chapter  1
Religious Meaning, Practical Reason and Values
ByDavid Carr
Pages 11

What, then, could we have in mind in speaking of religious values? We might say that John handed in the lost wallet because he is honest, and honesty is one of his religious values. But, to begin with, it is not obvious that honesty is always and anywhere a religious value: since Marxists, atheists or agnostics may be equally, if not more, honest, honesty is not especially a quality of religious believers. More strongly, the idea that someone’s honesty follows from his or her religious convictions may seem actually objectionable – if, for example, it suggests that an agent only behaves honestly because (say) a particular divine commandment says that he or she should. Indeed, if people only behave honestly because their god (or God) tells them to, we might want to say that they are not really behaving honestly at all. Arguably, there is something of the same trouble here as there is with any ‘extrinsic’ account of morality or virtue. Thus, we may object to familiar ‘contractarian’ theories of ethics – those that seek to justify (say) honest conduct in terms of some hope or expectation that others may see the social wisdom or prudence of reciprocating – that such prudence is not really honesty either. To be really honest, we might say, is rather to see the intrinsic moral value of honesty: to recognise that it is something worthwhile for its own sake irrespective of any extrinsic individual or social ‘pay-off ’.