Understanding Religious Ethics

Understanding Religious Ethics

Understanding Religious Ethics

Understanding Religious Ethics


This accessible introduction to religious ethics focuses on the major forms of moral reasoning encompassing the three 'Abrahamic' religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • Draws on a range of moral issues, such as examples arising from friendship, marriage, homosexuality, lying, forgiveness and its limits, the death penalty, the environment, warfare, and the meaning of work, career, and vocation
  • Looks at both ethical reasoning and importantly, how that reasoning reveals insights into a religious tradition
  • Investigates the resources available to address common problems confronting Abrahamic faiths, and how each faith explains and defends its moral viewpoints
  • Offering concrete topics for interfaith discussions, this is a timely and insightful introduction to a fast-growing field of interest


Who wants to live a good life? If we think about goodness in a sufficiently wide sense, as a matter not simply of being morally righteous, but of living a rich and flourishing life, it is hard to imagine anyone not wanting that – anyone not obviously crazy, anyway. Everyone in their right mind would want that, wouldn’t they?

But how does one live such a good life? Well, there sometimes seem as many answers to this question as there are people in the world. (And given our ability to hold multiple conflicting views in our mind at the same time, perhaps there are more answers than people.) If the urgency of the question makes it one that we all care about deeply, the diversity of answers may well make us despair of finding the right answer to how we should live.

But despair is always only an avoidance strategy. And once we have recovered and returned to our conundrum, the same perplexities remain. What can help us then? This book tries to offer some resources. It introduces the major forms of ethical reasoning of the three “Abrahamic” religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – by looking at those traditions comparatively, across a series of important issues that they all, in different ways, confront.

These traditions are obviously enormously important for our world today. Christians comprise roughly a third of the world’s population – 2.1 billion believers, in 2006 – while Muslims constitute roughly a fifth – 1.3 billion. No other religion comes close in numbers of faithful. Judaism is a small faith, with only 15 million or so members alive today; but its influence – both direct and, through its Abrahamic progeny, indirect – on all aspects of our world is enormous. To talk about these three traditions of religious faith and moral enquiry is to talk about a substantial portion of the world – both historically and today.

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