This thesis seeks to explore the relationship between religion and morality. Traditionally in the West
the reality of moral values has been upheld by religion and moral codes legitimised by the belief that
they are commanded by God. However, in the present secularised and multi-cultural context, such
suppositions are no longer assumed to be true. As a result the nature and status of moral value have
been brought into question.
In the contemporary situation there are many different views about the nature of moral values, and
about how, or even if, moral values relate to religion. This thesis is written in response to this
uncertainty. The aim is to explore and elucidate the nature of moral value and to unravel its
connection to religion. The hope is that this thesis will provide some answers concerning the nature of
moral values and go some way to prescribing how the relationship between morality and religion
should be conceived. This will be done over the course of six chapters.
The first chapter examines the contemporary philosophical debate between realists and anti-realists.
Realists assert that moral values are real and certain and can be discovered, while anti-realists contend
that values are invented, either individually or collectively. In this chapter the key arguments and
points of conflict are discussed and conclusions about the state of the present philosophical debate
drawn. This chapter sets the framework and provides the terminology and constructs of the rest of the
Chapter Two moves to the relationship between morality and religion. This chapter outlines and
analyses received views of the connection between religion and moral value. In the course of this
chapter divine command theories and other views which assert that moral value is dependent upon
religion are assessed. As are opposing claims that moral values are independent of religion. In
addition, this chapter introduces and evaluates other ways in which moral value and religion relate.
The third chapter concentrates on the aesthetic realm and its connection to both moral value and to
religion. Art is introduced because various theorists have asserted that art, not religion, provides the
authority and transcendence of moral value. This claim is explored and conclusions are drawn. In
addition, the nature of aesthetic values, and the implications for moral values are investigated, as is
the relationship between art and religion.
Chapter Four brings together the three key areas of art, religion and morality by introducing the
philosophy of Iris Murdoch. Murdoch presents a moral realism and a picture of moral life which
follows from the conclusions which are drawn in the first three chapters. This chapter scrutinises
Murdoch's moral realism, a realism which is centred around the moral value of the good. Her work is
assessed and the key features elucidated, and complexities analysed.
Murdoch's realism is influenced and to a
large extent is derived from the work of Plato. Thus, the
fifth chapter focuses upon Plato's conception of moral value. The hope is that an examination of
Plato's philosophy will provide further information to enable Murdoch's realism to be adequately
The final chapter evaluates Murdoch's Platonic realism, and draws conclusions about the strengths
and weaknesses of her position. In this chapter what has been learnt about the relationship between
morality and religion is discussed. Prescriptions for how best to conceive of this relationship and
suggestions about what a moral theory should include are made.