Friday, April 29, 2005

Moral Relativism: A Quick Comment

"OMFSerge" at Imago Dei has promised to respond to my comments on his statements about our web site, the MCPS curriculum, and moral relativism. Really, he was too easy to criticize, because he didn't make a case at all. He made an assumption that "moral relativism" is some terrible philosophical conundrum, and then tried to twist the curriculum's wording to show that MCPS is ... morally relativistic.

But this idea of moral relativism is kind of interesting. The phrase is an accusatory one that people of faith use to describe people who seem to believe that right and wrong are different for different people. Their faith tells them that there is only one source of the distinction between good and evil, and that source just happens to be the god that they believe in. As they argue, if everybody gets to make up their own version of morality, then right and wrong don't really exist, they are meaningless concepts.

Now, we could argue, I'm sure, till doomsday about the details of good and evil, right and wrong, and morality and human values in general. I don't think anybody's going to win that argument.

Here's the way out of the conundrum -- and yes, it is a conundrum, just not a philosophical one, it is a practical one.

An example. Before the United States attacked Iraq, George W. Bush and Pat Robertson were sitting together in a room, praying and talking. And Pat says, "Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties." Because, as he said later, "The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy." But according to Pat Robertson, Bush said, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties." (Bush Predicted No Iraq Casualties, Robertson Says.)

So, there you have two men who listen to God, and God is telling each of them something different. You have to note that these are two guys who worship the same god, in very similar ways. Now imagine how it would have been if, say, the Dalai Lama were in the room. Or the Ayatollah Khomeini. What would God have said to Mahatma Ghandi, or Mother Theresa? I know he was telling the Rev. Jesse Jackson something else again.

For the sake of argument, let's say that right-and-wrong do come directly from God. The next question is going to be -- whose god does it come from?

Here's the answer we're getting from the religious right these days: it's the majority's god.

How do ya think Jesus would have felt about that? Did he say something like, Blessed are the numerous, for they shall outshout softer voices? No, of course it's absurd to think that God's will is determined by popular vote. Yet religious groups are up to here in American politics, influencing votes and even corporate decision-making in an effort to implement "God's will" across the land.

At this time, in Montgomery County especially, we have a society with very many points of view, and a public school system that teaches all of them. Even if the only judge of good and evil is God, we don't have any way of deciding whose god will be the official one. Is it the one who says that homosexuality is an abomination, or the one who says that we should judge not? Is it the one who urges war on sin, or the one who soothes and urges detachment, saying that all mortal life is an illusion?

There's one other thing about this moral relativism business. It does not seem reasonable to me that an all-knowing God would want His people to go around being disrespectful of the rest of the human race. They may pity them, but I don't really think He wants His believers to think of the rest as fools. The moral relativistic argument presumes that unbelievers are incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, unable to make moral choices. Yet there are very many people who do not worship the Evangelistic Protestant Christian God but are very concerned about morality, about issues of right and wrong, good and evil. Among these are people who make very fine distinctions, who spend most of their time considering the morality of behaviors, who have very well-considered and self-consistent structures and processes for the interpretation of morality. Are these people simply wasting their time?

I don't think so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, now that's hilarious. The DEFINITION of a moral relativist is someone who thinks right and wrong are different for different people, and you describe this site as exactly that at the beginning of your post.

May 02, 2005 9:54 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Yes, because the concept of "moral relativism" is a false one, used to justify the domination of one group's belief system over all others. Who's system of right-and-wrong is correct? Let me guess -- it's yours.

No, it's mine.

May 02, 2005 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're all a bunch of freaks

June 29, 2005 11:45 AM  

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