Liberals are not relativists (unfortunately)

Conservative intellectual and Princeton Professor Robert George points out that liberals are not relativists at all. Rather, they are moralistic dogmatists:

Contemporary left liberals are hardly relativists! I often wish they were. They are moralists—moralists on a mission. The mission is to shape political and social life, and, to the extent possible, individual belief, in line with their passionately held moral convictions. One sees this everywhere, beginning with the war waged by the Obama administration on the Catholic Church—the largest and most important institution whose moral teachings stand in conflict with left liberal beliefs about the status of nascent human life, the nature and meaning of marriage, and religious liberty.

These are not people who deny that there are moral truths. On the contrary, these are people who affirm that there are moral truths and are so certain that they understand them correctly that they are willing to impose them on society. What are some of those “truths”? The absolute right to abortion. The right to conduct one’s sexual life however one pleases, so long as one refrains from obtaining sex by coercion or deception. The conviction that “marriage” is the union of two people (or more) without regard to gender. The idea that the state legitimately may and even should use its coercive powers to prohibit whatever counts in liberal ideology as a form of discrimination. The idea that anyone who disagrees with them about the things they most care about is a “bigot.” And on and on.

As for liberal claims that science is “on their side,” the aim of Conscience and Its Enemies is to show why that can only be regarded as laughable. Consider the unwillingness of so many liberals to face up to the undeniable fact that abortion takes the life of a living human being—a fact established not by theological reflection or religious authority but by modern human embryology and developmental biology.

via Office Hours | Intercollegiate Review.

I would say the left invokes relativism as a way to  argue against conservative beliefs, but, yes, they are not relativist when it comes to their own dogmas.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dr. Eugene Narrett

    Dear Gene,
    Thanks for passing my documents to Steve Hake who conacted me. I would like to talk with you.
    Please be in touch.
    Eugene Narrett, 978-298-5865

    Of course you’re right about ‘liberals’ who are, mostly, not at all liberal but absolutists… dogmatic about their ‘relativism’ which means agreeing with them on everything, or else. Old story…

  • Tom Hering

    The absolute right to abortion. The right to conduct one’s sexual life however one pleases, so long as one refrains from obtaining sex by coercion or deception. The conviction that “marriage” is the union of two people (or more) without regard to gender. The idea that the state legitimately may and even should use its coercive powers to prohibit whatever counts in liberal ideology as a form of discrimination. The idea that anyone who disagrees with them about the things they most care about is a “bigot.”

    Huh. I don’t share any of those views. Yet I’m a political liberal. I’m always amused by how much time and energy my political opponents spend talking about liberals, writing books about liberals, and defining – and I guess redefining – liberals. And always coming up with something monolithic. Maybe it would be wiser, in light of the last presidential election, for political conservatives to figure out who they are these days. ;-)

  • SKPeterson

    Tom @ 2 “I’m always amused by how much time and energy my political opponents spend talking about liberals, writing books about liberals, and defining – and I guess redefining – liberals. And always coming up with something monolithic. ”

    It’s because you all look alike Tom.

  • Pete

    Like black cats?

  • sg

    @ 2

    Yes, Tom, those of us who actually are liberal tire of fanatics hiding behind the respectable liberal label.

  • ChrisB

    @Tom, maybe you just haven’t noticed that your party went somewhere you didn’t want to go.

  • shell

    Tom Herring @ 2,
    What would you say is a “political liberal”?

  • Steve Billingsley

    FWIW, I think that much of the meaning of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” has been lost.

    The temptation for political leaders to try and implement their preferred political ends with unsavory, often contradictory, immoral and of dubious legality means is unfortunately omnipresent.

    Tom – I appreciate that you do not share these views. But surely you would grant tmuch of the leadership (not to mention that rank and file and electoral support) of the Democratic Party all too obviously has these views.

  • Tom Hering

    Steve @ 8, yes, I grant that. But I would say that a sizable number of those who self-identify as conservatives and Republicans share half of these views.

    The right to conduct one’s sexual life however one pleases, so long as one refrains from obtaining sex by coercion or deception.

    Wouldn’t those with a Libertarian bent agree?

    The conviction that “marriage” is the union of two people (or more) without regard to gender.

    Wouldn’t a minority of younger Republicans agree, or at least shrug their shoulders?

    The idea that anyone who disagrees with them about the things they most care about is a “bigot.”

    This could be said to have its parallel: “The idea that anyone who disagrees with conservatives about the things they most care about is an atheist/socialist/relativist.”

  • Steve Billingsley

    Tom,
    I agree with your comments above. I think the biggest difference right now is that the Democratic Party holds more of the levers of power at the Federal level and aren’t being particularly shy about putting their preferred policies in place – by whatever means necessary.

    When Republicans held the levers of power 5-10 years ago – they weren’t particularly shy either (Patriot Act – anyone?) but I don’t think they were/are as blatant (or maybe just less competent) at the Machiavellian political game.

    I consider myself a political conservative (and most decidedly not a libertarian) – but depending upon who is doing the categorizing – I might fit into a different box.

  • fjsteve

    Welcome to politics, Tom, where have you been? The fight is not against real people with real ideologies but against strawmen and caricatures. To your last point, it doesn’t matter what political conservatives believe, all that matters is whether Democrats can sell their version of what political conservatives believe.

    ..and they did.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    As somebody who is libertarian, I’d say that both sides are dogmatic concerning their issues… and I’d add that the two parties are looking more and more alike as time goes on.


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