Appeared in Spring 2001, Vol. XXVI, No. 1
Until modern times, the relationship of morals to religion was taken for granted, and writers as far different in philosophy as Plato and Avicenna, or in theology as Aquinas and Luther, never questioned the basic truth expressed on Mt. Sinai when Yahweh gave the Jews the Decalogue, the first precepts of which were to honor God as a foundation for the secondary precepts of the moral law.
But something new has entered the stream of human thought: the concept of man’s autonomy, a concept that wishes to dispense with religion in its bearing on morals, on the grounds that the very notion of religious values is only a mental construct. Whatever bearing such values may have on ethical principles, it is not as though the concept of God was a necessary condition for being moral in the current, accepted sense of the term.
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