The debatable nature of theological beliefs is the basis of religious variability. Conventionally, different people perceive and account for the concept of the “spirit” distinctly, and this serves as a major explanation for the presence of numerous religions around the world (Paul & Elder, 2009, p. 36). The heritage of each belief system subjects the believers to its habits and customs. Thus, members of a particular belief system often perceive their philosophy as the only reasonable way of doing things. The result is often a misperception of religious philosophies and ethical principles. On this line of thought, this paper shall give an example of confusion between theological beliefs and ethical principles in a commonly-held belief system. Theological beliefs are drawn from the religious text and religious tradition while ethics are moral based principles governing an individual’s behavior in the concepts of right and wrong conduct(Paul & Elder, 2009, p. 36). When religious beliefs are dominantly adopted by a group of people, they tend to shape the individuals in that particular group with certain rules, requirements, taboos, rituals and traditions. More often than not, these doctrines are neither ethically right nor wrong but just a representation of the group’s preferences and culturally subjective choices.
An example of a scenario that illustrates the confusion of theological beliefsand ethical principlesis the infliction of the catholic “moral” codes on the followers and the government. Notably, the Roman Catholic Church has not only ruled nations in the past, but also advised governments on what is right and wrong. A case in point is the long-debated subject of abortion. Popes, priests, and religious leaders have used religious beliefs as references to decide the correctness of abortion on behalf of the people.
History portrays the church as a strict antagonist of abortion.But the Catholic Church has shown a shift in its conviction in the recent past. According to Williams (2016), Pope Francis softened his stance against abortion in 2016 when he granted catholic priests the ability to grant absolutions for abortions. This meant that those who practiced abortion would be forgiven. It was seen as a historic move by the media and an emblematic shift in church doctrine. Previously, the Catholic Church had strong anti-abortion stances and condemned all kinds of abortion. Yet, over the course of this periodic shift in religious belief, the church continued to impose its moral beliefs of abortion on its followers. The teaching of a religious body invokes revelation and employs symbolism. It also claims authority, which further binds the moral doctrine that it upholds with the believers. However, it disregards those outside its boundaries.
The issue of abortion is central to the morality of man(Sumner, 2014). Thus, contemporary ethical principles about this theme are based on various circumstances. When the mother is at risk, some philosophers maintain that it is moral to abort the child in order to save the life of the mother. When it is not, they believe otherwise. Similarly, there are many situations when the society considers it as a decent way of performing medical procedures. Americans abide by the abortion law which restricts, prohibits, permits and regulates the legality of abortion. The law’s restriction varies depending on ethical principles that envelop the societal sacredness of life. Thus, abortion laws vary to favor individuals who are trapped in certain situations, unlike religion.
The abortion debate surrounds the legal, moral, and religious status of induced abortion(Sumner, 2014). However, certain religious groups like the Catholic Church impose their religious views on their followers. In this manner, they enforce their theological concepts on the people in order to shape their morality. Thus, there is aconfusion between theological beliefs and ethical principles in the Catholic belief system.
Everyone is entitled to choose their religious orientation. Hence, the United States constitution (Article 18) clearly articulates that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief.” Sometimes religious beliefs unconsciously violate ethical principles through intolerable punishments, intimidation, sexism, persecution, rape, fraud, deceit and religious warfare. Yet, these beliefs often conflict with common ethical principles. Philosophers maintain that ethical judgmenttriumphs over religious belief,and as observed over time, many have become victims of torture and murder under the pretense of religious zealousness. Religious persecution and atrocities are still a common practice in the modern-day society, but no religious belief can justify suchviolations of basic human rights. In other words, theological beliefs cannot override ethical principles. Hence,this draws a clear line between theological beliefs and ethical principles.
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