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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Problem of Morality

We all know it. There is a morality problem in our nation ... in our world. All I have to do is mention Harvey Weinstein and we will all nod and say, "That's a bad thing." We are constantly flooded with repeated and new accusations of sexual abuse and harassment and it just doesn't seem to end. It is positively immoral.

There is, however, a problem here. We are all in agreement that it is immoral while we aren't very much in agreement just what constitutes "immoral". The difficulty, you see, is that we can't agree on a definition of "morality." Do we mean "that which a society or group considers right or wrong" or are we referring to "absolute morality", the idea that some things are right and some things are wrong and these ethics apply to everyone regardless of the society's view on it? Is morality relative, depending on the feelings of the group in question, or is there objective morality?

Our society would argue, "No, there is no objective morality." You can see this pretty plainly from just looking at the large moral shifts of the last half century. "Marriage outside of sex is bad" to "sex outside of love is just fine", the rush to embrace homosexual behavior as good, the belief that women are best at home to the near certainty that women cannot be fulfilled in life if they are homemakers ... you must admit we've come a long way in a short time.

And herein lies our difficulty. We defend in the courts and in the streets the right to murder babies and then are shocked because some of those that weren't killed kill others. We know that the Weinsteins of our society are evil, rotten people while we embrace the open freedom of sexual interaction of any and all types. We love "free love," a euphemism for sex with or without love and hate "microaggression" even when we can't really define it or see it. We have set up a moral system -- the morality that is defined as "that which society holds as right and wrong" -- that is schizophrenic and then land firmly on one point (that happens to stand in opposition to other firmly held points) as "wrong, wrong, wrong!" And we suggest that we have the moral high ground.

Christianity has always held that right and wrong are determined by the Ultimate Lawgiver. It is only in this type of structure that "right and wrong" have any genuine footing and, therefore, any useful meaning. It isn't surprising, then, that as our world shoves that concept out the door, we are seeing an embrace of the relative morality that contradicts itself and bears little resemblance to any sense of "right and wrong". Why are we having these problems these days? It's not guns or sexual abuse or poor parenting. It's our rejection of the Creator and His solution to our problem. Guns don't kill people; sinners do. Men aren't sexual predators; sinners are. And the double-minded morality we carry about these days just serve to distract us from the real problem and God's answers.


Craig said...

I find it strange that those who insist that there is no objective or absolute morality, are the same ones who insist that the things they care about be treated as if those things are objectively wrong.

These same folks argue that morals are decided by societal conventions, yet won’t acknowledge the reality that other societies have reached different conclusions, and that by their own definition, those conclusions are moral.

For example, people argue that slavery is wrong, yet if a society concludes that slavery is appropriate then (by the common definition) slavery is moral for that society.

The question becomes, “Why isn’t morality an individual decision?”. Because it’s possible that society is wrong.

It’s really one more self-refuting position.

Stan said...

The self-contradictions seem to keep coming.

"You need to be tolerant of opposing views and we will not tolerate your opposition."

"It's wrong to be certain that you're right and I'm certain that I'm right."

"Morality is determined by society and if you disagree, you're on the wrong side of history. Of course, we've often been on the wrong side of history because morality is constantly on the move and we don't seem to be able to keep up, but we're quite certain AT THE MOMENT that our beliefs are absolute morality."

And on and on ...

Craig said...

What makes this so difficult is the fact that this is an important question, and a question that needs to be asked and discussed. Unfortunately, asserting a subjective society dependent definition of morality as an objective fact is a huge problem. So is, asserting the subjective nature of morality, while denying the fact that other societies have a different (and by definition equally valid) moral code.

It’s hard to have a serious conversation about a position that is self refuting and inherently contradictory.

Anonymous said...

Online I can only find evidence of one school shooting in Japan. Divorce rates in Japan are higher than decades ago, but still lower than in the US. What are they doing right over there? Is it a religious thing? (They are mostly Shinto and Buddhist, just 1.5% Christian.)

Stan said...

"Is it a religious thing?"

I would have to guess that you're unfamiliar with Christianity, since biblical Christianity forbids divorce and has no room for "school shootings". (I also find it amusing that someone would attribute an improved society to religion, since the standard, albeit false thinking is "All wars are the result of religion.")

I think, on the other hand, that you have your finger on a reasonable question. We have an increase in school shootings. What has changed? Guns? No, there have always been guns. What, then? I think if we can answer that (and I believe there are reasonable answers) we might be closer to seeing the real problem.

Marshal Art said...


Does it have be a school shooting, or will any example of mass murder do? Try googling "mass murder in Japan".

I would suppose that Japan's policies regarding immigration might have something to do with their culture resulting in fewer incidents of carnage. Everyone is pretty much on the same page culturally speaking. Just one possibility. The point is that it is foolish to compare nations considering all the various differences between them. Our issues are our own, and while I don't have a problem with looking elsewhere per se, I believe we must deal with our own issues in our own way based on that which caused them, which might have no parallel elsewhere.

Craig said...

You’ve chosen (cherry picked) two indicators with no context and concluded that religion explains them, I wonder why you think there is a correlation. Are you suggesting that Buddhism and Shinto place a high value on marriage?

Anonymous said...

Craig uses the word "concluded," but if he would read my brief comment more carefully he would see I was merely asking a question. I might also ask if Japan's average IQ of 106 leads to a more civilized society.

As for "cherry picking," I haven't looked at other statistics like shoplifting and car theft and bank robbery, but my guess is that Japan has us beat in those as well. If anyone can find stats on a variety of things and would present them here, I'd be obliged.

Anyway, if the citizenry serving the correct God is crucial to maintaining a smoothly functioning society, how would things work out this way?

Marshal Art said...

But that's just it, Anon. This citizenry isn't exclusively serving the One True God, and in too many cases, not serving Him at all.

I wouldn't doubt that average IQ might explain something about comparative crime rates. One would think that really smart people would never commit crimes...unless they thought themselves so smart they wouldn't get caught (Yakuza, perhaps?).

Craig said...

First, you’re assuming that Japan is more civilized. Second, you single out religion as a possible cause without any sense of the tenets of those religions or how serious the populace is about those religions. Third, you assume that serving the correct god, is something that applies across the breadth of a society.

FYI, Buddhism is non theistic (therefore serving no god) and Shinto is animistic (again removing the correct god hypothesis from serious consideration).

Maybe you should try your theorizing on Islam and see what you conclude.

Stan said...

This isn't rocket science, anonymous. America has been gradually rejecting Christian values and virtue since the 1960's. As they've moved away from Christian values, they've moved toward non-Christian values like sex as recreation and glorifying murdering babies (two very obvious but quite limited examples). As a result, America has become certainly less Christian and obviously less moral, tending instead to morals built on societal preferences rather than any absolute morality ... the point of the post.

Why you pick Japan I'm not sure. They're the ones, if you recall, who, based on their values system, invaded China and all the surrounding nations and caused a war in the Pacific. Not a school shooting, perhaps, but I think it was certainly not exactly virtue that drove it.

Craig said...

Yrs, let’s look at what Japanese traditional societal values actually produced in terms of actions, let’s also consider that racism is both a historical and current Japanese societal value.

Anonymous said...

Certainly the history of violence in conservative Islamic states is horrific.

But how should we process Northern Ireland's Catholic/Protestant violence?

Stan said...

And, again ... what's your point? The question was the difficulty of determining "moral" without any actual morality. You're asking about Japanese and Irish. I am not able to follow.

Craig said...

Maybe one way to process the violence in Ireland is to acknowledge the fact that the “Protestant” side is the English government (pretty much literally) and to acknowledge that it’s nit a war about religious differences as much as one about political differences.

But, as Stan pointed out, what’s your point. Your original attempt to use non theistic religious to make a point about theistic religions went nowhere. Your choice to ignore the other possible factors in your Japan analogy, and keep changing the subject are just strange.

Anonymous said...

My point:
If morality stems from having the correct beliefs about a true god as Stan asserts, there ought to be a correlation between average behavior in a society and what percentage of that society worships the true god. And that should shine through even in cases of what Craig calls "political differences," because a real god should be an overcomer of such nationalistic issues.

Do any of you see such a correlation?

Stan said...

Yes, I see such a correlation. You seemed to skip right over my comment on 2/24/2018 7:43 AM where I gave an example of such a correlation. You also seem to skip right over your own condition statements. No society worships the true God. Individuals do. Today's America certainly doesn't. And your "real god" who will dismember "nationalistic issues" isn't one I know of. You appear to think that a "real god" allows no free will, disagreement, or conflict among that god's realm. I have not referred to that god.

You obviously don't believe in God, obviously don't believe the assertion that in order to have a universal morality, you have to have a universal Lawgiver. That must mean that you believe in relative morality and, as such, have nothing at all to say about morality for anyone but yourself. Right?