Kate Cohen’s May 2 op-ed, “Don’t equate religion with morality,” on the fusion of religion and morality in context with today’s political environment, raised some interesting questions. The United States has made obeisance to a superior being paramount: Our money extols “In God We Trust”; our pledge has “one nation under God”; and our Congress opens its sessions with a prayer by a priest, rabbi or minister. 

The Holy Bible, Judaic and Christian, like our Constitution, is an elastic document that can be interpreted in many ways to support just about anyone’s views on morality and justice. In the antebellum South, slave owners referred to the Ephesians verse that said, “Slaves, obey your masters.” Homophobes point to Leviticus as reason to condemn homosexuality. And I, for one, refuse to wear clothes made of wool and linen woven together because it is forbidden in Deuteronomy. 

As for the necessary splicing of religion and morality, perhaps the great science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said it best: “The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”

Otts Laupus, Elkridge

Kate Cohen had it backward when she wrote, “People bring their morality to their religious texts; they don’t get their morality from them.” Of course, we all bring our various biases to every human endeavor; that is unavoidable. But we do not enter the world equipped with moral values; we learn them — every single one of us — from religious scripture of some kind. Directly or indirectly. 

Every American child will at some point know and understand the lessons imparted by the parable of the Good Samaritan, regardless of whether he or she attends church/synagogue/mosque/temple. Those adults who give generously when natural disasters strike and people are in need do so not because human beings are naturally kind and compassionate. We aren’t. Their giving is learned behavior, taught to them directly or indirectly by this same parable. I cannot think of a single moral imperative regarding human behavior that does not have its source in religious scripture of some kind. 

For Ms. Cohen to state that the higher ethical and moral values “exist not because of religion but independent of it” overlooks the fact that religion (via religious scripture) is the original source (and, some would argue, the exclusive source) of all human understanding of what is good and what is not good human behavior.  

Joel B. Anthony, Burke