The intersections of morality and religion involve the relationship between religious views and morals. Many[quantify] religions have value frameworks regarding personal behavior meant[by whom?] to guide adherents in determining between right and wrong. These include the Triple Gems of Jainism, Islam's Sharia, Catholicism's Canon Law, Buddhism's Eightfold Path, and Zoroastrianism's "good thoughts, good words, and good deeds" concept, among others. Various sources - such as holy books, oral and written traditions, and religious leaders - may outline and interpret these frameworks. Some religious systems share tenets with secular value-frameworks such as consequentialism, freethought, and utilitarianism.
Religion and morality are not synonymous. Though religion may depend on morality, and even develop alongside morality, morality does not necessarily depend upon religion, despite some making "an almost automatic assumption" to this effect.[page needed] According to The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, religion and morality "are to be defined differently and have no definitional connections with each other. Conceptually and in principle, morality and a religious value system are two distinct kinds of value systems or action guides." In the views of some, morality and religion can overlap. One definition sees morality as an active process which is, "at the very least, the effort to guide one's conduct by reason, that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing, while giving equal consideration to the interests of all those affected by what one does."[page needed]
Value judgments can vary greatly between and within the teachings of various religions, past and present. People in some religious traditions, such as Christianity, may derive ideas of right and wrong from the rules and laws set forth in their respective authoritative guides and by their religious leaders. Divine Command Theory equates morality to adherence to authoritative commands in a holy book.[need quotation to verify] Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism generally draw from some of the broadest canons of religious works.[dead link] Researchers have shown interest in the relationship between religion and crime and other behavior that does not adhere to contemporary laws and social norms in various countries. Studies conducted in recent years[timeframe?] have explored these relationships, but the results have been mixed and sometimes contradictory.[dead link] The ability of religious faiths to provide value frameworks that are seen[by whom?] as useful remains a debated matter. Some religious commentators have asserted that one cannot lead a moral life without an absolute lawgiver as a guide. Other observers assert that moral behavior does not rely on religious tenets, and/or that moral guidelines vary over time and space rather than remain absolute, and secular commentators (such as Christopher Hitchens) point to ethical challenges within various religions that conflict with contemporary social norms.
Within the wide range of ethical traditions, religious traditions co-exist with secular value frameworks such as humanism, utilitarianism, and others. There are many types of religious values. Modern monotheistic religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity (and to a certain degree others such as Sikhism) define right and wrong by the laws and rules set forth by their respective gods and as interpreted by religious leaders within the respective faith. Polytheistic religious traditions tend to be less absolute. For example, within Buddhism, the intention of the individual and the circumstances play roles in determining whether an action is right or wrong. Barbara Stoler Miller points out a further disparity between the morals of religious traditions, stating that in Hinduism, "practically, right and wrong are decided according to the categories of social rank, kinship, and stages of life. For modern Westerners, who have been raised on ideals of universality and egalitarianism, this relativity of values and obligations is the aspect of Hinduism most difficult to understand."
According to Stephen Gaukroger: "It was generally assumed in the 17th century that religion provided the unique basis for morality, and that without religion, there could be no morality." This view slowly shifted over time. In 1690, Pierre Bayle asserted that religion "is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality". Modern sources separate the two concepts. For example, The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics says that,
For many religious people, morality and religion are the same or inseparable; for them either morality is part of religion or their religion is their morality. For others, especially for nonreligious people, morality and religion are distinct and separable; religion may be immoral or nonmoral, and morality may or should be nonreligious. Even for some religious people the two are different and separable; they may hold that religion should be moral and morality should be, but they agree that they may not be.:400
Richard Paula and Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking assert that, "Most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs, and the law." They separate the concept of ethics from these topics, stating:
The proper role of ethical reasoning is to highlight acts of two kinds: those which enhance the well-being of others—that warrant our praise—and those that harm or diminish the well-being of others—and thus warrant our criticism.
They note problems that could arise if religions defined ethics, such as:
They further note that various documents, such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights lay out "transcultural" and "trans-religious" ethical concepts and principles—such as slavery, genocide, torture, sexism, racism, murder, assault, fraud, deceit, and intimidation—which require no reliance on religion (or social convention) for us to understand they are "ethically wrong".
Armin Geertz suggests that "the age-old assumption that religion produces morals and values is neither the only, nor the most parsimonious, hypothesis for religion".
Religions provide different ways of dealing with moral dilemmas. For example, there is no absolute prohibition on killing in Hinduism, which recognizes that it "may be inevitable and indeed necessary" in certain circumstances. In Christian traditions, certain acts are viewed in more absolute terms, such as abortion or divorce. In the latter case, a 2008 study by the Barna Group found that some denominations have a significantly higher divorce rate than those in non-religious demographic groups (atheists and agnostics). However Catholics and Evangelical Christians had the lowest divorce rates and the agnostic/atheist group had by far the lowest number of married couples to begin with.
According to Thomas Dixon, "Many today ... argue that religious beliefs are necessary to provide moral guidance and standards of virtuous conduct in an otherwise corrupt, materialistic, and degenerate world." In the same vein, Christian theologian Ron Rhodes has remarked that "it is impossible to distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point which is absolutely good." Thomas Dixon states, "Religions certainly do provide a framework within which people can learn the difference between right and wrong."
Religious values can diverge from commonly-held contemporary moral positions, such as those on murder, mass atrocities, and slavery. For example, Simon Blackburn states that "apologists for Hinduism defend or explain away its involvement with the caste system, and apologists for Islam defend or explain away its harsh penal code or its attitude to women and infidels". In regard to Christianity, he states that the "Bible can be read as giving us a carte blanche for harsh attitudes to children, the mentally handicapped, animals, the environment, the divorced, unbelievers, people with various sexual habits, and elderly women". He provides examples such as the phrase in Exodus 22:18 that has "helped to burn alive tens or hundreds of thousands of women in Europe and America": "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," and notes that the Old Testament God apparently has "no problems with a slave-owning society", considers birth control a crime punishable by death, and "is keen on child abuse". Blackburn notes morally suspect themes[which?] in the Bible's New Testament as well.
Philosopher David Hume stated that, "The greatest crimes have been found, in many instances, to be compatible with a superstitious piety and devotion; Hence it is justly regarded as unsafe to draw any inference in favor of a man's morals, from the fervor or strictness of his religious exercises, even though he himself believe them sincere."
Bertrand Russell said, "There are also, in most religions, specific ethical tenets which do definite harm. The Catholic condemnation of birth control, if it could prevail, would make the mitigation of poverty and the abolition of war impossible. The Hindu beliefs that the cow is a sacred animal and that it is wicked for widows to remarry cause quite needless suffering." He asserts that
You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs....You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world.
According to Paul Copan, Jewish laws in the bible show an evolution of moral standards towards protecting the vulnerable, imposing a death penalty on those pursuing forced slavery and identifying slaves as persons and not property.
According to Bertrand Russell, "Clergymen almost necessarily fail in two ways as teachers of morals. They condemn acts which do no harm and they condone acts which do great harm." He cites an example of a clergyman who was warned by a physician that his wife would die if she had another (her tenth) child, but impregnated her regardless, which resulted in her death. "No one condemned him; he retained his benefice and married again. So long as clergymen continue to condone cruelty and condemn 'innocent' pleasure, they can only do harm as guardians of the morals of the young."
Russell further states that, "The sense of sin which dominates many children and young people and often lasts on into later life is a misery and a source of distortion that serves no useful purpose of any sort or kind." Russel allows that religious sentiments have, historically, sometimes led to morally acceptable behavior, but asserts that, "in the present day,  such good as might be done by imputing a theological origin to morals is inextricably bound up with such grave evils that the good becomes insignificant in comparison."
Main article: Secular morality
See also: Secular ethics
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, 10 September 2012
There are number of secular value frameworks, such as consequentialism, freethought, humanism, and utilitarianism. Yet, there have been opposing views about the ability of both religious and secular moral frameworks to provide useful guides to right and wrong actions.
Various non-religious commentators have supported the ability of secular value frameworks to provide useful guides. Bernard Williams argued that, "Either one's motives for following the moral word of God are moral motives, or they are not. If they are, then one is already equipped with moral motivations, and the introduction of God adds nothing extra. But if they are not moral motives, then they will be motives of such a kind that they cannot appropriately motivate morality at all ... we reach the conclusion that any appeal to God in this connection either adds to nothing at all, or it adds the wrong sort of thing." Other observers criticize religious morals as incompatible with modern social norms. For example, popular atheist Richard Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion, has stated that religious people have committed a wide variety of acts and held certain beliefs through history that we now consider morally repugnant. He has stated that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis held broadly Christian religious beliefs that inspired the Holocaust on account of antisemitic Christian doctrine, that Christians have traditionally imposed unfair restrictions on the legal and civil rights of women, and that Christians have condoned slavery of some form or description throughout most of Christianity's history. According to Paul Copan, the position of the Bible to slaves is a positive one for the slaves in that Jewish laws imposed a death penalty on those pursuing slavery and treated slaves as persons, not property.
For Kant, morality does not depend on religion; religion depends on morality. The basis and justification of religious conviction is our moral feeling or the moral law . In the end, morality requires us to have faith in God [...].
Cross-cultural analyses have shown that as societies become larger, more complex, and more threatened by external forces, their tendency to believe in moralizing gods also increases (Roes & Raymond 2003).
[...] the areas of religion and morality are related at least on philosophical grounds and deal with several overlapping issues.
[...] there is an authoritative code of instructions, a handbook of how to live. It is the word of Heaven, or the will of a Being greater than ourselves. The standards of living become known to us by revelation of this Being. Either we take ourselves to perceive the fountainhead directly, or more often we have the benefit of an intermediary - a priest, or a prophet, or a text, or a tradition sufficiently in touch with the divine will to be able to communicate it to us. Then we know what to do.
[...] the Ash'arite doctrine that the divine law established morality [...]
Since morality does not absolutely depend upon religion for its authority, moral judgments can be made independently of any particular religious tradition. Indeed, a convincing moral case against homosexuality cannot rely exclusively, nor even primarily, on the Bible or religious doctrines.
Nor need the hypothesis that morality is innate be undermined by observation of the great variation in moral codes across human communities, for the claim need not be interpreted as holding that morality with some particular content is fixed in human nature.
[...] the age-old assumption that religion produces morals and values is neither the only, nor the most parsimonious, hypothesis for religion.