Reason as an instrument to determine morality — I

It is often said that “reason” is useful only in the arena of science and that it is not useful to determine morality and the norms of human interaction. The corollary of this argument is that, we should hence turn to religion for moral questions, and that only religion can be the prime source of morality. Some people in fact wonder — how can one get sense of morality without religion. These notions aren’t necessarily true.

Morality has multiple resources. People learn qualities of empathy, compassion, and how to be moral even from reading fictional books like Harry Potter.

Morality can exist independent of religion. Around 70% of the population in countries like Netherlands declare themselves as not having a religion. If morality does not exist without religion, such countries should have been in chaos by now, which we know is not the case.

Reason” can be an instrument to determine morality and we often use it, even if we may not be aware of it. The recognition of universal human rights and the provision of fundamental rights in our constitution is a good example. The reasoning behind recognition and provisioning of these rights was not based on a religious pretext. It is based on the “reasoning” that all humans are equal.

LGBTQ rights is another contemporary example where we used “reason” to determine morality and norms of social relationships. The acceptance of the sexuality of LGBTQ rights was not based on religious reasons or writings in holy books. It was based on the “reasoning” that every human has a right to choose and live their preferred sexual life. Religion had no role in the narrative that helped make LGBTQ acceptable in our society. If any thing, it only contributed negatively.

The increasing acceptance of love marriages is another example where reason was used an instrument to determine its morality.

In summary, religion may have a part in determining one’s morals but it isn’t a monopoly. More importantly, it is completely possible to have morality independent of religion, and reason can be an instrument to determine morality. In fact, we often use secular reasoning to determine morality, it’s just that we may not be consciously aware of it.