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Monday, April 18, 2016

Moral Relativism is Dead

Hey, good news! Did you know that moral relativism is dead? Or so we are told. Once touted as the biggest threat of postmodernism, they're now saying that it's no longer the case. As evidence, look at our "shame culture" where social media and social commentary is used to shame offenders into "being good". Look at the "Black Lives Matter", "Occupy Wall Street", and other movements. Look at Pay Pal, Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Cirque de Soleil's refusal to show up in North Carolina because their law is standing on the science that says that your gender is a matter of genes, not feelings. Oh, no, moral relativism is not alive and well. It's dead.

The Atlantic is pretty sure that moral relativism is dead because people are taking firm stands on what they believe is right. That means that it's not relative, right? Easy mistake, I suppose, except that this new version of morality is tethered purely to the feelings of the crowd and, therefore, by definition it is relative. Relative to the feelings of the crowd.

Take the North Carolina law. That one is tied to science. Science defines gender. They go with science. End of story. Take the Freedom of Religion laws passed lately. These are tied to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights says that Americans have a guaranteed free exercise of religion, so they go with the Constitution. End of story. The protesters in both of these cases are standing firmly on "That violates how we feel about the issue!" Relativism. One view says, "There are some things we can know (e.g., science, the Constitution, etc.), so we will stand on what we can know and question how we feel." The other view says, "We put ultimate confidence in the human ability to feel the truth and we will question claims that counter that." The first is empiricism; the second is relativism. Relativism makes "personhood" murky. "You can't define a fetus as a person ... but we can't exactly say when that changes ... so go ahead and kill that non-person if you want." Relativism makes the standard, longstanding, historically unchallenged definition of marriage foggy. "It is not only a man and a woman ... but it is also not a man and two (or more) women. It is what we feel like it is right now." The opposite of moral relativism might look to what we can know -- say, God's law -- and say, "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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10) The moral relativist will argue, "That's not what it means, you can't know what that means, and it is not in alignment with how we currently feel as a society, so it's wrong."

Moral relativism is not dead. It's actually just louder, more insistent, less tolerant. Instead of "right for you, not for me" like the older version, this one is going to require you to surrender your differing view, your science, your Bible, your historic context, your Constitution, and to knuckle under. "You don't want to participate? Too bad. We will strip you of your flower shop and your job and your freedoms because we are no longer wishy washy in our morality. We feel you're wrong, so you are."

Moral relativism is dead, long live moral relativism.


Marshall Art said...

Wow! I can't believe anyone would even dare make the argument that moral relativism is dead. Can the claim be made without dabbling in relativism to do so?

Stan said...

Atlantic magazine tried.