Seniors: Am I Religious or Ethical?

Jun 10th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Being religious does not necessarily translate into ethical behavior.  It may be thought of as institutional, principally structured to support and allow for an organized approach to spiritual pursuits but, in and of itself, not necessarily always guided by ethics.  In fact, as is true in all organizations, it may become more focused on its own survival than anything else.  It may be motivated to perpetuate its own creed, disciplines and loyalty to itself than to render inspiration and guidance to its individual congregants.

As a result, being religious may serve the purposes of an institution whose history and traditions and polity are well kept, protected, and preserved for the sake of that institution. Ethics may be a by product of a religion.  Indeed, ethical behavior is perceived to grow from much of the “belief systems” of various religions.  Most religions are grounded in its constituents following a course of behavior which comes from ancient principles.  As in the case of Judaism, the Ten Commandments represent something of an ethical guideline, which has been carried over to the Christian tradition in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, some of the “teachings of Jesus” are translated as ethical statements, e.g. “do unto others,” “love one another,” and so on.

The difficulty with the religion vs. ethical argument is that within religion many of its principles have become ritual, repeated words with little to no behavioral expectations or mandates.  It is as if, in religion, repeating the words is enough.  Ethical behavior, on the other hand, is just that.  It is motivated by action and interaction so that its demonstration is more than a rite and certainly more than speaking words.


Genuine commitment on the part of a religious person is apparent when behavior guides religious dedication.  Religion for religion’s sake lacks any significant and lasting purpose.  It is just one more behavior that finds its meaning in ceremony, no matter how reverent.  Unless religion is manifest in behavior, identifiable behavior aimed at going beyond habituated routine,  it has little to limited value.  By itself, religion can be the end and not the means to behavior that is expected on the part of a moral/ethical human being.

Therefore, practicing religion while ignoring ethical behavior is to suggest that religion has lost the core of its purpose and the validity of any meaning.



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  1. [...] displayed by our accumulations, our place, our experience.  We did it and it is done.  But many continue to search for a spiritual experience, either not yet found or never seriously given the time to sort out.// [...]

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