Religious Symbolism and Moral Distinctiveness

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Arts and Humanities | Ethics in Religion | Philosophy | Religion


Chapter Description:
No religion does without symbols, yet the status of symbols and their uses is always contested. For example, some religious thinkers have reacted against attempts in the United States to post the Ten Commandments by describing them as acts of blasphemy. This chapter looks at Monotheism and Morality not by looking to religion as a source or sanction for morality but as a set of religious symbols put to use to organize a community, and thus to create a community distinct from others. Aside from being a verbal icon, there are particular features of the Ten Commandments that make it (or them) a less than ideal symbol for religion, morality, or the relation between them. The chapter lists their disadvantages and then suggests that these defects turn into advantages for something called "Judeo-Christianity," "monotheism," or "the Abrahamic tradition."

Book Description:
The nexus between monotheism and ethics, especially in the forms professed by the three Abrahamic faiths, is the theme that binds together the studies in this volume. Fourteen leading academics from around the world discuss philosophical and theological connections, historical interactions, as well as responses to new and contemporary issues. Most, though not all of the essays, find a meaningful connection between monotheism and ethics; but none shy away from the problems involved.