So today I just have a few basic ideas to share dealing with topics of natural theology and the moral argument. Nothing too fancy. These ideas are not new, but I still find them interesting. Also, I’m not a great apologist. If you don’t agree that’s fine. Don’t expect a big, impressive debate from me. These are just my thoughts and observations.
A couple days ago, I was skimming through some articles online and I came across a post that seemed to be tied to some form of relativism. This is not verbatim, but this page boldly proclaimed things like, “There is no truth.” “Nothing is true.” “Be free, Do what you like. There is no truth to detain you.” I sat and just thought, “Well, I wonder if this person believes what he or she is saying is true?”
It seems that truth has this quality of being ingrained. Even in the midst of this individual’s proclamations of there being no truth, truth was still a necessary component in order for this assertion to be… well…. true. “There is no truth,” is actually a truth claim. In the end, if you try to remove the existence of truth, anything that attempts to decree that there is no truth is self-defeating.
Absolutism is the worldview that there are absolute truths and also standards for right and wrong. These standards are universally binding and do not change despite the differences and modifications we see through time and among cultures.
The antithesis to absolutism is relativism. Relativism affirms that matters of truth, right and wrong, good and bad, etc. are only relative to either the culture’s standpoint and/or the individual’s standpoint; truth and morality are not absolute.
One form of relativism is moral relativism, meaning that basically no action reflects any type of moral truth; it is neither right nor wrong. Again morality is relative to the culture and/or the individual.
Moral relativism can become offensive to those who suffer great wrongs in their lives (like being abused). In these situations, the only solution is for the moral relativist to become a selective moral relativist. Usually this involves a number of tweaked arguments, for example, “nothing is morally wrong as long as it doesn’t hurt another person.” But again such a claim is not relative, it is an absolute moral standard.
Another tweaked argument is the view that states that nothing is true unless if it is falsifiable by the scientific method. This view resulted due to the absurdities of saying there is absolutely no truths, including scientific ones (ex. The earth is round versus the earth being flat). This premise for empirical relativism, however, is itself not falsifiable by the scientific method.
At times, some individuals that uphold moral relativism will claim that certain views that hold to specific truth claims, for example Christianity, are judgmental and intolerant. But there seems to be issues with that claim as well.
For one, by this logic isn’t it just as judgmental to conclude that Christians are judgmental? This is beside the point, the proponents for this argument are confusing the act of judging with the quality of being unjustly judgmental. Moral judgments and discernment are not necessarily bad actions.
In regards to tolerance, if Christians are intolerant for not accepting all views as true, then the moral relativist is intolerant for not accepting the Christian’s view as true, but even besides this we can address the matter of tolerance further.
It would seem that this argument about tolerance comes from a misunderstanding of the accurate meaning of “tolerance.” Tolerance implies the presence of truth. Mainly we tolerate what we don’t approve of and believe to be false. True tolerance is a matter of respect for people, not an agreement and acceptance of all their beliefs.
One final difficulty that comes with relativism is that moral relativism leaves no room for progress within a society. In other words based on the values of moral relativism, abolishing slavery and establishing slavery are really of no consequence, it is merely change. Relativism can therefor have the effect of diminishing the value of monumental human progresses.
In conclusion, the relativist does appear to uphold certain moral standards and absolute truths:
- Being judgmental is bad and wrong
- Being tolerant is good and right
- Hurting others is bad and wrong
- It is true that there is no truth.
What seems to be the problem with relativism is that it ultimately tries to defy logic by tossing out the law of non-contradiction. The claim of there being no universal truths is undeniably a universal truth claim. It is saying that relativism is universally true and absolutism is false. The argument becomes illogical.