Revision:Ocr religious studies synoptic paper

Is conscience coherent and compatible with the concept of a divine moral law giver?

Conscience = Moral Responsibility Categorical Imperative as solution


The Moral Argument

Kant and Aquinas both try and prove the existence of a law giver to whom responsibility is delivered

The Moral Argument infers God as the explanation of moral consciousness. Emotions such as guilt, pride need an object or source of our moral feelings – someone to feel guilty to. God is the source of all our moral feelings to whom we derive our conscience from.

Aquinas – We experienced things that are true, noble and good. These must take their goodness, truth and nobility from something else as their cannot be an infinite regression of goodness. There must be an ultimate good : God.

Kant - Deontological (concerned with the morality of duty)

We all experience an innate moral duty: The existence of conscience tells us when we disobey this duty. We feel emotions such as guilt to a higher being. One minds internalise moral goodness and this is the categorical imperative.


Absolutist theories of conscience

Natural Law – St Thomas Aquinas

God implants a set of moral codes through innate knowledge. These moral laws are how we judge actions to be moral right or wrong and contravening them is to go again God’s “natural law”. When they are interpreted they become our conscience.


Schleirmacher believes conscience is a direct internalisation of god’s laws an therefore moral responsibility is felt when someone goes against the will of God.


Relativist Theories of Conscience


Between the years of 2 and 8 children start to respond and understand rules and identify behaviour on the consequences that occur. This understanding of consequences and rules formed our moral conscience. Conscience isa direct result of upbringing and nurture.


A good conscience is as a result of a good and virtuous person as to be virtuous is to be good. A person living by virtues (the golden mean) will have all virtuous behaviour and no deficiencies and excesses.


How can God be said to know the future and how does this affect us? Use the fall to connect theories



“Every event has a cause” Aristotle (universal causation)

When we believe we have a choice, this is an illusion.

We are causally determined to choose our actions, they are effects of previous causes (John Hospers contemporary)


Free Will

We have freedom of choice, when we are confronted by a moral dilemma we are aware of the different alternatives as well as of past experiences. Since we are aware that we can choose to act whatever our past experiences, determinism must be false. (G.E.Moore contemporary)


Judaeo Christian idea of god is that God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

  • If God is not willing to prevent evil – he is not omnibenevolent
  • If God is willing but unable – his is omnipotent
  • If God is willing and able but not knowing of evil- he is not omniscient

What is the definition of true omniscience? Knowing the past, present or future?

  • Only the past- We all know the past, intelligent human
  • When we think of the present it becomes the past, knowing the present is knowing the past
  • So if he knows the future he is omniscient but why does he not try to change our actions, he is not powerful? Or not benevolent?


Does determined ethical behaviour present a problem for the classical theodicies?


The problem of evil vs. God

  • Either God is able to prevent evil and chooses not to?
  • God is unable to prevent evil
  • God is unaware evil exists

Epicurus’ inconsistent triad questions Gods omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent nature.




We have free will, we are aware of the different alternatives as well as past experience. We can choose how to act whatever our past experiences – G.E. Moore

Hard Determinism

We are merely biological animals who are controlled by chemical reactions. Humans have no choice in their behaviour. All events are causally determined by the preceding event.

Soft Determinism

We have free will within the constraints of society and biology. Could get any mark on an exam depending on the work put in and our intelligence.

The Theodicies

The theodicies give solutions to the problem of evil. However, they rely on answering the solution of evils existence and if we are in control of our own actions. If we are determined to act in a certain way they DO NOT solve the problem of evil.


Wide range of variety in the world, everything has its place in the hierarchy of being.

In the garden of Eden God gave Adam and Eve freewill to do as tHey wishes and use their human reason in decisions. Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of knowledge and thus fell from grace, As Adam and Eve chose to do wrong they (as are we) are responsible for the suffering. Evil is not in substance but a privation- let out of something in itself good.

E.g sickness lack of health.


We are moving towards perfection. Adam had the form of God but not the content of God. He was expelled because he needed to grow into the likeness of God. The presence of evil helps people to grow.


Ethics= Religious morality

If God is merely the invention of the human mind then so is the expectations of God.


Ethical Theories with a religious origin of ethics

Natural Law - God created the world, everything had a purpose- a ‘final cause’/ God implants a set of moral codes into us in order for us to make good and coherent decisions. Natural Law is a power.

Bishop Joseph Butler - Conscience is fully implanted by God

Kant – Categorical Imperative

God is the basis to whom we feel our emotions to e.g duty but our moral conscience comes from within our self. Experienced as the categorical imperative,


Ethical Theories that give a human origin of ethics

Cultural Relativism – No absolute rights or wrongs, we act according to our own beliefs in society, anything goes.

Utilitarianism – Greatest good for the greatest number, we choose how to act to benefit everyone.

Virtue Ethics – Aristotle, the heart of morality is not found in the actions but the agent performing the action ‘Golden Mean’.


Challenges to religious morality


Freud- religion is an illusion based upon ‘wish fulfilment’. The human mind will create beliefs and images to satisfy its most basic longings and desires. Religion is wistful thinking created to combat physical turmoil. The Tribal Myth. Replace leader with totem pole, develop rituals e.g cleansing of self.

Jung - Religion is a psychological phenomenon. Religion is a natural process stemming from the archetypes within the unconscious mind. Harmonises the psyche. Our images of God are archetypal, make us a balanced human being.




Came to define religion within society as a means of social cohesion. Religion provides society with a sense of identity. Religion gives a framework for the values and ideas held by society. “unified system of beliefs and practices”. Durkheim believed morality arises from social activities with a religion origin but no religious connections. Denies existence of God.


All religious and moral belief is based on economics. Society has structured itself to respond to the needs and desires of society. (Imbalanced)

Religion is the ‘opiate of the masses’ keeping the lower classes happy as they were promised an afterlife for their suffering on earth. Morality was born through social alienation and its purpose was through faith to give rewards in afterlife.


If life after death isn’t possible there is no point in being moral.

Kant – Deontological (concerned with the morality of duty) It is absolute since the morality of an action takes no regard of the situation. We all experience an innate moral duty: An existence of a conscience tells us when we disobey this duty. To act morally is to perform ones duty and ones duty is to obey the innate moral laws.

It is not our duty to do what is impossible to do- we ‘ought’ to do something relies on it being possible. ‘

Sonum Bonum’ the highest good. (when virtue and happiness are united)

It is impossible to reach sonum bonum in one lifetime, we have souls to succeed- AFTERLIFE. Life after death is one of Kants metaphysical antimenies. In order for us to achieve sonum bonum the promise of life after death must be present.

Thomas Aquinas

Based on religious conviction that God created the world establishing a sense of order and purpose which reflects his will.

Natural Law argues that there is a set of principles based on what are assumed to be the permanent characteristics of human nature that help people to follow a moral code. Aquinas believed that natural law was a set of moral codes that God plants into us in order to make good and coherent decisions.

It is firmly rooted in an Xtian belief system, by repenting of sins one attains a place in heaven. By living morally correct lifestyles one attains a place in heaven and the promise of eternal happiness in an afterlife with God in heaven.


Life After Death Theories

Dualism – Supports theory of afterlife

Mind determines our personality, the body is an outershell for the real self. If the mind is spent contemplating higher realities then the soul can enter the external world in death ‘the immortality of the soul’

Descartes- mind distinct from the body, Plato- body and soul separate but interact

Idealism - Supports theory of afterlife

Bishop Berkeley- no concept of matter only mental ideas and minds to perceive them. No physical body to decay at death, moves onto next world in spiritual form- keep identity in death.

Materialism – Rejects theory of afterlife

No separate soul, person is a body and no more. An individual is a physical body and no spiritual elements. At death the whole person ceases to exist – Richard Dawkins


Other Ethical Systems

Utilitarianism - ‘Greatest Good for the Greatest Number’

Does not rely on promise of heaven to behave morally

Utility Calculus

Virtue Ethics – Does not focus on act but on how to be a good person. Aristotle believed by having a virtuous lifestyle one would have a virtuous personality. By having neither excesses nor deficiencies of a trait one reaches the ‘golden mean’. A perfectly content person reaches eudamionia.


Is religion language treated the same as ethical language?

Cognitivism vs Non Cognitivism in both


Function of Ethical Language

Ethical Naturalist (Meaningful)

Moral statements are verifiable by looking at all of the evidence. Moral statements are factual descriptions which can be verified by factual information e.g something is right if it makes people happy

Intuitonist (Not Meaningful) – G.E. Moore

It is impossible to derive a statement of evaluation from a statement of fact. Ethical statements cannot be proved because good cannot be defined as it is unanalysable e.g. we come to solutions using moral intuition.

Emotivism (Not Meaningful) - Ayer

When we make moral statements we are not talking about objective facts but are expressing our emotions on the subject. Boo Hurrah= Boo to stealing, Hurrah to respect for others property. Non propositional statements making non objective reality fact.

Prescriptivism (Not Meaningful) - Hare

Same as emotivism, Hare also believed we are encouraging others to share in our views.


Religious Language as Meaningful

Ludwig Wittgenstein – Language Games

Meaning in language is based on the objects that the words refer to “The world is everything that is the case”.

The meaning of words is in their use, the function they perform as agreed by the particular group or society using them.

Each activity has its own language and Wittgenstein regarded this like a game with its own set of rules. Language games exist is all forms of human activity. Those who are not in the game will see it as meaningless. A non believer would see religious language as meaningless as they are not in the ‘game’.


Religious Language is a moral discourse because it is about the way people should behave towards each other. Religious language conveys ideas which makes it meaningful.


Religious Language as Nonsense

Falsification Principle – Anthony Flew

Religious statements are meaningless.

We know if a statement is verifiable if it is known what empirical evidence would count against it to prove it false. Religious believers do not allow any evidence to contravene their beliefs. Thus, death by 1000 qualifications.

John Wisdom – Parable of the Gardener


Religious and Ethical Language as Nonsense

Verification Principle – Logical Positivists

How we use language to convey knowledge.

“The Meaning of a statement is in its method of verification”

Analytic (a priori) gained through logical reasoning

Synthetic (a posteriori) sense experiment

Ayer “we know how to verify it in principle”

No ethical or religious language has any meaning


These notes are aimed at people studying for OCR A2 Religious Studies, routes A, AX, and AY, but will be suitable for other people too.

Originally written by xsparklyvix on TSR Forums.