THIS TEST (AND MANY OF THE OTHERS ON THIS SITE) MAY ALSO BE OF USE TO STUDENTS FOLLOWING OTHER ADVANCED LEVEL RELIGIOUS STUDIES COURSES.
BEAR IN MIND THAT THESE TESTS ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFICULT. FOR THIS REASON THEY SHOULD BE ATTEMPTED AFTER THE AFOREMENTIONED NOTES HAVE ALREADY BEEN CAREFULLY REVISED. HAVING SAID THAT, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT ERRORS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MADE DURING THE CREATION OF THE TEST. PLEASE USE THE CONTACT FORM TO LET ME KNOW IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE SPOTTED ONE
OCCASIONALLY, NEW INFORMATION MAY ALSO BE INTRODUCED.
THE LANGUAGE USED IN ALL BLOG POSTS AND IN THE FOLLOWING TEST HAS NOT BEEN SIMPLIFIED. THIS IS BECAUSE EXPANDING YOUR PERSONAL VOCABULARY IS IMPORTANT IF YOU WISH TO ACCESS THE HIGHER GRADES AT ADVANCED LEVEL.
FOR THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS, SCROLL DOWN TO THE END OF THIS BLOG ENTRY.
1. TRUE or FALSE? Someone who claims that, ‘Without God, everything is permitted’ believes that there is a dependent relationship between religion and morality.
2. Which of the following statements does NOT imply that morality is heteronomous, something outside or external to us?
a. ‘We have to follow God’s rules for morality that are found in scripture.’
b. ‘We get our morals from our parents and other adults around us.’
c. ‘Moral decisions must be freely chosen by each individual and made on their ability to reason.’
d. ‘We should follow the laws of the land and do not have any right to break them.’
3. TRUE or FALSE? Actions that are freely chosen are heteronomous while those that are forced on us by others are autonomous.
4. TRUE or FALSE? Divine Command Theory is an example of an ethical theory that could be said to be both heteronomous AND theonomous.
5. TRUE or FALSE? Kantian ethics is an autonomous system of ethics because it is based on freely chosen decisions arrived at through the use of reason.
6. TRUE or FALSE? Classical utilitarianism is an autonomous system of ethics because it is based on the pursuit of the greatest happiness for the greatest number rather than religion.
7. Which of the following is NOT accurate when it comes to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma?
a. Plato’s dilemma is concerned with Divine Command Ethics.
b. It is concerned with the basis for God’s own morality.
c. On the one hand, if God is the source of His own morality, then anything He wills automatically becomes good. This is known as voluntarism and is a problem because morality then becomes random. And so He might command us to something that seems cruel (e.g. slaughter a whole tribe as actually happens in 1 Samuel 15), or to hate Him. However, if God is not the source of His own morality, if he is getting it from somewhere else, then He no longer becomes worthy of worship. We can bypass God and simply follow that independent standard (e.g. reason). This is known as intellectualism.
d. Historically, Thomas Aquinas was a supporter of intellectualism and William of Ockham was a voluntarist.
e. A problem with voluntarism is that it fails to preserve God’s omnipotence, while a criticism of intellectualism is that there is no way to tell whether God is morally good.
8. TRUE or FALSE? A strength of Divine Command Ethics is that it can provide certainty for the person who believes in it. All they have to do is find out the divine rule that applies to the particular moral issue they are trying to resolve and apply it. Plus, interpretations of scripture within faiths never change and therefore provide a firm basis for morality.
9. TRUE or FALSE? A weakness of Divine Command Ethics is that there are limits to its appeal. God’s alleged commands are not going to be binding for nonbelievers who question the existence of God, especially when God is condemning homosexuality, or seems to want men to be in charge of women. For nonbelievers, such commands are a way to disguise prejudice, or to justify discrimination. Also, Divine Commands in one faith may not be recognised by followers of Divine Command Ethics in another.
10. TRUE or FALSE? An atheist might challenge the view that morality has to be dependent on religion by pointing out that in countries where many people are now atheists, where a process of secularization has yet to happen, those societies have not collapsed into a state of moral anarchy.
11. TRUE or FALSE? An anti-theist is someone who does more than simply not believe in God but also tries to show that religious belief can result in people doing harmful or immoral things, like engaging in acts of terrorism.
12. Which of the following statements is NOT accurate?
a. R.A. Sharpe is an anti-theist who argues that religion corrupts morality and does so by demanding that its followers go against their better natures e.g. by getting them to torture others (as in the case of the medieval inquisition which received authorisation from the Pope to do so), or to refrain from being able to express love through sex whenever they want to (which risks pregnancy where the use of artificial forms of contraception are forbidden). Charitable acts are also performed for the wrong reasons e.g. a Christian might try to help people in poor countries in order to convert them. As the back cover of his book, The Moral Case Against Religious Belief states, Sharpe is therefore a firm believer in ‘the autonomy of morality’.
b. Richard Dawkins is an atheist and anti-theist who is the author of the following famous quotation, ‘Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion’. For Dawkins, religion has encouraged and continues to encourage some of the worst moral behaviour e.g. genocide, misogyny, racism, homophobia. Dawkins is also opposed to Biblical parenting, as this can result in children being brought up to believe in creationism and to reject evolution.
b. Sam Harris is also an an atheist and anti-theist who has argued that morality does not have to be dependent on religion. Instead it can be autonomous of faith and based on science. He has suggested that we can use disciplines like neuroscience to identify which societies promote behaviour that leads to human well-being. This is because brain scans of happy, well-adjusted people look different from those that are not. So in morally healthier societies, we should find more people like this, and we can then study their moral behaviour and adopt it for ourselves.
13. Which of the following statements is NOT accurate?
a. A problem for R.A. Sharpe’s theonomous view of the relationship between religion and morality is that he does not make it clear what this should be based on. For example, he writes about the ‘everyday morality’ that might cause someone to help a beggar with undressed sores purely out of compassion. But what it they had given the beggar money instead that might then be spent on drugs or alcohol rather than medicine? Sharpe’s ‘everyday morality’ therefore looks like it needs to be set on a firmer foundation.
b. A criticism of Sam Harris is that if science is a possible candidate for this foundation, then to claim that morality = well-being as he does is not itself a scientific claim. As Julian Baggini puts it, ‘You cannot establish that ‘morality = well-being’ is true in the same way that you can establish that force = mass x acceleration’. It is therefore an assumption, and if the fundamental assumption that ‘morality = well-being’ cannot be determined by science, then neither can morality as a whole.
c. A criticism of Richard Dawkins made by John Holroyd is that he focuses on the worst examples and does not consider evidence that religious faith might be beneficial. We might, for example, look at the role of religion in the American civil rights movement, for example. Or we could consider the work of Christian Aid, Tear Fund and CAFOD, or that Christians motivated significantly by their faith helped finally to make slavery illegal in Britain and elsewhere.
14. TRUE or FALSE? Kant’s moral argument is a theoretical argument for the existence of God which he considered to be more convincing than the Ontological argument.
15. TRUE or FALSE? Kant’s ethical system requires God as its guarantor in order to ensure that doing your duty, following the dictates of reason and striving for the summum bonum (the highest good) is rewarded in the afterlife if it does not seem to be in this one.
16. TRUE or FALSE? A possible criticism of Kant’s moral argument is that by suggesting that doing your duty will eventually be rewarded with happiness, he is introducing a deontological element into his system that undermines the purely teleological foundation on which it is meant to be based.
17. TRUE or FALSE? The evidential problem of evil maintains that as there is so much seemingly pointless evil in the world, an all-loving, all-powerful God does not exist. So the fact that there is such an abundance of gratuitous, unnecessary evil suggests that it it can also be deployed as a moral argument against the existence of God.
18. TRUE or FALSE? The theology of the Westboro Baptist Church (‘God Hates Fags’), Quiverfull (‘Be fruiful and multiply’) and the behaviour of salafi-jihadist organisations like ISIS and al-Qaeda might all be used as examples that demonstrate the truth of R.A. Sharpe’s thesis that religion corrupts morality.
19. TRUE or FALSE? Richard Dawkins commences his book The God Delusion with the true story of a tiny parasite (the lancet fluke) that hijacks the brains of ants, causing them to climb to the tops of blades of grass, where they can more easily be eaten by grazing animals. The behaviour is suicidal for the ant, but beneficial for the lancet fluke, which requires the digestive system of a ruminant to reproduce itself. Dawkins’ ingenious analogy is then deployed to suggest that religions survive because, like this parasite, they compel their hosts do things that are bad for themselves (e.g. suicide bombing) but good for the parasite (e.g. radical Islam).
20. Which of the following statements is NOT accurate when it comes to assessing the anti-theist claim that religions directly inspire acts of terror?
a. There is no agreed upon definition of ‘religion’ and it is difficult to isolate religion as the sole motivation for acts of terror from other causal factors (e.g. the political, territorial and economic factors that also play a part in the Israel/Palestine conflict). In other words, as Ian Reader has pointed out, religion is ‘sticky’ as a concept and adheres itself to other aspects of human life like the aforementioned ones.
b. Acts of terror are typically committed by militant groups that are non-mainstream and who seek out and interpret passages in sacred texts in ways that suit a radical agenda that they have already decided on. For example, the murders, bombings and acts of arson carried out by the Army of God in the 1980’s and 1990’s were inspired by a sense of revulsion at the number of abortions being carried out in the USA at that time and a desire to protect the lives of unborn children. The scriptural passage cited to justify these acts of terror (Matthew 19 ‘ Suffer little children to come unto me’) is not usually understood in this way.
c. In the case of Islam, the so-called ‘sword verses’ in the Qur’an (e.g. Surah 47: ‘Smite at the necks of the Unbelievers’) were only meant to be applicable to conflicts between the early Muslim community and Muhammad’s Meccan opponents. This community was also facing the threat of being wiped out, and so violence was a necessary response in these circumstances.
d. In Islam, the law of qisas based on passages like Surah 5 (‘eye for eye…tooth for tooth’) is sometimes cited by jihadists to justify acts of terror against innocent civilians. However, in mainstream Islamic law, this principle has traditionally only been applied in a very limited manner to situations involving private individuals and/or their relatives seeking restitution for specific acts of violence committed against themselves or family members.
e. And so while it may be an error to regard religion as something that is always good and opposed to violence, in practice it cannot be separated from other, secular factors that can also fuel acts of terror and that may cause those harbouring a smouldering sense of injustice to look to scripture to find passages that they can interpret in a manner that they regard as permitting them to commit terrorist atrocities. In summary, as John Holroyd has observed, it is difficult to know when religious activities are the cause and when they are the effect of other social phenomena.
21. TRUE or FALSE? Conservative Christian movements in the USA, such as Quiverfull, as well as the unashamedly provocative and and bigoted Westboro Baptist Church often have in common an agenda that can include opposition to abortion, euthanasia, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, homosexuality, the teaching of evolution/intelligent design in schools, and climate change, and uncritical support for the state of Israel. This is further accompanied by a belief in Biblical inerrancy, that all passages in the Bible must be true and without error because they are the word of God.
22. TRUE or FALSE? In doing so, according to Malise Ruthven, in pursuing a theonomous agenda, they are attempting to push back against a more secular, religiously plural, globalized, postmodern world, one in which truth has become relative.
23. TRUE or FALSE? Some – like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church – prefer to home-school their children as an act of Biblical parenting that prevents their children from being exposed to secular theories like that of Darwinian evolution, which they believe has no basis in the Bible. Alternatively, they have campaigned to have school textbooks include references to creationism and/or ‘Intelligent Design’.
24. TRUE or FALSE? Declarations like ‘God hates fags’ (the Westboro Baptist Church), ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Quiverfull), as well as abstention from tea, coffee and alcohol (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) or military service and blood transfusions (the Mormons) can be seen as more rigidly defining the boundaries between believers and unbelievers, between the saved and the damned in this contemporary, postmodern climate.
25. TRUE or FALSE? For Malise Ruthven, the effects of this brand of religious conservatism, which he prefers to call fundamentalism, have all been negative. For example the education of American children has been damaged by the addition of scientific creationism, or its successor ‘intelligent design’ to the curriculum, while women, especially poor women with limited access to travel, have been inconvenienced by the making of abortion illegal in certain states. From a planetary perspective, some conservatives may also be regarded as selfish, greedy and stupid as they are damaging the environment by the excessive use of energy and their lobbying against environmental controls as a consequence of their belief that there is no point in saving the planet, given that the second coming of Jesus is imminent.
- True – the famous quotation is often misattributed to the Russian novelist Dostoevsky.
- c- this statement is based on an autonomous view of morality, on choosing for ourselves what to do.
- False – it’s the other way around.
- True – though reason itself often seems elevated to a heteronomous status that demands our fidelity to the categorical imperative and Kant’s moral argument arguably introduces a theonomous element into his ethical system.
- True but if our nature compels us to seek pleasure and avoid pain then that is arguably a heteronomous feature of this system of moral decision-making.
- e – it’s the other way around.
- False – orthodox interpretations of scripture can change e.g. the Roman Catholic church used to approve of slavery on the basis of scripture.
- False – in countries where more people are atheists, a process of secularization has already taken hold.
- b- the Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg is the author of this memorable quotation though it is one that Dawkins enthusiastically approves of.
- a – Sharpe’s view is autonomous not theonomous. For c, it is important to have read Holroyd’s article for Philosophy Now magazine.
- False – Kant believed that it was not possible to come up with convincing theoretical proofs for the existence of God. His argument is more accurately described as a practical one – for his system to work in practice the existence of God is implied by it.
- False – Kant’s system is deontological (the consequences of our actions are never relevant in moral decision-making) and he is arguably introducing a teleological element when he suggests that doing one’s duty will eventually be rewarded with happiness.
- True – in the case of Quiverfull, they are arguably not helping the problem of overpopulation in the modern world.
- False – it is actually the New Atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett who starts his book Breaking the Spell with the story of this parasite. It is one that can certainly be usefully referenced in an examination answer about religion and terror, though.
- a- it’s actually Linda Woodhead who characterizes religion as something ‘sticky’. The full quotation of hers is, ‘Religion is ‘sticky’. There is probably no ‘pure’ religion that is not bound up with other aspects of human life such as politics or economics.’
- False – members of the Westboro Baptist Church do attend school.
- False – the Mormons abstain from tea, coffee and alcohol, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses from blood transfusions and military service.