RELIGION and MORALS
Though Shaftesbury's solution to the problem of self-interest and public interest, as indeed his entire ethical system, must be seen in relation to his vision of God and Nature, he does not accept the traditional religious view that makes morality a product of theology. As his view of the relationship of religion and morals is a complicated one, we need to distinguish here between theology, understood as a set of consciously formulated beliefs about God and the related forms of worship, and religious experience, understood as enthusiasm or ultimate commitment. Like his friend Bayle, Shaftesbury held that morality was independent of theology, taken in the above sense. Both thinkers point to the obvious fact that many persons who profess religious beliefs are not virtuous, and that many who profess disbelief live morally commendable lives. Shaftesbury discusses this problem at length in "The Inquiry Concerning Virtue," trying, as he tells us, to avoid the orthodox error of identifying theology and morals, as well as the error of "the men of wit" who could not see that religion had any significant relevance to morality.
For one thing, he argues that children can develop a sense