Monday, October 7, 2013

A Letter to a Moral Relativist

Thanks for your thoughtful response. You are correct that we Christians also place a very high regard on human “well-being,” but ultimately, because our Lord does. Yes, we too are wired for empathy, but we regard empathy, not as a freak of evolution, but as a gift that God has placed within us to guide us fruitfully in love. However, if we thought that empathy was nothing more than a bio-chemical reaction, we might be inclined to ignore it or drug it out.

However, you too seem to regard empathy as more than a chemical reaction. You seem to have established “well-being” as a non-negotiable objective absolute. We certainly do (with various qualifiers, of course). We embrace the golden rule as more than just a feeling or a reaction but as truth, God’s truth.

However, it puzzles me as to why you’d take this principle as objective truth, especially in light of many other alternatives that, without God, seem to be equally defensible:

  1. Survival of the fittest – “I’m #1!”
  2. The equal value of all living things, including roaches, viruses, the bubonic plague and bacteria.
  3. Or suicide to rid the planet of our destructive influence.

You cannot disqualify these three other views without appealing to a higher absolute moral authority, which your atheism prevents you from doing. Instead, you have made “well-being” into your final authority without any rational or authoritative basis to do so. Without a higher authority – court of last resort - your position is merely a dogmatic one. Consequently, you can have nothing of any substance to say to a Hitler who feels that the greatest good is to genetically program the human race, eliminating those people regarded as sub-human.

Meanwhile, the Christian can make an authoritative case from conscience, because the conscience isn’t a biological accident but the wisdom of God. Admittedly, this case might not be persuasive to the atheist, but it is logically coherent.

This is more than just an academic question. At the heart of it lies our very rationale for being moral and living meaningfully. If your concept of “well-being” is no more than something that feels good to you and provides some pragmatic value, then you will find that there is no sufficient reason to live accordingly once your feelings change and you find it more pragmatic to cheat or join in with the gang.

Also, I think that you will find that history informs us that successful cultures have been those who have believed in a right and wrong that is embedded within the texture of reality and not just in our own feelings. Can you cite any such culture that has denied that transcendent truths are foundational to morality and yet has prospered?

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