Religious ethics embody the moral obligations and doctrines that govern various religious affiliations in the world. In a way, they represent the set of standards that ascertain whether an action is right or wrong. In most cases, religious ethics differ from one religion to another since each affiliation has a distinct set of belief systems and ancient wisdom that dictate their traditions. Most religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, and Taoism have ideal frameworks used to regulate and judge personal behavior. These frameworks are embedded in holy books written texts, and oral traditions. A look at the religious ethics of Buddhism and Hinduism provides insight into how these principles enable people to tackle various moral dilemmas without compromising their validity.
What Makes Something Ethical or Unethical?
Ideally, actions that harm other individuals are considered immoral. Contrarily, actions that improve the welfare of other people are regarded as unethical. In some cases, an action might be viewed as wrong but result in the greater good of the public. Such is the origin of ethical dilemmas. From definition, moral dilemmas refer to a complicated situation where individuals are unable to make appropriate choices based on their moral imperatives or the urge not to commit transgression (Gellman). Most ethical dilemmas seek to contravene a particular ethical framework or moral code.
According to Kohlbergs theory of moral development, moral reasoning is an essential construct in ascertaining the validity of choices and actions that individuals make. Most religious affiliations and contemporary societies analyze individual actions to offer judgment on their rightness or wrongness. This technique is not efficient in determining what makes an action ethical and unethical (Gellman). Instead, analyzing the rationality of each's decision is the best approach. Although most religions have teachings and doctrines that dictate the rightness or wrongness of an action, frameworks regarding personal behavior are the best in upholding morality in the society. The ability to distinguish ethical from unethical practices varies significantly from one religion to another. While most might rely on laws and guidelines advanced by religious leaders, polytheistic religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism depend on a variety of work.
Difference Between Societal Ethics and Religious Ethics
In the past, the difference between religious and social ethics has become debatable. Most societal ethicists believe that the foundations of ethics originated from cultural evaluation. On the contrary, religious ethicists uphold that the conventions of moral order in the society were enacted by religious leaders (Cherry). For this case, helping a friend out in a test is wrong based on a religious and ethical point. Ideally, this action is equivalent to cheating and dishonesty, which is unethical in most religions. One of the five precepts of Buddhism emphasizes truthfulness. Helping a friend in a test is equivalent to corruption and lack of truthfulness, which constitutes an immoral behavior.
Furthermore, the action of duplicating another person's work from the internet represents an unethical decision from a religious perspective. Polytheistic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism forbid any form of stealing provided the acquisition of an object interferes with the ownership rights of the property owner (Sriwarakuel 150). Another core difference between religious ethics and societal ethics entails personal responsibility. Societal ethicists claim that individuals do good for the sake of doing good. However, religious ethicists stress that people should do good to please religious authorities and leaders. Such a concept is evident in Kohlbergs theory of moral development at the pre-conventional morality level (Cherry). Despite this moral theory allowing reciprocity, it highlights that the reciprocated action should serve personal interests. For this case, helping a friend in a test solves most of his or her desires. Moreover, my friend is at fault since he or she manipulates individual interest and friendship, which influences moral reasoning.
Although Buddhism reiterates the essence of moral thinking when tackling ethical dilemmas, Hinduism relies on guidelines and doctrines such as The Law Code of Manu (Gellman). From this context, nobody has committed a greater sin than the other. Despite both our actions being unethical from a religious and moral standpoint, they were influenced by personal interest and social relationships. According to the religious doctrines and teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, all transgressions are equal since, in a way, they interfere with the existing moral codes of the society (Sriwarakuel 156). Moreover, they interfere with personal conduct, which propels individuals to embrace immoral activities.
In conclusion, religion and morality play an integral role in determining whether an action is wrong or right. Embedding religious beliefs and values to the existing societal and cultural norms guides people in making the right decisions and executing appropriate actions. Regardless of the massive similarity between morality and religion, societal ethics and religious ethics have a great difference. Their variation arises from their foundations and perception towards social responsibility. While societal ethics considers ethics as a part of cultural evolution, religious principles reiterate that moral standards originate from supreme authorities. Moreover, religious values stress that personal actions should please authoritative leaders. Contrarily, societal ethics emphasize that people should do good deeds without expecting anything in return. As evident in the moral dilemma discussed above, understanding the concepts of morality and religion is vital in making ethical decisions that bolster peaceful coexistence in the society.
Cherry, Kendra. "What Is Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development?" Very well. N.p., 5 Sept. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Rabbi Marc Gellman, Monsignor Thomas Hartman. "Exploring Religious Ethics in Daily Life - Dummies." Dummies. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Sriwarakuel, Warayuth. Cultural Traditions and Contemporary Challenges in Southeast Asia: Hindu and Buddhist. Washington, D.C: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2005. Print.
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