT2007-03

The relationship between religion and ethics is about that between revelation and reason.

Adherents to religious belief hold that God (however understood) has revealed insights into the true meaning of life, collected into sacred texts, and often supplemented by ‘tradition’, the accumulated wisdom of communities. From a strictly humanistic perspective, ethics is based on ‘reason’, so that anything that is not rationally verifiable cannot be considered justifiable. Such ethical principles are valued for promoting autonomous and responsible individuals who are capable of making decisions for their own good and that of the society within which they live. The challenge then is to establish some common ground between them, not only to avoid a destructive collision between the two, but to set the scene to expand the possibility of making constructive approaches to contemporary ethical issues.

Topics covered

  • The relationship between religion and ethics
  • Using reason: the perspective of natural law and human rights
  • Using reason: utilitarianism and deontology
  • Being virtuous, religious or not
  • What religion contributes to ethical discourse: Judaism, Christianity and Islam
  • What religion contributes to ethical discourse:  Hinduism and Buddhism
  • Towards a ‘Global Ethic’
  • Religion and Ethics:  environmental stewardship
  • Religion and Ethics: the sanctity of life
  • Religion and ethics: war and peace


Forum participation (10%); a two thousand-word essay (40%) and a 1.5-hour unseen written examination (50%). 


Tutor in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics