We know there’s absolute and universal right and wrong. The Bible says it’s written on our hearts. It is the basis of all just laws, and the reason why we rightly condemn everything from the ritual burning of Indian widows on their husband’s funeral pyres, to the Holocaust. Evil is evil, no matter which culture it comes from.
Relativism dominates the thinking of most educated people (which means sometimes that uneducated people are morally smarter). The “it all depends” morality, controversial fifty years ago when called situational ethics, denies the existence of any objective standards of right and wrong. What’s wrong for one person, so it insists, may be right for another. One uses internal, not external, standards to judge morality.
People who say they believe in such a shifting ethic, however, constantly make moral judgments. They may defend abortion or euthanasia or homosexual marriage, but they decry rape, environmental exploitation, genocide, and child abuse. Why? On what basis? Which of those issues, given enough time, will they also change their minds about?
How ironic that the September 11, 2001 attacks came when American moral relativism had reached a peak. Some people, who on one day emphatically denied the existence of moral absolutes, on the next day spoke against those “absolutely hideous evils.”
Twenty years ago, while teaching a college ethics course, I read an account of a university professor who’d discovered that half of his students had received photocopies of the final exam and cheated on the test. Ironically, the professor was an outspoken advocate of moral relativism. The professor felt outraged at his students’ behavior. But why? Shouldn’t he have congratulated them for living out the very moral framework he had taught them?
This man, like all of us, innately recognized moral absolutes. The fact that his worldview couldn’t account for them should have prompted him to seek an alternative.
This commentary on Breakpoint reminds us that cultural relativism is still alive and well:
A Tower of Skulls: Cultural Relativism Meets Human Sacrifice
By Eric Metaxas & G. Shane Morris
“Hey, don’t judge.” We hear those words a lot. But it takes real commitment to say them while staring at 130 thousand murder victims.
Imagine walking into the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan in the year 1519. Situated on an island in the middle of an ancient lake where Mexico City now stands, Tenochtitlan was spectacular, even in a region known for its pyramids and plazas.
But what really caught the attention of the Spanish conquistadors was the tower of human skulls that stood in front of the temple of the Aztec gods. Known as Tzompantli, this gruesome structure reportedly contained the skulls of some 130 thousand victims of human sacrifice, performed to ensure that the sun would continue to rise and rain would continue to fall.