Make your own free website on

Home ] Syllabus ] Research Project ] Lectures ] Reviews ]


At the end of this unit you should be able to define the following terms and explain how they relate to religious ethics:


  • duty
  • love
  • ethics
  • castes
  • Divine Command
  • deontological
  • cosmic/natural law
  • eternal law
  • Confucius
  • ethics of virtue
  • bodhisattva
  • shariah
  • dharma
  • Talmud
  • Tao
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • teleology
  • bodhisattva
  • hadith
  • Eight fold path
  • Bushido Code
  • filial piety


In this unit we used the text’s discussion of the religious matrix of interpersonal relations (chapter 14) as a starting point for thinking about religious ethics.



Religious Matrix: Creative power of religion to give meaning to relationships between the self and others.  Religions prescribe patterns of relationship between the self and others. In particular, there are two main patterns that characterize the way individuals relate to others and society in general.


The Pattern of Love:

            Begins with the self and moves to the other: What should I (the self) do that expresses love and care for  the other?  This pattern is prevalent in both Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity.


The Pattern of Duty:

            Begins with the other and moves to the self:  What should society/the other expect from me.  This pattern is expressed in the caste system of Hinduism ( your duty is to do that which appropriate to your caste) as well as the concept of “filial piety” in Confucianism.  The Bushido code of the Samurai in Japan also emphasize duty to society.  


Act and Motives


While the above patterns characterize the relationship between the self and others, they do not necessarily explain the underlying motives for specific actions. Religions have always recognized a complex relationship between acts and motives. Religions have also recognized that one can do the “right” thing for the wrong reasons. Thus making decisions about right and wrong becomes a complex interplay between motives and acts. A consideration of right and wrong leads us to an investigation of religious ethics.