voices of faith q & a


McClatchy Newspapers

Q. Is religion necessarily the basis for moral actions?

A. Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery: The belief that morality comes from religion is so strong that it would seem the two are inextricably linked. But does morality really depend upon religion? It would seem not, since we all have known moral people who were not religious. Likewise, we have seen the moral downfall of those in religious authority. So clearly, living a moral life doesn’t depend on religion alone.

But if morality doesn’t depend on only religion, then what keeps people from committing heinous crimes other than society’s laws? All beings want to be happy and try to avoid suffering.

Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens said, “I think our knowledge of right and wrong is innate in us.” From the Buddhist perspective, it is believed that man’s (or woman’s) basic nature is not only good, but, in fact enlightened. This potential for enlightenment is known as “Buddha- nature.”

Like most religions, Buddhism is rooted in a very solid moral foundation. The Sanskrit word “ahimsa” translated means non-harming and is at the taproot of Buddhism.

It is said trying to practice Buddhism while harming others is like trying to row a boat still tied to the dock. No matter how strenuous your efforts, you won’t get anywhere. So, while religion may not be a prerequisite for moral or virtuous actions, religious practice can be very helpful in developing them.

A. The Rev. R.L. Baynham, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Kansas City, Kan.: This question is filled with many hidden approaches. While the question raises issues of right and wrong, it also has determined that society has collectively established systems that best guide mankind in moral living.

Religion plays a major role in the development and maintenance of a society’s morality; there is no question about it. Without basic rules, society’s welfare would be plummeting into annihilation. Every social order has a set of codes, writings and laws in place to guide the masses into a workable, healthy relationship.

History has taught and is still teaching that all mankind needs a religion that will guide society in making the right choices. I acknowledge that the Christian religion is based on the teachings of great biblical leaders who were inspired by God to the mandate of his teachings, and to gather not only the philosophers’ thoughts but to place their confidence in the God who will not fail.

I trust God in his infinite wisdom to provide for me the inspiration from the men and women who take him by faith and set examples of how to live morally in an immoral world. We live our lives in the light of God’s teachings with the expectation that we shall live in a better place.

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