McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life

Does Morality Need Religion?

  • Thursday, 16th May 2013 at 10:30am
  • Friday, 17th May 2013 at 9:30am

Location: Christ Church, University of Oxford

This event is in the past.

For centuries, atheism was suppressed because of its supposed amorality. Recently, New Atheists such as A.C. Grayling and Sam Harris are adamant that decent, liberal morality is perfectly possible without religious belief—indeed, that it is only possible without it. Others, such as Jürgen Habermas, acknowledge that Christianity has had a peculiar capacity to articulate humanist values and norms, but that these can be extracted without loss from their theological roots. Now, the McDonald Centre, together with the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter, is gathering ten philosophers and theologians—believers and unbelievers—from the UK, the USA, and New Zealand to address the topic.

  • If morality in general does not need religion, might specific moralities nonetheless need it?
  • If religion is morally necessary, what kind of necessity is involved—logical, psychological, cultural? And what is it necessary for—any intelligibility at all or optimal intelligibility?
  • How might morality be better off without religion? And is it better off without any religion or only without certain kinds?
  • When notions of human dignity or rights are extracted from theological language, is anything important lost in translation? Are such notions really sustainable apart from a theological world-view?
  • Are religious believers more, or less, moral than others? Or are such empirical questions philosophically irrelevant?

Speakers include:

  • David Baggett, Liberty University
  • Julian Baggini, editor, The Philosophers’ Magazine
  • Nigel Biggar, University of Oxford
  • John Cottingham, University of Reading
  • John Hare, Yale University
  • Terence Irwin, University of Oxford 
  • Michael Hauskeller, University of Exeter
  • Tim Mulgan, University of Auckland
  • Keith Ward, University of 
  • Mark Wynn, University of Leeds

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McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life

Networks: Oxford University

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