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Utilitarianism – Christianity sample essay

“Utilitarianism is not compatible with a religious approach to ethics” To what extent is this a fair statement? Ultimately utilitarianism is a way of improving the lives of most people, and religious ethics also aims to act out of compassion and love to improve the lives of others. For example, Christianity has certain rules that benefit those in society. We know that they work as many of those rules are tied in with the laws of the country.

For instance, Murder and stealing are both illegal and you can be punished if you do either. Parts of Mill’s theory of rule utilitarianism can be applied to religious ethics. For example Mill compared the principle of utility to these Christian teachings, “you must love your neighbour as yourself.” And “do to others as you would have them do to you.” In rule utilitarianism it looks at care for the individual and therefore this would support these Christian teachings as that is a very loving thing to do. However, Bentham’s theory of Act Utilitarianism would not be supported by any Christian theories as it promotes finding pleasure, even if by finding pleasure it means you act immorally.

For example, if there was a room full of about 20 people, all of those people hated one person in the group. Bentham’s theory would justify the killing of that person as it brings about the greatest pleasure for the greatest number, but Christians would be totally against that as it breaks the 6th commandment, “thou shall not kill.” This statement could be seen as unfair as bringing about pleasure for the greatest number of people could count as the most loving thing to do, “agape” in Christian’s eyes.

It would be the most loving thing to do for the greatest number of people, however it could target individuals and that would break the teaching, “love thy neighbour.” Overall Utilitarianism is not compatible with a religious approach to ethics as some actions, for example murder, would be considered wrong no matter what the circumstance, especially for Orthodox and Catholic Christians.

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