TED Conversations

Kasey Nightingale

Hotel Allandale

This conversation is closed.

Is religion the only motivation for a person to do right? Should our morals be only based on religious belief?

"The Fear of God." The seven pillars of Islam. The ten commandments. And the every day teachings we share with our friends, family, and children. Why do people rely on religion to do the right thing in life? Shouldn't we do right just because it's the right thing? Are we capable of doing so as humans? Why or why not?

Share:
  • thumb
    Dec 22 2011: How one treats others should be based on acknowledgement and acceptance of others' rights. I believe that while Religion might help us understand broadly-how to behave. However, people often become ritualistic (while following religion) and at times overlook the objective behind those rituals. Hence, I think Religion per se cant be the only source of understanding right and wrong, or helpful or unhelpful. We have to anyway learn to respect everyone as equal and respect thier rights.
  • thumb
    Dec 22 2011: I think a huge part of doing good with the motivation being religion is for the "prize" at the end. Let's face it, a lot of us do something with the purpose of receiving something back. At least most of us. I do not think everyone that is doing the right thing has religion as their motivation though. A lot of my friends do not believe in a structured religion but still go out of their way to help someone or be part of their community. It's a hard topic, because a lot of people are ignorant.
    • Dec 22 2011: I think what you said there is very interesting: " a lot of us do something with the purpose of receiving something back."
      I've thought about that as well, how selfless is a selfless act.
      Whether you help others to better your neighborhood, or simply because helping others makes you feel good, usually there's something to be gained for the person who's giving the help as well.
      It's often seen as cynical, but the idea that people do positive things so that they receive something in return (in whatever form) doesn't have to be seen as a negative one.
      In fact I'd be worried if someone didn't expect to get something positive out of carrying out a positive action.
      Doing good should feel good and have a positive effect on the person. Nothing wrong with wanting to feel good once in a while.
      Also if the definition of selflessness can be as simple as: "putting the needs of others before your own", then I think a " good deed" can be called selfless seeing that technically you do put the persons needs before yours. Your personal gain can only come after you've done so.
      In any case, that's always an interesting topic.
      And my apologies to Nightingale for kind of going off topic.
      • thumb
        Dec 23 2011: What if the good is done because of the fear for receiving something 'bad'? (hell, god's anger etc.)

        Do you really ALWAYS think 'what's in it for me'? Before doing something good always think 'I will receive something back'? I suppose not.
        I've just had my door bell ringing, a gipsy girl asked for some food. I had no such thoughts.
        • Dec 23 2011: Good points.
          Saying you do good to avoid receiving something bad, I think is more or less the same as doing good to save your skin. What you get out of it is that you don't get punished I suppose.

          And I don't believe that a person would necessarily think “what’s in it for me” before they do a good deed. You just know/feel there’s something positive coming. It can be as simple as the warm feeling you get inside.
          Just like a person doesn't have to think too hard about how to move their hand when writing a word. They move their hand with ease and in the end they just know they’ll get the result they desire.

          So I guess I saw it as: when you do a good deed, you don't only do it for others, but also in some way subconsciously for yourself.

          More of an underlying motive that you don't think about.
      • thumb
        Dec 24 2011: Well, I wanted to put an accent on that negative feeling the 'fear'.
  • Dec 24 2011: I believe there are universal laws of engagement amongst humans and other beings which arise out of basic common sense thinking and they do not require religion to "certify" it to be "good practice"

    A very good example is, aborigines community could live in harmony by practising certain rules of engagement which although some of them mirror religious teaching, had existed way before they were exposed to religious teaching of any kind ..

    I rest my case
  • thumb
    Dec 28 2011: WOW!! 7 pillars of islam!! That is the first sign that shows that you have judged a religion without knowing it well.
    ( read from credible sources)

    I'll reply to the conversation later (~busy ~)
  • thumb
    Dec 27 2011: If religion is your motivation to do right, you're on pretty thin ice. Religion, or God, is not at all the basis for morals. Rather, religion and God have been used to convince people that the moral rules have high authority. But these rules for living were developed here on our worldly earth, with no input from above. They all predate the 10 commandments by thousands of years. The basis for moral behavior is the ethical history and innate group-preserving instincts of our species, through which we have formulated moral guidance. Then we've written them down and delivered them "from God" so that those who need the push from a "greater authority" would also follow them.
  • Dec 26 2011: It is not through religion that we do right, but through, our own inner will. The Bible say that God is in us all. Doing right with the flesh can be achive through us, but doing right with our spirits is easier through religion. We all get hit with temptation all the time. As hard as it is for most to belivie; without religion our society wouldn't have made it this far. All the rules and laws we have in our society started out from some kind of religion. The answer to every question to life is in oneself, therefore I cannot answer your question for you. But just keep in mind, if you will regret it or it dose not feel right, it is not.
  • Dec 23 2011: I would suppose that religion is there to guide those without purpose and to serve as a structure to help define more complicated problems of right and wrong. We all should know that stealing is wrong, but it may be that stealing to avoid a worse fate then that of the person being stolen from may not be wrong. ex. if someone needed medicine but couldn't afford it then is it right or wrong to steal to avoid death or injury. Religion may serve as a groundwork for determining that.
    • thumb
      Dec 23 2011: In this case, religion would guide you to words 'you shall not steal' and leave you to die but giving a wonderful possibility of praying and expecting the placebo effect.
      So, your example is complicated; does religion serve here right, to your mind?
  • thumb
    Dec 23 2011: Perhaps religion has helped people to define what is right.

    Arguably, there is no right or wrong, good or evil..
  • thumb

    E G 10+

    • 0
    Dec 23 2011: Yes I think we could do the right thing because is the right thing to do , and so it should be even without religion.
  • Dec 23 2011: Religion can be seen as a guideline showing you what's right and what’s wrong: don't steal, lie, kill etc. and also showing you how to share, care (amongst other things of course). Basically, basic morals and standards that you can find almost anywhere in the world, even amongst people who have no religion. That’s no coincidence.

    The ability to care, be humane etc. comes from within. A part of religion is simply (although it means a lot more to some myself included) a reminder, or amplifies the need to be moral.

    Sadly, there are plenty of religious people who do the most disgusting things and everyone, religious or not can see that what those people have done is wrong.

    Thus choosing to be good doesn’t have to come from being religious just like choosing to be immoral doesn’t necessarily come from a lack of religion.

    So when you ask should our morals be based only on religious belief, I’d say, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
  • Dec 23 2011: If you look at the world around you without prior influence, chances are, you're thinking that everything has "purpose". Religion, doing what it does best, shows us how we must look at life and teaches us that "purpose". Religion tells that a human was "created" to have a longing for this "purpose". Therefore, your Religion (Way of Looking at Life) defines your morals and purpose.

    Some say that gratification drives us, basic needs, survival instincts, whatever. I say that those things are what drives animals. We're only half that. "Purpose" drives us.

    So, if you think your purpose is to do good, you'll try to do good. If you think that you have no purpose, a lot of your actions will inevitably lead to gratification.

    By the way, it's five(5) pillars, not seven. :D
  • Dec 22 2011: I don't think religion differs itself from any other motivating catalyst for doing good. Instead the driver uses whatever reason to do good as a backing for the action itself. Why do good? Because God says to give to charity and help your brothers and sisters.. so the question is- would that person do good if they didn't have that thought backing their action? I say yes. I would say that they would find another good reason to back their good deed. Just in the same way that religious wars that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives are done in the name of God. It is the driver who is hiding behind another reason for carrying out said action. Deferring the blame, or good deed on another party. Our Morals will be a product of social and cultural experience. If you are born into a society that is closer-knit and more giving, then you, I'm sure are more apt to act accordingly. Likewise, if your society or culture is more distant, then helping others in need may not be a normal act. How do we motivate people to do the right thing? It's tricky because the inherent nature of the self isn't looking to always do good. Everyone would have to learn from a young age that you have to do what is right.. because it is right.

    But what's right anyways? Doesn't that differ based on era, culture, and context?
  • thumb
    Dec 22 2011: Religion heavily borrows from real life examples to motivate an individual to do good. There are abundant references available to support the religious conjectures and their only purpose should serve to motivate men for good. As religion exists in us way before we learn to understand or appreciate it, it is more or less connected to a person's sense of morality.so for most of the people, it is difficult to acknowledge the difference between the two.
  • thumb
    Dec 22 2011: I do not admire and appreciate doing good because of traditions and religions. I love it when it's chosen consciously to do good.
    But it's hard, because everything is relative, so we need to build a theory what is good and right for us ourselves (not letting traditions and religions do this).
  • thumb
    Dec 22 2011: The only reason why some religious people have morals is because they had it all along.
    In fact, there is something immoral about religions, which explains how easy it is to kill, rape and torture in the name of it.