Religion, Morality, and the Professions in America

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Tue, 12/01/1992
End Date: 
Sun, 12/31/1995

Much professional life is rooted in traditional religious faith and practice, argued David H. Smith in exploring the role of religion within the professions. Aiming to clarify the religious dimensions of professional ethics, Smith and associates of the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at Indiana University, Bloomington, described the ethical contexts of the professions of business, medicine, law, ministry, journalism, higher education, and the military. Through seminars, literature reviews, field-work, and consultations, the study mapped religion and morality with reference to the professions in America.

The study concluded that (1) professional practice and generic features of religion share important analogies: professions have a religious dimension and have features resembling various characteristics of religious beliefs and practices; (2) particular religious traditions informs in various ways the professions as a whole; and (3) there is a connection between professional life and the common good construed in religiously informed terms. Hence the need for professional practices to be ordered by a larger vision, shaped by civic virtues, and a desire to contribute to the public sphere.