It is simply impossible for people to be moral without religion or God.
—Laura Schlessinger (quoted in Zuckerman, 2008)
Religion in the Caribbean is as unique as its people. Like its culture, religion within the Caribbean region has been profoundly influenced by its colonization by European countries. This influence or infiltration was not only concentrated in the cultural and religious aspects and or beliefs but also extends to its moral thinking or morality.
Religion plays a crucial part in the Caribbean society as is evident by the number of religious denominations found in this region. These denominations are governed by rules and regulations regarding personal behavior known as doctrines by which the members abide. These doctrines are outlined and interpreted by various sources such as holy books, oral and written traditions, and religious leaders. In the Caribbean, there are a variety of religious denominations, but the most prevalent religion practiced is Christianity.
To understand whether there is a correlation between morality and religiosity, one needs to have a clear understanding as to what they both mean. When thinking of religiosity, the main word which surfaces is religion, however, religiosity can be defined as the degree to which an individual ascribes to a particular religious belief or engages in a religious activity (IGI Global). Morality, on the other hand, is seen as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or proper and inappropriate behavior or a particular system of values and beliefs of conduct.
Moral traditions cover a large area where religious traditions co-exist with non-spiritual value bases such as humanism, utilitarianism, among others. Many types of religious values can be found within the Caribbean region. Modern religions whose belief is based on the fact that there is only one God, use laws and rules set forth by God through the Holy Bible and as interpreted by religious leaders through the doctrines which are practiced within the respective faith to define right and wrong.
In this research, the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago was chosen. This island has numerous religious congregations/ denominations of which three of these were selected, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and a qualitative research method was used meaning that interview and group discussion was used.
The author will refer to two articles to justify the fact that indeed within the Caribbean society morality is aligned with religiosity:
In the article Between Public Policy and Private Morality: A Bioethical Analysis of Abortion and Legislative Reform it addresses relevant issues and perspectives on abortion and argues for clarity of concepts and understanding of the context in which a woman is pregnant and considers abortion. In the Caribbean Society, it is deemed to be wrong to put an end to another’s life, in other words, it is against morality to kill as one did not give life and should therefore not take a breath. This would not only include murder but also abortion as society views the act as being wrong because it destroys potential human life.
Abortion can be defined as the deliberate end to human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of gestation. In this instant morality can be viewed from a religious perspective and this link between the two can be seen. In the book of Exodus chapter 20:13 abortion has been linked to the fifth of the Ten Commandments ‘Thou shall not kill’. Some religions may make exceptions if abortion is essential to save the life of the mother (the ‘principle of double effect’), assuming all efforts have been made to save the fetus (BBC 2018). Others, however, may consider this to be murder because once a fetus is conceived, it is regarded as a life; thus the morality of abortion can be questioned. Why should one intentionally adhere to something wrong rather than do what is right? Although every woman goes through their challenges, their values and principles can be questioned with this act.
In the second article ‘Religiosity and attitudes toward homosexuals in the Caribbean region’ it is stated that ‘Trinidad is not the only Caribbean island where the clergy and the law express such homophobic sentiments.’ Caribbean society strongly believes in monogamous relationships meaning one man, one woman most specifically husband and wife. ‘A total of eleven Caribbean countries have similar laws criminalizing same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults.’ Homosexuality within the Caribbean society is highly frowned upon; they collectively express their outrage against the act. In some of these countries, heterosexual men have been known to even kill other men for looking at them in a ‘batty man’ way. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines homosexuality as relating or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire towards another of the same sex.
Concerning the Holy Bible, the in the book of 1st Corinthians 6:9 it states ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality’. In the Holy Bible, placed by the Gideons, the book of Leviticus also shows two references about homosexual activity. ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.’ (Leviticus 18:22). ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death; their blood guiltiness is upon them.’ (Leviticus 20:13).
Moral codes are derived from religion and morality, and religiosity is aligned. People use religious doctrines as guidelines on how-to live-in God’s eyes, they abide and adhere to the laws which are stipulated by God, they will do whatever is morally right. Anything that in one’s conscious that is wrong is considered immoral.
To conclude homosexuality and abortion are denounced not only by society but also by the Holy Bible which has written laws as to how God wants us to live. There is no morality without religiosity.