On Moral Relativism

At work today, I either had an idea for a post I ought to write tonight or just the idea that I ought to post tonight. I can’t remember which.

In the meantime, I’m continuing my journey through the “I should blog about that!” backlog. Today we have an old Catholic Education Resource Center article, “Don’t Impose Your Morality on Me!” by the wonderful Dr. Ted Sri, currently of the Augustine Institute in Colorado. In it, Dr. Sri notes the logical fallacy that, if you believe all truth is subjective and there is no absolute morality, you’ve just admitted that you believe one thing is absolutely true: there is no absolute truth. I gave a whole speech in Spanish in college about how I believe truth is objective. Not everyone agreed with me, but my Spanish was good enough, and at least I have a real opinion.

The key to the prevalence of moral relativism, Sri writes, is that it has become the default. Personal preferences are so important that it seems unfair to deny people the right to believe and do whatever they want. Yet most people would tell you that rape and murder are wrong—but if nothing is really “wrong,” how do they know that?

Finally, Sri draws in just one of the brilliant arguments from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (a book I love). Lewis compares living morally to sailing a fleet of ships. Two things must be true for the fleet to sail successfully: they have to stay in formation and they have to be able to stay in formation. The first requirement concerns social relationships: the “don’t hurt people” aspect. The second is just as important, though: don’t hurt yourself. If you can’t control your ship, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the fleet is doing; you’ll never be able to even attempt to stay in formation. Similarly, if you are lazy, selfish, and short-sighted, not hurting other people is going to be a lot harder.

Dr. Sri possesses the gift of the modern apologist: the ability to speak the truth profoundly, accessibly, and concisely. I can only hope to achieve the same for myself someday.



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