Instructions: Throughout history, religious traditions have been essential in shaping the ethos and moral behavior of human beings. In the following exercises, you will find a variety of approaches to morality in diverse religious traditions.
Example 1 – the Analects of Confucius:
The first text you will read that deals with morality is the ancient Chinese text, the Analects of Confucius (551-479 BC). Chinese philosophy emphasizes the values considered to be morally important. The goal is, therefore, to cultivate a civilized virtuous character through learning about li, which translated means: custom, etiquette, good manners. In the Confucian religious context, religious rites serve as a path to bring about benevolence towards others, and the ultimate establishment of political, social, and moral harmony. Confucius provides instruction on the development of a virtuous character.
Read: Confucius, The Analects, Books: I, II, III.3, VIII.1-8, and XII (Links to an external site.)
Read about the ethics of Confucius:
Confucius (a.k.a. K’ung-fu-tzu or Kongfuzi) (Links to an external site.)
Confucius, by Pat Zukeran (Links to an external site.)
8.1. Summarize how Confucius describes moral living. Include in your answer a description of the following concepts and how they are related: chün tzu, rén/jén, yì, shù,and lĭ
NOTE: lĭ means “propriety.” Be careful not to confuse it with lì, which means “profit”. You may omit the accents in your answer.
Example 2 – Christianity:
In both Judaism and Christianity morality is defined by the law of God. This law not only concerns outward action, but also the inward character through which outward action is expressed (this is evident from the Tenth Commandment [Exodus 20:17 (Links to an external site.)] and Jesus’ application of it in the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:27-30 (Links to an external site.)]).
The law of God was given through Moses on Mount Sinai. It was a cornerstone of the covenant between God and his people. According to the Bible it is the duty of humanity to follow God’s law. The Ten Commandments or Decalogue has been a most influential text for Western civilization. In his fresco, Giotto di Bodone highlights the divine origin of the law.
Read: Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (Links to an external site.)
View the fresco: Moses at Mount Sinai, by Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06 (Links to an external site.) – click on image to enlarge
Read: Mark 12:28-34 (Links to an external site.)
Read: Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (Links to an external site.)
Read: Leviticus 19:18 (Links to an external site.)
8.2. Summarize how morality is expressed in the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-21).
8.3 (a) How did Jesus summarize the Law of God (Mark 12:28-34)? (b) Did Jesus introduce something new? Look at the other Bible references above. (c) What is What is the connection between Jesus’ summary of the law of God (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Ten Commandments?
Example 3 – Jainism:
Jainism is known for its duty to not hurt any living being. Observant Jains respect and take care to not injure any living being, for example, they walk with a soft brush to clear the ground of any tiny animals. The following text offers a selection of the twelve vows of a layperson, which is a somewhat lenient version of the great vows that monks make.
Read: The Twelve Vows of a Layperson (Links to an external site.)
8.4. How does this moral code compare with the Judeo-Christian moral code above?
Explore the discussion about Holy War in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition, as well as the monastic life as the practice of the religious ethic.
The Concept of Holy War:
The concept of Holy war in religious traditions has gained renewed interest in the Western world due to the events of September 11th. Islam and Christianity have developed deliberate discussions regarding “just war.” Below you will find some examples from a biblical text, a Koranic text, and a disputation on the topic by the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-74).
Read: The Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 20:1-20 (Links to an external site.)
Read: The Koran, The Pilgrimage 22:38-41 (Translation by Shakir) (Links to an external site.)
The Koran, The Pilgrimage 22:38-41 (Amplified translation by Muhsin Khan) (Links to an external site.)
Read: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II.II, Question 40 (Links to an external site.).
Note the format used by Aquinas: he starts off by posing a question that he will go on to answer. The posed question is followed by “objections.” The objections are answers that people might give in response to his question. Aquinas then gives his own answer to the question and to each of the objections. You should focus on Aquinas’ answer to the question he poses.
Monastic life is characterized by strict spiritual training that embraces ethical directives. The following excerpt is taken from the Dhammapada, which means “The Path of Dhamma.” The Dhammapada is a collection of Buddhist wisdom dating back to the 1st century BC. It serves as an important instruction for monks and nuns entering the monastic life.
Read: Dhammapada, Chapter 25 – The Monk (Links to an external site.)
8.5. Write a paragraph about what you learned from the further study.