what life?

Asked any question and more often than we might care to admit we immediately respond to the query with little if any serious thought or consideration. Seldom do we question the question, consider exactly what is being asked, or whether the question is a reasonable one. And rarely do we pause and question whether it includes dubious or unwarranted presuppositions.

Clean Water?

Clean Water?

So if asked “Is religion needed for a moral life?” how would or should you respond? Is the question a reasonable one, does it make sense, and does it use verifiable facts or justifiable assumptions? Perhaps the best way of responding is by examining a similarly phrased question, “Is sunlight needed for clean water?

The first question we should ask is whether the question is a reasonable one, is it based on clear, unambiguous facts or assumptions. If so, do we have a clear understanding of those facts or assumptions, such as what is meant by “clean water?” If the qualifying adjective “clean” is removed does the question “Is sunlight needed for water?” still make sense or nonsense? If we substitute anything for “sunlight” does it make sense or nonsense? How about “Is moonlight needed for clean water?” or “Is hydrogen need for clean water?

What does the question imply by limiting it to only clean water? What about muddy, murky, dirty, poisoned, contaminated, or even salt water? And precisely what are the qualities that determine whether water is indeed “clean”. How pure and unadulterated must water, in which a single molecule in its purest form is comprised of two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to a single oxygen atom, be to be considered clean? Is it clear as mud now?

Returning to the original question, we can apply the same logical dissection to it to determine whether the question is reasonable and based on clear, unambiguous facts or assumptions. Does removing the qualifier “moral” significantly alter the intent of and your response to the question: “Is religion needed for a life?

What? Wait a minute? What kind of nonsensical question is that?

Precisely what is “moral” and who gets to define it? In general terms morality is defined as the disjunction between right and wrong. Similarly, Jesus said “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”[1] He was speaking of a moral code, a morality that clearly delineated between right and wrong, good and evil, righteousness and sin. And therein lays the problem concerning morality for it is so loosely defined and therefore ambiguous. And virtually everyone defines it differently.

Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any set of moral standards or principles. So what exactly is meant or implied by the term “a moral life?

And then we should ask, “What life?Life encompasses many different forms, so is it human, animal, plant, viral, bacterial life, or something else or all of them that we must consider?  If not just human life then doesn’t that make the question questionable at best and nonsensical at worst?

So if morality is in the eye of the beholder, how can we distinguish what is truly right and what is wrong? Is there no objective moral code possible? We’ll discuss that next week.


[1] Mk 2:17.


About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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