Saturday, May 4, 2013


Clearly, we need faith as a component, and it's just silly to say otherwise. You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.
Penny Nance. CEO, Concerned Women for America
Moral relativism,” according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.” Or, as many of us experience it today, morality is not objective. From a Judeo-Christian-Moslem standpoint, this is incorrect, as the justice that is the stated goal of moral behavior rests upon the idea of a single, neutral and consistent arbiter who holds the final judgment. The principles by which this arbiter judges are what render moral judgments true or false, and its standpoint is, by definition, privileged.

The difficulty that Nance's statement creates is that acts that we consider evil, like the Holocaust, pre-date the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. The armed religious pilgrimages-cum-massacres that were many of the Crusades were certainly not driven by the idea that humans could arrive at workable moral and ethical frameworks without a reliance on faith. And long before the Crusades is the story of the destruction of the Amalekites at the direct command of God, and the rebuke of Saul because he sought to honor God in a way other than simple obedience of the command to slaughter.

And that is the problem. At the heart of Euthyphro's dilemma is the simple fact that what religious authorities have told people were “right” and “moral” has often not squared with what people independently concluded were thus. And this has been true for thousands of years. And if you take divinities out of the equation, you are left with fundamental disagreements between people as to what actions (or inaction) constitute “right” and “moral.”

It doesn't take a student of theology to realize that just about any community, anywhere, if it is going to be stable and have any longevity, must eventually settle on a set of rules that govern the behavior of its members. And as all of these rules have similar goals, they are unlikely, in fact, to appear to be random when viewed from outside. While detractors famously point to “The Survival of the Fittest” as a principle that mandates that every person do what is required spread their own genes at the direct expense of their neighbors, the fact remains that this deals with only one of three basic facets in the Struggle for Existence put forth by Darwin. Individuals in a given species do not compete solely with one another. They compete against other species and against the very environment in which they live. To the degree that there have been societies that have persisted for long periods of time with rules that differ from the codes, inspired by Jewish, Christian and Islamic thought, that have dominated Western and Middle-eastern civilizations, their moral codes were just as relevant and successful as any other. Moral relativism is simply an acknowledgement of that, and a refutation of the idea that it was just for conquering invaders to denounce as evil and then exterminate those other moral codes, simply for being different from their own.

It has become fashionable among Christians to see intellectualism, and the denial of the need to be strictly obedient to the word of a deity or to have faith as a prerequisite for moral behavior, as a pernicious force that leads people away from divine guidance and grace, thus leaving them susceptible to acting on baser instincts that a faith-based morality would supposedly quash. It is equally fashionable to accentuate the “otherness” of the Nazis (who are popular whipping boys due to their status as morally unambiguous villains) by presenting what seems to be a highly self-serving understanding of Christianity as, instead, a form of devout Atheism, using the “Socialist” aspect of “National Socialism” to portray the Third Reich as sharing Marxism's dim view of religiosity. This supports the idea that the Holocaust was the result of a rejection of traditional morality, rather than the same sort of bending morality to the service of national and ethnic superiority that more skeptical observers see throughout history.

h/t George E. Williams IV

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