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Flashcards in Issues of Good and Evil Deck (30):

How do people make moral decisions?

Conscience (assessing right choice)
Free will.
Past experience
The law
Religious leaders/ teachings


Types of morality

Absolute: when a person has a view and never alters it for example, “Do not kill”

Relative: when a person holds a moral principle but is prepared to adapt or adjust in certain situations.


What is a crime vs sin?

Crime: An offence that is punishable by law.
Sin- deliberate immoral action, breaking religious or moral law
Although many sins can be punished by law, many sins are not considered crimes in modern society e.g it is against the 10 commandments to commit adultery or work on a Sunday however, it is not punishable by law.
Sinful behaviour leads to personal suffering, offending God, excommunication (being cut off) from the church or exclusion from heaven.
Shari’ah law- Muslims who openly go against accepted religious codes can receive punishments.


What are the aims of punishment?

What are the aims of punishment?
People are punished for a purpose. Often the aims of a punishment overlap, eg the death penalty aims to protect the public from the individual who has committed a specific crime whilst deterring others from committing similar acts. There are six recognised aims of punishment:

deterrence - punishment should put people off committing crime
protection - punishment should protect society from the criminal and the criminal from themselves
reformation - punishment should reform the criminal
retribution - punishment should make the criminal pay for what they have done wrong
reparation - punishment should compensate the victim(s) of a crime
vindication - the punishment makes sure that the law is respected


Why people commit crime

There are many theories to explain why people commit crime, but there is general agreement on how people become criminals. Criminal behaviour fits into one, or more than one, of these categories:

criminal behaviour can be caused by a person's free choice
criminal behaviour can be caused by a person's environment, eg a broken home or failure at school could be a catalyst for the change to becoming a criminal
criminal behaviour can seem like the only option for a person if they are unable to conform to society
criminal behaviour can develop through being associated with other criminals



Justice: fairness
For justice to truly be achieved, the punishment must address the cause of the crime and reflect the severity of the crime.


The prison system

In Britain it is at breaking point. Prison numbers have never been so high and the numbers of criminals reoffending are high. Something is not working!
Prison protects society. Criminals can reflect on their actions and potentially reform. Prison can be a deterrent.
However, many prisoners reoffend. 46% are reconvicted within a year of release. It is difficult to get a job with a criminal record. Many prisoners educate each other on criminal methods in prisons.


Christian views on punishment and justice

Christianity teaches that sin is a part of human nature and that all people have the potential to commit a crime. This is shown in the story of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis, when they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit.

Many Christians believe that the Bible teaches the difference between right and wrong. Following God's will leads people to the right path; ignoring God's will leads to disaster.

A typical set of guidelines from the Bible is the Ten Commandments. Christians should follow these guidelines to be good people. This belief is emphasised in the gospel books such as John:

Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.
1 John 3:10
Christianity also teaches that:

People should be treated fairly.
God wants the world to be ruled justly.
Many crimes treat people unfairly. Punishments ensure that justice is done.

Christians do not believe in taking revenge when they have been wronged. They believe that they should forgive the sins of others, in the same way that they believe God forgives them for their sins.

Christians look to the example of Jesus, who taught the importance of forgiveness:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22

Christians believe in justice and therefore Christians believe that criminals should be treated justly. They follow the example of Jesus, who taught that Christians should reform sinners and not be judgemental in their attitude:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Matthew 7:3
As well as reform, some Christians would consider protection and deterrence to be important aims of punishment. These help to ensure safety in society. They would also believe criminals should be treated justly while in prison, and be given the opportunity to reform.

Some Christians consider Old Testament teachings to be as important as New Testament teachings and therefore they may believe that retribution is an important aim of punishment. They may think that criminals should be treated in a way that reflects the crime they have committed.


Muslim attitudes to punishment and justice

Muslims believe in the sanctity of life and therefore they do not think anybody has the right to disrespect human life.

Justice is an important teaching in Islam. The Qur'an teaches Muslims to:

Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor.
Qur'an 4:135
Shari'ah law
Islamic law sets out how Muslims should behave in order to live the life that Allah intends them to live, in harmony with others and their environment. If a person breaks a law it is seen as going against the principles and rulings set by the Qur'an and Sunnah. Some countries have legal systems based on Shari'ah Law, eg Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Most Muslims believe that if a person commits a crime they should be punished by law, but they will also have to answer to Allah on the Day of Judgement.

Muslims believe in justice and therefore believe that criminals should be treated justly and be given the chance to reform. One of the Five Pillars of Islam is zakah, which requires all Muslims to give away a percentage of their wealth to help the poor, to ensure a level of justice and equality. This principle should be applied to the treatment of criminals.

However, some very harsh punishments are given in the Qur'an and Hadith, and some Muslims believe that appropriate retaliation should be carried out against those whose guilt is proven. Traditional Shari'ah Law, for example, suggests that those who steal should have a hand cut off, although such a harsh penalty would only be justified for the most serious crimes and only after trial in a Shari'ah court.


Prison reform

John Howard- late 18th century raised that prisons were diseased, dirty and corrupt. He recommended improvement to Parliament. He asked for clean water, separate cells for men and women, access to doctors and prison support to ensure safety of inmates.
Elizabeth Fry- 19th Century. Prison reformer. She taught female prisoners to read and write.
Services now available: drug rehab, education, chaplains, counselling, training for work.


Care for prisoners- chaplains

Traditionally a chaplain is a minister, such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, Imam or community member from a religious group. They are attached to non religious institutions like a hospital, school, university or prison to provide pastoral care. Your year team provide you with pastoral care - they worry about your well being and welfare.
Their Role - They have a demanding and essential role, providing counselling, supporting them through rehabilitation, and seeing to their spiritual and sometimes religious needs. Prisoners have to deal with a complex mixture of emotions and needs during their sentence, fear, loneliness, guilt and concern about family. Chaplains help prisoners to reintegrate with the community, working with parole officers and other volunteers.
Family members have access to the chaplains also to help them cope with their loved one's incarceration.


The Death Penalty

Arguments For:
Execution offers protection from dangerous criminals
life sentences are too short
The criminally insane cannot be reformed
Prison is very expensive especially for life terms
There has to be an ultimate punishment
It is the only way for victims to experience closure
Better DNA testing

Arguments Against:
Innocent people have been executed
It does not deter murders
Forgiveness is important
It is still murder
Only god has the right to end life
It disproportionately affects members of certain racial groups
The government should be a force for good
Against human rights


Christian views on the death penalty

Some Christians argue that capital punishment helps to maintain order and protection in society. They would say this because:

The Bible sets down the death penalty for some crimes, so it must be acceptable to God. This is often seen as retribution.
The Church of England has not repealed the statement in Article 37 of its Thirty Nine Articles which says: The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.
St Thomas Aquinas argued that peace in society was more important than reforming the sinner. He reflects the Roman Catholic Church's teaching that the protection of the whole of society is more important than the individual.
Christian arguments against capital punishment
Some Christians would argue that capital punishment can never be justified. They would say this because:

They believe Jesus Christ came to Earth to reform sinners, as he did with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11.
Jesus amended the Old Testament teaching on retribution in Matthew 5:38-39 when he said: You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
Christians believe in the sanctity of life, that life is holy and belongs to God and therefore only God has the power to take life. In Romans 12:17-19 it states: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody … Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to revenge; I will repay, says the Lord'.


Muslim views on the death penalty

Muslims accept that the death penalty is a punishment established by God in the Qur'an:

...Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom.
Qur'an 6:151
This verse teaches that although murder is considered a sin, it is acceptable to use capital punishment when required by law.

Other reasons Muslims may accept the death penalty include:

The Prophet Muhammad sentenced people to death for murder.
Shari'ah law states that the punishment for murder, adultery and denying Islam is the death penalty.
Muslim arguments against capital punishment
Some Muslims may argue against capital punishment for the following reasons:

Although capital punishment is allowed in the Qur'an they do not think it is compulsory.
Shari'ah law states that the family of a murder victim can accept money as reparation rather than enforce the death penalty.
They believe that only Allah has the right to take life, and therefore carrying out the death penalty is 'playing God' and committing the sin of shirk.


Arguments for Britain using the death penalty

In 2010 Jonathan Vass murdered his ex-girlfriend Jane Clough, after he was released on bail for raping her. He was jailed for 30 years.
Myles Williams was convicted for murder of his girlfriend. He had previously been arrested for violently dragging her along the street, but was released on bail.
Nathan McLeod murdered a 15 year old in May 2011 for a mobile phone. Earlier that day he had been granted bail before being accused of attacking a gas man with a bread knife.



To grant pardon for wrong doing; to give up resentment and the desire to seek revenge.
Reconciliation- accepting an apology, forgiving and moving forward together in harmony.
All religions have clear teachings about forgiveness. It isn’t always easy it needs to be worked at over time. It can’t be taught, it needs to be learnt through human experience.


Christian views on forgiveness

Forgiveness is a very important teaching in Christianity. There are many accounts and examples in the Bible which tell Christians about forgiveness. Christians are expected to follow these teachings.

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."
Matthew 18:21-22
This outlines the idea that forgiveness is not a one-time action. If someone asks for forgiveness over and again, then it is the duty of an individual to forgive them.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the teaching on forgiveness is continued, with Christ making it clear that in order to be forgiven, humans must forgive others:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins
Matthew 6:14-15
Christians must forgive the sins of others in order for God to forgive them their sins.
The Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer, in which Jesus taught about forgiveness, is one of the most important prayers in Christianity. It is the responsibility of humanity to forgive sins, as Jesus gave the disciples the commandment to go out, teach and forgive sins.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
John 20:23
Just as God sent his Son to forgive sins, so Jesus has passed that commandment on to his followers.


Muslim views on forgiveness

Islamic teachings about forgiveness are found in verses in the Qur'an, which strongly encourage Muslims to forgive wrongdoing.

The term used to forgive people who have done wrong is 'to pardon', just as Allah will forgive people on the Day of Judgement for things which they have done.

Muslims believe no person is perfect, and everyone is capable of wrongdoing and deserves forgiveness.

O you who have believed, indeed, among your spouses and your children are enemies to you, so beware of them. But ... if you pardon and overlook and forgive - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Qur'an 64:14
And whatever strikes you of disaster - it is what your hands have earned; but he pardons much.
Qur'an 42:30


Good, evil and suffering

Good- something that is morally right, beneficial and to our advantage.
Free will- the ability to make choices voluntarily and independently. The belief that nothing is predetermined.


Christian views on good and evil

Christianity teaches:

God has given people free will – the ability to choose between right and wrong for themselves. God has shown people how they should live (eg the Ten Commandments (a list of religious and moral rules that were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai); Jesus’ life and teaching), but it is up to them to decide whether or not to follow God’s instructions.
The story of humanity’s battle with good and evil is told in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve chose to disobey God by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is called the Fall.
Some people believe that as a result of Adam and Eve’s first sins, each human is born with a tendency towards evil. This is called Original Sin.
As well as a power for good there is also a power for evil. Traditionally this is said to be Satan, one of the archangels who disobeyed God and was thrown out of heaven (Luke 10:18). In the form of a serpent, Satan tempted Eve to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted Job, and also tempted Jesus to give up his ministry.
Some people say that they have been possessed by demons and people try to ‘exorcise’ these demons. There are examples in the New Testament of occasions when Jesus drove out demons.
Some people no longer see evil as a ‘person’ or ‘being’. St Augustine in the fourth century suggested that evil is ‘an absence of good’. Therefore, if enough people do good, evil would be removed. Some people think of evil as a psychological or emotional problem, that no one is inherently evil, but circumstances can lead them to become so.
When Jesus came to earth (the Incarnation), human beings were given a chance to escape everlasting punishment after death by following the teachings of Jesus and asking God’s forgiveness for their sins.
Jesus died on the cross (the Crucifixion) and in this way the broken relationship between God and humanity caused by sin was restored. This is called the Atonement.
Jesus rose from the dead three days after he had been crucified. This is called the Resurrection. From that time onwards people who follow his teachings will go to heaven. Jesus explained this to his disciples at the Last Supper:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’

Matthew 26:26-28

When the Eucharist is celebrated, Christians remind themselves of Jesus’ actions and the fact that because of his sacrifice they are forgiven by God.


Muslim views on good and evil

Everyone is born with a natural instinct to understand the difference between right and wrong (fitrah). They also have free will, and they must choose between right (the guidance of Allah) and wrong (following the temptations of Shaytan, the devil).
Allah created angels (mala’ikah) from divine light (nur). From fire he made other spirits called Jinn. He then made the first human, Adam, from clay.
Allah ordered all the angels and Jinn to bow down to Adam. Iblis, one of the Jinn, refused. "'O Iblis! What is your reason for not being among those who prostrated themselves?’ (Iblis) said: 'I am not one to prostrate myself to man, whom Thou didst create from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape.' (Allah) said, 'Then get thee out from here; for thou are rejected, accursed. And the curse shall be on thee till the Day of Judgement.'"
Iblis, who is sometimes called Shaytan, said that forever he would try to tempt humans to chose wrong rather than right.
Although Iblis is allowed to test a Muslim’s faith he is not equal to Allah and he cannot hurt people unless Allah allows him to: "Shaytan cannot harm them in the least, except as Allah permits; and on Allah let the believers put their trust."
Muhammad warned Muslims: "Beware of Shaytan, he is desperate to divert you from the worship of Allah, so beware of him in matters of religion"
For Muslims life is a period of testing and temptations. People have to find their own solutions to these problems. Allah has said that he will forgive anyone who sincerely repents, as he forgave Adam and Hawwa (Eve) when they were tempted by Shaytan and ate the forbidden fruit in Al-Jannah (paradise):

If, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

Surah 2:38

Muslims are required to follow Allah’s example of justice, mercy and forgiveness in their treatment of other people:

Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.

Surah 7:199



Evil is something that is viewed to be considered extremely immoral, wicked and wrong.
Moral evil- result of human actions and caused by humans acting in a way that is considered morally wrong.
Natural evil- events that have nothing to do with humans, and which are to do with how the world is, for example natural disasters.



Suffering- pain or distress caused by injury, illness or loss. Suffering can be physical, emotional/psychological or spiritual.
Natural suffering- caused by events beyond human control
Human suffering- caused by the actions of humans being- murder, rape, terrorism.


Christian views on suffering

Many Christians believe that evil is the result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. God punished Adam and Eve for their actions, and the punishment was to endure suffering in life. This is known as 'the fall'.

Some Christians believe that all people inherited the tendency to sin from Adam and Eve. This belief is called original sin. According to this belief, all humans are born with a tendency towards evil and the ability to cause suffering.

In Genesis it states:

...the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth.
Genesis 8: 21
Most Christians also believe that as well as a power for good (God) there is also a power for evil. Christians refer to the power for evil as Satan or the Devil. Satan is traditionally thought to have been an archangel who disobeyed God and so was thrown out of heaven.


Muslim views on suffering

Islam teaches that a knowledge of right and wrong is intrinsic to human nature. Muslim teachings say that individuals should know, without having to be informed, which actions are evil and will contribute to the suffering of others, and which actions are good. This inner sense of right and wrong is called fitrah.

In The Last Sermon(or Farewell Speech), the Prophet Muhammad warned Muslims about Shaytan:

Beware of Shaytan, he is desperate to divert you from the worship of Allah, so beware of him in matters of religion.
The Last Sermon or Farewell Speech of the Prophet
Most Muslims believe they have free will in the sense that they are responsible for everything they do in a particular situation. They must choose between right, using the guidance of Allah, and wrong, following the temptations of the Devil. However, most Muslims do not believe they have absolute free will, as Allah can intervene in their lives at any moment.

Many Muslims believe that suffering can be caused by the selfishness and evil of human beings which leads to bad decisions. They can overcome suffering in their own lives and help to ease the suffering of others by following Allah's path. This path is set out in the Qur'an and in the Sunnah.


Humanist views on suffering

It’s not a punishment or a test.
Humans have a degree of choice and control over their lives and must take responsibility for how they turn out.
Some evils (war, famine, poverty) are made worse by human greed. Some suffering happens just because that is how the world is (floods, earthquakes etc)
The idea of original sin is cruel and unjust. They don’t think humans are flawed and sinful. It is up to humans to fight evil and suffering.


The Holocaust

Literally means “burnt offering”
Referred to as Shoah “catastrophe”
1933-1945, Jews experienced prolonged persecution.
Resulted in the murder of over 6 million Jews and up to 13 million people in total (Black people, gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, disabled, handicapped, elderly, prisoners of war).
“The fact that there are Holocaust survivors who, after all they endured, can still keep faith, is itself, the greatest miracle of all” (Rabbi)


The problem of evil and suffering

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not stable?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able but not willing?
Then he is malevolent
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence come evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?


Christian views on the problem of evil and suffering

How do Christians respond to evil and suffering?
Most Christians believe that there are two main ways to respond to evil and suffering in the world:

Christians should pray either that God will remove the causes of evil or that he should help Christians to bear evil and suffering.

If a person has committed a moral evil, eg murder, a Christian would not believe it their place to judge, but they would trust that God would punish the person for his/her action.

Christians should follow Jesus' example in life. This means that they should help those who are suffering, through their actions.

There are teachings which make it clear how Christians should respond to suffering and evil. The parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46, in which Jesus returns to reward all those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, and cared for the sick, teaches Christians to care for those who are suffering.

Jesus' message here is that by ignoring a sick or hungry person, a Christian would be ignoring Jesus himself.

Christians are also taught in the words of the Lord's Prayer to forgive others just as they have been forgiven.


Muslim views on the problem of evil and suffering

Many Muslims believe they are only on this earth for a short time, and this life is a test from Allah where they must endure evil and suffering as preparation for Paradise.

In the Qur'an Allah says that he will forgive anyone who sincerely repents, just as he forgave Adam and Eve when they were tempted by Shaytan and ate the forbidden fruit:

If, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
Qur'an 2:38
This quotation from the Qur'an shows how Adam and all his descendants are expected to follow Allah's guidance, and they have the ability to do this by relying on fitrah. If they do this they will have nothing to fear in the afterlife.

Muslims are also expected to follow Allah's example of justice, mercy and forgiveness in their treatment of other people:

Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.
Qur'an 7:199
Therefore, Muslims believe that when they see people who are suffering, they should treat them with mercy. When they see evil actions, they should ensure that justice is done.

Since they believe that Allah is in overall control, Muslims often try to see a purpose in suffering. They sometimes understand it as Allah's way of educating them, or as retribution for a wrong they have committed, or as a test. If they respond with patience and remain firm in their faith, they will have increased reward in the afterlife. For some Muslims, the test of suffering is perceived as a blessing.