Religious teaching about ethics and normative ethical theory from philosophy both tend to have the same aim when applied to business, namely how to decide what is the right thing to do when faced with moral problems in commerce. Both are therefore focused on ensuring that business is responsible, avoids doing harm, and contributes to societal benefits. However, there are two main differences between the approaches:

Source of rules and principles. Religions typically invoke a deity or an organized system of belief as the source of determining right and wrong. Faith is considered the critical requisite for acting ethically. Philosophical theories, on the other hand, are based on the belief that human reason should drive ethics. Thus according to philosophical perspectives, rationality is the critical requisite for acting ethically.

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Consequences of morality and immorality. In religious teaching, there is an important element of spiritual consequence for the decision-maker. These consequences might include salvation, enlightenment, reincarnation, or damnation.

Of course, different religions often have very different things to say about how to go about achieving the goals of ethical business. One example of religious observance for followers of Judaism, for example, is specific periods of abstinence from economic activity. In Jerusalem, this has given rise to a long-running ‘Sabbath war’ between secular and orthodox residents over whether shops, cinemas, and bars should remain open on the Jewish day of rest. Islam also provides certain rules about appropriate business practices which has given rise to a distinct system of banking consistent with the principles of Sharia Law that forbid the charging of interest, part of a wider approach to Islamic finance


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