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BJH Journal

VOL - 1 / 2013

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Spirituality, Morality, and Social Order: A Conceptual Analysis


In order for people to live together in a minimally functioning society, they have to have some ends in common, which implies that they have to have some agreement about what is valuable. Because they must agree about what behaviors can and what behaviors cannot be tolerated, they must agree to some extent on their moral commitments. It is often claimed that religion is the basis of morality, so there can be no agreement about morality unless there is agreement about religion, but this view is generally recognized to be a mistake. But perhaps something like religious belief is necessary. The word ‘spirituality’ is often used to describe an attitude or orientation that is on a continuum with religiosity, but falls short of commitment to any particular religion. The question of this paper is this: is spirituality necessary for moral commitment, and so for social order, even if religion is not?

The general concept of spirituality is related to the concept of religion, but is not quite the same thing. It is, at a first approximation, something to do with spirits. This paper considers a few possibilities of what spirituality might be, in order of decreasing similarity to religion, and considers to what extent they are necessary for moral commitment, and so for good social order.  They are: 1) belief in God without commitment to any specific religion; 2) belief in a non-physical, supernatural order; 3) Belief that there is something more important than human beings, to which they should subordinate themselves. It then argues that only the third is necessary for moral commitment, and explains why.


Spirituality, Morality, Social Order, Faith


Prof. Dr Mark O. Webb

Texas Tech University, Department of Philosophy

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