Saturday, July 30, 2011

Moral Relativism and Hypocrisy: An Atheist's Dilemma

Here is an excerpt from a response that Martin Priddle fired off to a commentator that pointed out the problem with his view that the brain is all there is. The reason I post Priddle’s response with some additional comments of my own is that I want Christians to recognize that even though it may appear that these opponents of Christ may have sophisticated and even intimidating arguments, when you look with a critical eye, you begin to see they actually do not. The whole purpose of this article is to help with the intimidation factor that some people may feel when engaging with articles such as this one. Mr. Priddle writes, “With regards to moral relativism, it’s not so much that I think that humans differ in different areas of the earth in their wants and needs for well being. What I was hoping to get across is the idea that “accepted” morality differs from culture to culture. What one culture sees as morally OK, another sees as repugnant. Take for example the recent laws passed in New York City legalising gay marriage. There are people in the world who see this as morally reprehensible, whole tracts of religious people who see it as the ultimate sin, and even people who live in New York City who find this law to be disgusting. Personally, I welcome the law, as it signifies another step toward a reasonable and rational society. After all, what happens in another person’s bedroom is of no interest to me, and nor should it be. Both I and the person who sees homosexuality as a sin would bring this point to bear as a point of morality, whatever the source of this morality. This is because morality is based on personal judgement [sic] calls from a society, culture or belief, not based on a physical or testable certainty. If this is true, then moral relativism is a reality, whether you like it or not."

Priddle continues, “I’m not sure Hitler was acting on morals, I think he was acting on megalomania. He would probably use morality to sell it to others, but I think that his actions were wrong because they go against the relative well-being of many people, as enacted by just one person.”

Mr. Priddle’s view that differences in opinion over what is and is not moral from one culture to another serves as proof that morality is not universal could not be more wrong-headed. Differences over ethical options do not prove moral relativism any more than various cultural expressions of love demonstrate that love is not universal. Mr. Priddle misses the point entirely. What Christians argue is that regardless of how one defines morality, the idea of “right and wrong,” “good and evil,” and “honor and dishonor” is universal. Christians account for cultural differences in morality by pointing to the fall of man into sin. After all, sin is a reasonable explanation for why we do not agree on a variety of issues in life, not just morality.

Mr. Priddle then refers to the recent legislation passed in New York City regarding gay marriage. He contends that some people see this act as “morally reprehensible.” He is correct. Christians view such laws as morally unacceptable. This is because the anchor for Christian morality is the character of God. This character is expressed perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ and divine scripture. Whatever is contrary to God’s good and holy character is necessarily evil and unholy. The Christian is obliged to subscribe to this morality. Moreover, since God is Lord over all creation, He has the right to expect perfect submission to His moral standard. Not only this, it is every Christian’s duty to propagate, and defend this expression of morality in every culture where it exists. Mr. Priddle welcomes the gay law in NY because, in his words, “it signifies another step toward a reasonable and rational society….what happens in another person’s bedroom is of no interest to me, nor should it be.” If you are like me, you are probably wondering what the basis is for Mr. Priddle’s moral view that this new law is reasonable and rational (to be redundant I guess), and that he should not have any interest in what goes on in the bedroom of other people. First of all, a reasonable society is a rational society and vice versa. This begs the question, what makes something reasonable or rational? When Mr. Priddle makes this statement, he begs the question of morality. What is reasonable depends on the presuppositions that underpin one’s system of reason. In some cultures, they used to burn women when their husbands died. I wonder if Mr. Priddle would find such a practice reasonable. I suppose that if someone is having sex with underage minors, this should be of no concern to us. The point here is that Mr. Priddle wants to make a moral judgment about gay marriage and those who condemn it while claiming there is not objective basis for making moral judgments. If that sounds odd to you, well, it sounds odd to me also. This is a perfect example of the irrationality that is the result of unbelief. Not only does Mr. Priddle fail to provide a reason for why he thinks gay marriage is reasonable and rational, he also fails to provide any basis for why he finds the opposing view irrational or unreasonable. At first glance, it would seem that Mr. Priddle’s views are based on reputable scientific research. However, after taking a closer look, what one finds is one more God-hating atheist with yet another hollow argument for why they don’t have to submit to the divine Creator.

Finally, Mr. Priddle attempts to condemn Hitler’s actions because, in his words, they go against the relative well-being of many people. Again, Mr. Priddle fails to acknowledge that Hitler obviously didn’t think so. Hitler thought some people simply do not matter. Therefore, since some people don’t matter, their relative well-being doesn’t matter either. Mr. Priddle has dug a massive hole for himself. He must now find a way to demonstrate why everyone’s well-being matters. Perhaps he should begin with a definition of “well-being” before he does anything else. I am certain that Atheists and Christians are not in agreement on the meaning of “well-being.”

Mr. Priddle says that morality is based on personal judgment. If this is true, then there are as many different valid moralities out there as there are personal judgments. If morality is based on personal judgment, then no one may judge any behavior of anyone else immoral. If that is true, then Mr. Priddle has no reasonable basis to judge the morality of Christianity positively or negatively. It comes down to his opinion. Moreover, his opinion has no rational ground upon which to stand. If he is right, then he has no basis for even entering the conversation. In the end, who is Mr. Priddle to suggest that we change our personal judgments so that they agree with his own? However, if I am right, then Mr. Priddle argues with God, the Creator and Lord of all that is. Moreover, God, as Creator and Lord, has every right to impose his moral authority on all of his creation. That is, after all, a most reasonable and rational conclusion.

Moral relativism does not actually make moral statements as much as it makes statements about morality. Logically speaking, the fact that cultures differ over some aspects of right and wrong does not mean that there is no agreement across cultures about the morality certain behaviors. No culture values cowardice in battle for example, or general dishonesty. [ Lewis, C.S. The abolition of Man] Mr. Priddle, along with all unbelievers, suppresses the truth of God and exchanges it for a lie. [Romans 1]

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