Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This is my truth, tell me yours

I believe in things. I believe Jesus is the only way to God, I believe that war is ethically wrong, lots of things.

I live in an era where this kind of belief is unfashionable. It is wrong to force one's views on others, the argument goes. How dare I claim that my opinions are more valid than anyone else's? Everyone has the right to their own opinion, and what's right for one person need not be right for another.

Well, I think this is soft-minded rubbish. Although most people preach tolerance and relativism, I think when it comes down to it they don't believe it any more than I do.

It's easy to claim that religious faith is a personal thing, that no one faith can be right. It's easy too to claim that people with strong views on abortion, sex outside marriage or pornography are trying to enforce their views on others who have equal right to their own, more liberal views. But what about when it comes to pedophilia, rape, the holocaust? Are pedophiles and Nazis equally entitled to follow their own moral code? Very, very few people would accept this, and rightly so.

Moral relativism is a nice creed to follow liberally, as it frees you from the pangs of conscience and allows you to justify your own self-gratification. But taken seriously, it's a far harder faith to follow than absolutism. I had a friend who was a Taoist. Taoism eschews moral absolutes, and he recognized the difficulties of this. He commented that the true Taoist response to suffering gay rape (his choice of example, not mine!) might be to comment, "ah, this fellow appears to have taken a shine to my bottom," since moral judgments about the action were inappropriate. I have a lot of respect for him in trying to get to grips with the consequences of relativistic teaching, but it's not something most people could ever accept.

So, while relativism seems to be a common theme these days, most people who talk about it don't really believe it. Rather it serves as an excuse for a lack of concrete belief, a lazy alternative to having to think through and justify ones own, disjointed, prejudiced moral judgments. Why bother to question your own lifestyle and beliefs, when you can just say "that's fine for you, but it's not for me?"

Coming back to an earlier question, I think there are two reasons why I might sometimes dare to believe that, yes, my opinions might be more valid than someone else's. The first, and the big one for me, is that at times I am merely reiterating the doctrines espoused by Jesus. This will clearly not carry much weight with a non-Christian, and understandably so. To them I'd point to Jesus' teachings and persona, which hopefully they might find attractive enough to add weight to some of his harder sayings. But secondly, I would hope that my opinions might be more likely to be valid simply because (like my Taoist friend) I've actually bothered to think them through.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is God, and that all faiths which don't accept this are fatally flawed, however much of their teachings I might otherwise agree with. But I also feel closer to Muslims, Taoists, or even Atheists who take their faith seriously and dare to think through and live out its consequences, than with the vast majority who simply use moral relativism as a cover for their own laziness, ignorance and apathy.

Originally posted 2004-08-24


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