Without Googling it, please read the following statement and tell me if you agree with it or not.

“Then I learned that all moral judgments are value judgments, that all value judgments are subjective…”

Most Americans would probably agree with the above quote. Why? Because according to a poll by the Barna Group (and other polls) the majority of Americans believe in moral relativism.

Sadly, that even includes many Christians. As the Barna article says, “Even more surprising, the data from a pair of nationwide studies conducted by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California showed that less than one out of three born again Christians adopt the notion of absolute moral truth.”

Ok, so whose quote was the one above? Go ahead and click on the link below to find out.

The complete quote

“Then I learned that all moral judgments are “value judgments,” that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either “right” or “wrong”… I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable “value judgment” that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these “others”? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as “moral” or “good” and others as “immoral” or “bad”? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me—after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.”
Ted Bundy, Serial Killer

 

Misunderstandings and Confusion

Despite the fact that moral relativism has been debated for centuries, I’ve noticed that there is a great deal of confusion and muddled thinking on this topic.

For example, I’ve heard so many people say, “Moral relativism is true because there are so many different moral standards and ideas on what is right and wrong.”

Yes, of course people disagree. Of course there are numerous different and conflicting moral beliefs. I don’t think anyone denies that.

However, it does not logically follow that because people disagree on morals, relativism is true. People disagree on all sorts of things… disagreement in and of itself does not automatically make something relative or subjective.

Theists believe God exists, atheists do not – that disagreement does not mean that there is no right answer. Either there is a God or there isn’t. We don’t say, “People disagree on God, so it’s all relative!” (Well, some people might say that, but it’s illogical.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all truths are objective. Some things are purely subjective.

My favorite color is purple, yours might be blue. My statement, “Purple is a gorgeous color!” is a subjective truth.

What is the difference between an objective and subjective truth? I would say an objective truth is a truth that is not dependent on an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings or preferences. It just is. 1 + 1 = 2, whether I want that to be true or not.

A subjective truth exists in our mind, it is related to our own thoughts and feelings, but not universally true.

Which color is the prettiest is subjective, because it depends on the subject…. on our own personal preferences. We all have different preferences, some people like warm colors, others like cool colors. There is no universal objective truth on which color is the prettiest.

You might be saying, “Well, how can you prove there is an objective moral standard? You can’t.”

In this post, I am not trying to prove that an objective moral standard exists. I simply want to show the numerous problems with the opposing view, for anyone who claims that moral relativism is true.

Once you see some of the logical problems with it, then you can evaluate which position makes more sense and is more likely to be true. So here’s the list.

7 Reasons why I believe moral relativism is false

1) It is self-defeating and illogical.

To assert that there is no objective moral standard, that morality is whatever you want it to be is to make a truth claim about morality. It is proposing an objective universal moral standard (that there is no true morality.) So it is self-defeating.

2) It is counterintuitive.

equal-or-not2Moral relativism means that morality is whatever we want it to be. That means that no one morality is better than any other. So, according to moral relativism, the act of brutally raping, torturing and chopping up a child into pieces for no reason is not morally wrong. And that heinous act is no worse than any other act, according to relativism. In other words, the morality of Jeffrey Dahmer (serial killer, necrophile and cannibal) is no worse than the morality of Mother Theresa, according to moral relativism.

What does your intuition tell you? If you’re a relativist, do you honestly believe that the act of brutal rape, torture and murder is not truly wrong, and therefore, ultimately equal to an act of selfless love, kindness and respect for others?

3) People’s everyday actions belie their claim that relativism is true.

While people claim that morality is relative, their everyday actions show something very different. Their actions constantly show that deep down they do believe there is a true standard. Out of one side of their mouth they will say, “There is no such thing as right and wrong!” Then a minute later they’ll say, “The war in the Middle East is unjust!!!”

Or, they’ll claim that moral relativism is true, while stating that everyone should be tolerant, then a minute later get extremely offended and indignant at someone for being “intolerant.” They’ll sharply rebuke that person, implying that they are morally wrong for being intolerant. But do you see the contradiction? How can they accuse someone of being wrong, when according to their own words, there is no such thing? How can intolerance be wrong, if nothing is truly wrong? The inconsistency happens constantly, and I think shows that they really do not believe in moral relativism.

C.S Lewis talks about this inconsistency in chapter 1 of his awesome book, Mere Christianity. Here is an excerpt:

 

C.S Lewis on The Law of Human Nature

“Every one has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”–‘That’s my seat, I was there first”–“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”–“Why should you shove in first?”–“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”–“Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have.”

 

4) There is no such thing as true progress with moral relativism.

If there isn’t a true, fixed moral standard or truth, then how can you have true progress? The entire concept of progress or improvement becomes meaningless, because there is nothing true to measure morality by.

One might be able to “progress” or move closer to their own personal moral standard. But on a larger scale, there can be no true moral progress, if no true, fixed moral standard exists.

5) Living it out puts relativists in an impossible position.

If someone honestly believes that moral relativism is true, and wants to be consistent, they cannot accuse others of wrongdoing. They cannot complain about injustice or evil in the world. They can’t even debate certain issues as being right or wrong, because according to their own view, there is no such thing.

6) It makes all values meaningless.

If we all decide what is right and wrong, then any moral values (like honesty, kindness, generosity, justice, etc) are ultimately meaningless. How can kindness and selfless love be better than cruelty if no actual, external moral standard or truths exist?

7) It is dangerous and devalues human life.

If we follow moral relativism to its logical end, as Ted Bundy did, then anything at all goes. The terrorist attacks on September 11 were not truly wrong, according to moral relativism. The actions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other brutal dictators were not truly wrong, according to relativism.

When people learn this worldview and truly believe it, human life is devalued. Not in reality, of course, but in the eyes of the world. This type of mindset causes people to be morally desensitized, and can lead to things like infanticide, human rights atrocities and genocide. Look at the death toll of communism in the 20th century, as well as the continued atrocities in places like North Korea today.

How can human rights atrocities and genocide be wrong, in the mind of someone who truly believes there is no such thing as right and wrong?

I realize that this is yet another controversial topic, but I honestly feel that it is one of the most important topics of our time. Why? Because as more people are taught this view, and believe it, the more morality in general declines.

Has there ever been a morally relativist society that has lasted for a long period of time? I don’t think so. I think just the opposite is true. We can look back at history to see that.

What do you think? If you disagree, please feel free to share your thoughts and show me why you think I’m wrong on this topic. Thanks and God bless!

Linking with Coffee for your Soul, Thoughtful Thursday and Thought-Provoking Thursday.

  • Jennifer

    A subjective truth exists in our mind, it is related to our own thoughts and feelings, but not universally true. <— your words here are great! We think things, we judge things, and we must search our hearts to find truth…The Truth. God's Word directs our hearts if we allow it to. The world washes the Word away…praying you hear and see Him today!

    • Thank you Jennifer! And you said it well, God’s word is our guide (and is imprinted on our hearts, as we all have a conscience) Thanks for reading and commenting, blessings!! 🙂

  • The quasi-nihilist

    A few counterpoints.

    1) “To assert that there is no objective moral standard, that morality is whatever you want it to be is to make a truth claim about morality. It is proposing an objective universal moral standard (that there is no true morality.) So it is self-defeating.”

    False. By itself, the claim that there is no objective moral standard is a descriptive statement, not a prescriptive statement. Relativists claim that only the latter type of statement can’t be objectively true.

    2) “What does your intuition tell you? If you’re a relativist, do you honestly believe that the act of brutal rape, torture and murder is not truly wrong, and therefore, ultimately equal to an act of selfless love, kindness and respect for others?”

    Are you using intuition as an objective measure for morality? Intuition is wholly subjective, and thus cannot be used to determine objective morality even if such a thing exists.

    3) This section is true. But most people who claim moral relativism generally do so because they see it as a diplomatic position to take, not because they’ve actually studied philosophy or had a rigorous dialogue that led them to that position. People’s failure to understand a philosophy or hold logically consistent views does not automatically negate the philosophy they claim to believe, however.

    4) “If there isn’t a true, fixed moral standard or truth, then how can you have true progress? The entire concept of progress or improvement becomes meaningless, because there is nothing true to measure morality by.”

    Progress simply means getting from A to B. “True” progress is what people refer to when society moves in the direction that they want it to move in, or when there is a notable shift in societal norms or behaviors rather than just a slight or perceived shift. The concept of “progress” itself says nothing about the end goal a given society is progressing to anymore than the concept of “driving” refers to the destination a car is heading towards.

    5) “If someone honestly believes that moral relativism is true, and wants to be consistent, they cannot accuse others of wrongdoing. They cannot complain about injustice or evil in the world. They can’t even debate certain issues as being right or wrong, because according to their own view, there is no such thing.”

    Say your friends steals from you. Saying “I don’t put up with thieves” and kicking them out of your life is not making an objective moral claim. You are choosing to disassociate with them because they violated your personal values. That’s not inconsistent with relativism. A statement such as “the slaughter of all those people disgusts me” is also not a moral claim, it is a statement of personal values. So if you complain about “injustice” or “evil” in the world, those complaints would take on a different meaning than the complaints of a moral objectivist. “Kim Jong Un should stop oppressing all those people” would mean “I wish Kim Jong Un wouldn’t oppress all those people” or “Kim Jong Un’s oppression of people goes against the values of myself as well as the values of the majority of people.” Universal morality isn’t a requirement for wanting to change the world or do what is commonly known as “moral.”

    6) “IT MAKES ALL VALUES MEANINGLESS.

    If we all decide what is right and wrong, then any moral values (like honesty, kindness, generosity, justice, etc) are ultimately meaningless. How can kindness and selfless love be better than cruelty if no actual, external moral standard or truths exist?”

    Values by their very nature have no universal meaning. We /prefer/ kindness and selfless love over cruelty and therefore those things have become shared “values.” But all value is inherently subjective.

    7) “IT IS DANGEROUS AND DEVALUES HUMAN LIFE.

    When people learn this worldview and truly believe it, human life is devalued. Not in reality, of course, but in the eyes of the world. This type of mindset causes people to be morally desensitized, and can lead to things like infanticide, human rights atrocities and genocide. Look at the death toll of communism in the 20th century, as well as the continued atrocities in places like North Korea today.”

    False. Human rights atrocities are genocide are the result of a lack of human compassion and empathy, not a moral system. How many human rights violations throughout history were committed by people who thought they were doing God’s work? Would you blame moral relativism for the atrocities committed by the Crusaders or Radical Islam?

    I don’t need morality in order to not kill or rape someone. That is because I have no desire to do so in the first place. The part of my brain that feels empathy would make me feel revolted by those actions if I had committed them, even if there were no external consequences. I prefer to live in a world free of rape and murder because that is how I am wired, as are most people. Now for some people, such as Ted Bundy, that part of the brain does not work correctly. That is why they rape and murder. If you were to convince him that moral relativism was logically false, he could just as easily adapt an ethical view of moral absolutism is twisted to justify what he would have done anyways. That is what psychopaths do.

    However, if you prefer a world free of genocide, and I prefer a world free of genocide, and so does 95% of the rest of the world, then we can all work together to rid the world of people like Ted Bundy to see that our mutually shared preferences become reality. It does not matter that there is no moral truths and therefore genocide cannot be said to be universally immoral or moral, our shared preferences can still help us establish “rules” for society that see those preferences met.

  • Charles Davy

    Are some cultures superior to others? Well what do you mean by better? It could clearly be stated that Western culture is superior IF the goal defines BEST as “the social framework that optimizes industrialization”. If BEST was defined as “the social framework that optimized a trusting society” Japanese culture would be superior.

    That all relates to this point: “That means that no one morality is better than any other. So, according to moral relativism, the act of brutally raping, torturing and chopping up a child into pieces for no reason is not morally wrong.” If the goal is to have a cohesive society yes raping, torturing, and chopping up kids is morally wrong. If the goal is creating a small warrior tribe raping, torturing, and chopping up kids would be morally right.

    All your points miss the underlying concept of how moral relativism works: The is an underlying goal that morals evolve to meet. There is no objective standard but there is a communal goal that creates the objective standard. There may be many ways to skin a cat but 1 of them is the best and a society, when they average their opinions will find the “optimal way”. As such morals change to fit “the goal” the community is trying to reach and no moral system can claim to be superior than another unless it reaches the same goal more efficiently.

    • Reason0verhate

      queen