Kant's "Religion within the boundary of pure reason" & Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling"

Religion is related problematically to morality

Essay, 2013

8 Pages, Grade: 1,7


“Religion is related problematically to morality” - a thesis which seems incredible at first view. How could the relation of morality and religion be problematic? Does the one not determine the other? Well, strictly speaking, already this question leads to the first possible point of discussion: for, which determines which? Does Religion lead to morality or does morality lead to religion? And does being religious not correlate with the meaning of to act in a good and moral way? To elaborate those questions and prove that and how religion and morality are related problematically, in this essay I will refer to Immanuel Kant and Søren Kierkegaard. Both are considered as being two religious men who start their thinking from the existing religious consciousness within the ethical and are therefore the rights philosophers to concentrate on while analysing the relationship of religion and morality.

Reading Kierkegaard’s most important work Fear and Trembling , one will find the story of Abraham, the religious father of faith, who is about to sacrifice his innocent son – as him was told by God. God’s voice said: "take Isaac, thine only son, whom you lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon the mountain which I shall show thee."[1] Without saying a word to his wife or anyone else Abraham takes his son and leaves, prepared to kill his son. When he almost did so, God stopped him and made him sacrifice an animal instead. Regarding this, one wonders, how God, could ask someone to kill anybody. How can Abraham’s intention to sacrifice his son Isaac be justified at all? First of all, it is not understandable how a loving God could order such a cruelty. Additionally, the question is why Abraham follows this kind of immoral order. Is not he the father of Isaac? And is not he as a rational human being supposed to act morally? No he is not, would Kant answer. “Der Mensch ist von Natur aus böse” (Human is evil by nature), and this evilness of human nature is assumes to be connected with the human’s freedom. Every human, after Kant, has an evil propensity ( Hang zum Bösen ) which is, since it always has to be self-imposed, to be regarded as a radical, inherent evil of human nature. A human being is a free acting being with a good pre-disposition and as soon as there is a choice of acting good or evil, the human’s (natural) evil propensity appears and follows the evil driving force which leads the human to act against the moral law. Evil is therefore formed when one freely adopts a maxim which super ordinates non-moral interests of moral interests, because of any driving forces. To follow those driving forces is a free decision. Humans their selves decides to follow the moral law or not. There is no such thing as a instinct that tells human ‘your are supposed to act morally good’, it is everyone’s free decision. “In relation to morality we are radically free” (132 Green: Tessin) Indeed, there also is something good in human’s nature. And there is a way to reactivate this good predisposition, but it will be come back on that later. In the case of Abraham, Abraham beliefs in God, and although he should know that what he is about to do is ethically wrong he simply trusts his faith and trusts in God. His action is religiously right, since he did not desire to kill; he just followed God’s will. God tested Abraham and his faith. Ethically seen he is a murderer (at least almost) and should be brought before a court. Does this means that faith and religion are stronger than morality? Well, Abraham presents his faith in a way which cannot be traced back to morality or ethics. Since what he does is ethically regarded murder and there cannot be found any sense for the general public, Abraham represents a teleological suspension of ethics. Abraham trusts his faith (which could be seen as a dangerously irrational form of religious or blind faith) and follows God’s order.


[1] Genisis 22, The Bible

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Kant's "Religion within the boundary of pure reason" & Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling"
Religion is related problematically to morality
National University of Ireland, Galway
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kant, religion, kierkegaard, fear, trembling
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Melissa Grönebaum (Author), 2013, Kant's "Religion within the boundary of pure reason" & Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/268384


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