Law, Morality, and Religion in a Secular Society

Law, Morality, and Religion in a Secular Society

Law, Morality, and Religion in a Secular Society

Law, Morality, and Religion in a Secular Society

Excerpt

This book is based upon the Edward Cadbury Lectures delivered at the University of Birmingham in the spring of 1966. It takes its origin in the debate on the 'Enforcement of Morals' initiated by Lord Devlin in his Maccabaean Lecture in Jurisprudence read at the British Academy on 18 March 1959. The more I thought about the issues involved in this debate, the more clearly it appeared to me that the disputants were divided by more or less fundamental differences of moral standpoint and that this fact itself had important implications for the question they were discussing. For it is characteristic of a plural society that there are such moral disagreements which run, so to speak, all along the line; they are differences not only about particular moral questions but also about the nature and scope of morality. The question then arises whether the law can always be neutral where such differences are concerned; and, if not, how in a democratic society the content of the law in matters of controversy should be determined. Since much of the traditional morality of our own society has been deeply influenced by Christianity, and the law with it, the role of religion cannot be left out of account. Hence it has been necessary, for purposes of illustration, to indicate what I take to be the Christian view on a number of moral questions, and this has inevitably involved some dogmatism and over-simplification. I do not want to prejudge issues about which Christian and other opinion is divided; only to question whether such issues can always be relegated to a 'private sphere'.

My thanks are due to Professor Paul Ramsey and Professor Malcolm Diamond of Princeton University who read the MS. and helped me with their comments. I owe a great deal to conversations with Mr. J. R. Lucas of Merton College, Oxford, who also read the text, and to my colleague Mr. D. G. T. Williams of Keble College, Oxford, whose advice on legal . . .

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