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Church Vs. State: From Which Should A Society Derive Its Morality?


Societies require a certain amount of agreement on rules in order for people to get along. If one person believes that something is right that everyone else disagrees with, he or she is likely to engage in deviant behavior that weakens the bonds of society. This can become confusing because societies are not all the same. The deviant character in that society might easily be welcomed into another group with open arms. There have traditionally been two major sources of moral authority in human societies, religious and legal. This essay seeks to identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of using either one to structure a society’s morality.

Religious boards and scriptures

To people who believe in God, it can seem simple that the things in their holy scriptures should be accepted as truth. The main issue here comes from the fact that few if any countries can claim to contain only members of a single religious group. This is problematic because people may be neighbors yet hold contradictory religious beliefs. Whose faith should form the basis of the law? Still, if the belief is very closely held it can be traumatic to see people freely engaging in acts that violate sacred laws. These laws may be seen to be timeless and therefore much more stable than the laws that barristers may create. They are only human after all.

Nonsecular authorities

Because of the need to unite people of different religious beliefs in a single country, the state is often seen as the best source of moral decision making. Through the use of legal precedents and with reference to public opinion, laws are made and others are struck down. One of the major issues with this is that people have been known to create and uphold very unfair laws. Slavery was once legal in most of the world just as marijuana is still illegal in many countries at the time of this writing. There can be observed a clear bias that allows law makers to favor the rights of the elite in the creation of legislature. This completely removes morality from the operations of the state.

In reality, most nations derive their legal code from the religion that the majority of their citizens follow at least in part.This means that what is considered moral is often a combination of the opinions of those affiliated with the church and the state.

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