October 12, 2011, here on slacktivist: You just call out my name
Go ahead and do a Google search on that phrase, or on, say, “moral relativism + apologetics,” and you’ll find no shortage of vigorous denunciations. “Moral relativism,” these screeds and sermons say, is the root of all that’s wrong with the world. It leads to gay marriage, universal health care, progressive taxation, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s why Americans have abandoned God and the gold standard. It’s why kids these days won’t keep off my lawn.
“Moral relativism,” this argument says, erodes belief in moral absolutes, and absolute morality is absolutely necessary.
The problem there, of course, is that such moral absolutes are like James Taylor’s absolute friendship. It works fine if you’ve only got the one friend, but if you’ve got more than that, and if two or more of them require your attention at the same time …
What happens when two or more moral absolutes clash? What do you do?
Well, again, that depends on the situation. But what if you’ve been strictly taught that you must never say “that depends on the situation”? That escalates the dilemma — pushing it from a thorny question to a full-blown crisis of faith. And for those who have been taught to denounce “moral relativism,” such crises are inevitable, insoluble and insurmountable.
I think it’s wrong to put people into that situation — to set them up for such unnecessary and cruel crises. That’s tying up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laying them on the shoulders of others, while being unwilling to lift a finger to help them. And that’s just wrong.