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Can ethics survive the death of religion?

Can ethics survive the death of religion?

Nathan Mladin features on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze. 07/12/2022

For the first time, fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian. For centuries in the West, Judeo–Christian values have underpinned moral reasoning and grounded our ethics. While ticking “no religion” on the census doesn’t necessarily mean having no religious belief, should it concern us that this central story of our culture is fragmenting?

Implicit in utilitarianism is the idea that we can do ethics without metaphysics. The Enlightenment hailed the triumph of scientific rationality over sacred revelation. Whereas, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim argued that in any society in a state of ‘anomie’ – that is, lacking a shared moral code – there would be a rise in suicide.

Secularists argue that the greatest examples of social progress of the last century have come about as a result of a loss of deference to religious moral authority. Religious leaders believe that it is precisely this moral authority that makes a society cohesive. Others think it doesn’t matter where you get your moral guide from as long as you’re looking for it.

We live in an era of rapid social change, facing a new technological revolution, and all the ethical questions it poses. Does a religious–based ethics have the answers?

Can ethics survive the death of religion?

Listen to the full segment here.


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 Image by BBC Radio 4

Nathan Mladin

Nathan Mladin

Nathan joined Theos in 2016. He holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from Queen’s University Belfast and is the author of several publications, including the Theos reports Data and Dignity: Why Privacy Matters in the Digital Age, Religious London: Faith in a Global City (with Paul Bickley), and ‘Forgive Us Our Debts’: lending and borrowing as if relationships matter (with Barbara Ridpath).

Watch, listen to or read more from Nathan Mladin

Posted 7 December 2022


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