7 Sep 2022


Is Utilitarianism a Religious Doctrine?

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Moral philosophy entails several ethical theories and consequentialism is one such theory. Consequentialism observes that the moral value of an act is in the nature of the outcome. Within consequentialism is utilitarianism: a philosophy that advocates for actions that benefit the majority. Critics see utilitarianism as a godless philosophy for it rejects popular moral viewpoints. However, there are scholars contending that this element of moral philosophy observes religious doctrines, thereby making utilitarianism religious. 

Utilitarianism advocates for actions that result in the greatest benefits possible, which is a simplification of the theory. Philosophical scholars including practicing utilitarianists’ see several weaknesses in the use of the viewpoint. As this philosophy determines whether an action is good or otherwise because of outcomes, it does not consider the role of intent. Moreover, the bias towards outcomes presents morality scholars with several questions for which conclusive answers are elusive. However, there are scholars who contend that the Christian Bible offers solutions. For example, scholars assert the Bible exhibits the teleological elements of utilitarianism (Eggleston& Miller, 2014). Specifically, the Holy book exhibits a bias towards morality, though it uses deity and religious laws to effect morality. Again, the entire text of the Bible observes a bias towards a certain moral result. Religious and philosophical scholars both observe the effect of morals in motivating people to do moral acts, which they meet by having clear consequences affecting decisions made. Moreover, Christian scholars contend that the creation of morals by God aims to influence humanity towards a certain moral outcome. 

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The most prominent elements of utilitarianism are contentment and consequentialism. Likewise, the most prominent belief among Christians is God’s supreme desire for the happiness of humanity. Moreover, Christianity holds that the drive behind God’s creation of humanity is its attainment of happiness, which is attainable through morals. Utilitarianism promotes attaining happiness using morals, which implies that utilitarianism has a religious element(Eggleston& Miller, 2014).This disputes the critics’ assertion of utilitarianism as a godless viewpoint while making it compatible with Christianity. This assertion has one assumption: knowledge of the deity’s moral inclination towards the happiness of humanity. Consequently, utilitarianism observes that moral concepts originating from God are compatible with the viewpoints guidelines. Moreover, moral scholars, including Christian and utilitarian ones, advocate for the careful use of ethical doctrines to gain an understanding of God. 

Both utilitarianism and Christian ethics show a bias towards attaining happiness. However, there are several differences in the methods of advocating for happiness through morality. Firstly, utilitarianism has a bias towards overall contentment: at the cost of personal happiness (Amanze, Nkomazana & Kealotswe, 2010). Moreover, utilitarianism adopts an impartial approach towards morality, which is not compatible with the actual practice of morality where morality is subjective. Christian ethics espouse the practice of morals on both personal and societal levels and advocates for the spreading of Christianity to ensure happiness. In addition, Christian ethics consider intent in determining the decency of an act, which implies cognizance of the result as an uncontrollable element. Utilitarianism focuses on the outcome in determining the moral nature of an act: disregarding both intent and the inability to control outcomes. 


Utilitarianism principles face several legitimate criticisms. However, those contending the viewpoints recognition of a deity seem misplaced for there are several similarities between utilitarianism and Christian ethics negating such assertions. First, both ethical genres have a bias towards attaining happiness via the use of morals. Secondly, assuming that God favors the happiness of humanity, utilitarianism principles are compatible with Christianity. Lastly, both moral and Christian ethical scholars appreciate the effect of morals in attaining an understanding of God. 


Amanze, J., Nkomazana, F., & Kealotswe, O. N. (2010).  Biblical studies, theology, religion, and philosophy: An introduction for African universities . Eldoret, Kenya: Zapf Chancery. 

Eggleston, B., & Miller, D. E. (Eds.). (2014).  The Cambridge companion to utilitarianism . Cambridge University Press. 

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