One of my blogging buddies recently accused me of moral absolutism. According to Wikipedia, if I were a moral absolutist, I would believe “certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other circumstances such as their consequences or the intentions behind them.” Perhaps my blogging buddy hasn’t been tuning in very carefully to my musings. If anyone can think of examples where I have displayed moral absolutism, I would be very interested to hear about them. In the meantime, I thought it would be nice to do some absolutely moral contrasting.
example 1 – remarriage
All Christians are completely opposed to humans partaking in more than one marriage during their lifetime, because the god God and his son god Jesus explicitly state on numerous occasions in the Christian holy book that, unless all previous spouses are dead or aren’t Christians, this is a SIN. Their moral absolutist line is, it’s absolutely wrong, regardless of other circumstances.
I’m not opposed to humans partaking in more than one marriage during their lifetime, because I don’t think a condemnation like that makes sense. I am absolutely not morally bothered about what adults choose to do in their relationships with other consenting adults. Assessing all the potential consequences, it’s illogical to be bothered about remarriage.
example 2 – gay marriage
All Christians are completely opposed to gay marriage because the god God and his son god Jesus explicitly state on numerous occasions in the Christian holy book that two people of the same sex can NEVER get married. Their moral absolutist line is, it’s absolutely wrong, regardless of other circumstances.
I’m not opposed to humans partaking in marriage with someone of the same sex, because I don’t think a condemnation like that makes sense. I am absolutely not morally bothered about what adults choose to do in their relationships with other consenting adults. Assessing all the potential consequences, it’s illogical to be bothered about gay marriage.
example 3 – slavery
All Christians completely support slavery because the god God and his son god Jesus explicitly state on numerous occasions in the Christian holy book that it’s fine to have slaves and it’s just dandy to be well-behaved slave with a nice Christian master. Their moral absolutist line is, it’s absolutely good, regardless of other circumstances.
I am opposed to humans buying and selling other humans because I don’t think the consequences of allowing this (e.g. I or my offspring could become someone else’s slave) make for pleasant societies. I support making society pleasant because I have to live here. Assessing all the potential consequences, it’s illogical to keep slaves.
example 4 – eating pigs
All Christians completely support eating pigs because the god God and his son god Jesus explicitly state on numerous occasions in the Christian holy book that it’s fine to eat pigs. Their moral absolutist line is, it’s absolutely good, regardless of other circumstances.
I am opposed to humans eating pigs because our own eyes have shown us, and indeed science has demonstrated to us, that all animals suffer from pain and stress, like humans. As a human animal, I don’t like pain and stress, so I don’t want to promote pain and stress in the lives of other animals, especially when I can easily live a perfectly healthy life without consuming the flesh of other animals. Assessing all the consequences, it’s illogical to eat pigs.
So, what’s the difference between my logic-based beliefs and the moral absolutist beliefs of Christians on these matters?
- For Christians, someone told them in a book what to do, and they are unaffected by the logical consequences of the issues. They are sure their actions are either RIGHT or WRONG. If someone shows them a new piece of evidence that reveals what their book says is nonsense, their opinion does not change. [This may not be strictly true – apparently some Christians get remarried, some of them support gay marriage, some of them don’t have slaves, and some of them don’t eat pigs!]
- For me, I think about potential consequences of actions and form my opinion based on evidence. If someone shows me a new piece of evidence that shows that my evaluation of the outcomes was erroneous, my opinion changes.
In summary, I think it’s clear that moral absolutism is a silly label that doesn’t apply to anyone, not even Christians with a divinely inspired moral guidebook.
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example 1 – remarriage.
Considering Yahweh took his own MOTHER as his wife i really don’t think the Yahwehist has a legitimate leg to stand on in this matter.
Did he? And if he did, what would that have to do with remarriage?
He did indeed. I’m doing a post on it.
What does it have to do with re-marriage? Well, nothing and EVERYTHING all at once. The dude married his mother for crying out loud! I think that rules anyone out from discussing matters of marriage.
Hmm, looking forward to this post! 🙂
“…moral absolutism is a silly label that doesn’t apply to anyone…”
It can’t, because morals change with time. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution it was perfectly moral to allow young children to stick their hands into the jaws of chomping cotton machines, for hours on end. In the modern age, the thought is atrocious.
Maybe your blogging buddy was trying to label you without understanding the premise…happens all the time.
Well exactly! Even anyone who would like to think they are a moral absolutist is fooling themselves. With a very clear rule book, Christians liberally pick and choose, concentrate on and ignore various parts, all because the evidence in their real lives demonstrates to them that what the book has to say is of no relevance.
That last sentence is a killer.
Question: where in the holy text does it say that remarriage is bad? Divorce had no place unless you could accuse her of infidelity (don’t start on the Joseph story) and have her stoned. I think the basics of such an argument, even if only based on scripture, are in deep kempshi because of the loopholes. This is not about fairness in the christian bible, it’s about how the man owns the woman. Anyone arguing about marriage from a biblical perspective has their head up their own ass.
I have not always agreed with you but I would not call you an absolutist.
You haven’t always agreed with me? How odd! 🙂
HAHAHAHA It’s not odd!
Hah! I eat pig.
A friend of mine once told me how he warned an Indonesian Muslim (who was troughing with the unclean) that the sausages he was wolfing down with great gusto were pork—and the reflex was beautiful to see—immediately barfed all over the place he did (violent vomiting).
Group sex in Heaven, and it’s all legal? Interesting thought …
Dude, I’m going to remember the pork comment… that would be hilarious to see! I’d pay for lunch to see it!
Yes, the holy text is written by men, not inspired by gods… group sex is hardly what one might think of transcendent beings… but who knows. Makes you wonder why it’s illegal down here?
Ha! It is OK for the Christians to remarry after their earlier spouse has passed away. Then when the widower marries and later dies and the new spouse dies and they all get to heaven, they form a nice neo-family with each other in the afterlife. Are they going to have group sex, or does the Bible have a passage, that condemns group sex? Does one get to have sex in the afterlife at all? If not, it sounds like an awfully long eternity. Perhaps there is no jealosy between them in the heavens, since jealosy is indeed one of the lowest echelons of human emotions. On the other hand, the Bible claims the god of Abraham is a jealous entity, so perhaps there will be some soap drama to entertain the eternity of the heaven dwellers…
Christians deem gay marriage against the will of their god only if they find gay sex ikky first. God allways shares the values of any particular Christian, not the other way around.
I have run into a bunch of Christians, that accused secular humanism for borrowing ethics from a “higher source” as from the book of their god. As if they did not understand that some morals might be shared by two different people, or sources, but for different reasons. However, I am perfectly happy to apply some Christian ethics, if they are such that they can be based on logical and empathetic reasoning and are not just arbitrary authoritarian commands. That does not reduce the value of secular humanism in any way. After all, as an atheist like myself, does not think the commands in the Bible were from a god, but indeed invented by humans for human conduct. On the other hand, the Christians borrow their morals from a higher source of secular ethics all the time. As is in the case of not condoning slavery despite what the “holy book” says about the matter. Now, what does that tell us about the moral capabilities of their god?
Eating pig was absolutely immoral before Jesus was sacrificed. But in sacrificing himself Jesus redeemed the pigs and changed the absolute rules about morals. Pig is the traditional main course in Finnish christmass dinner. It was so during the yuletide, or as we say “joulu”, before Christianity was introduced to our forefathers and will possibly remain as such after Finns have siezed to be Christians. Christianity is on the decline here today, though one has to acknowledge, that most Finns never really understood it. Who really understands it?
“Eating pig was absolutely immoral before Jesus was sacrificed. But in sacrificing himself Jesus redeemed the pigs and changed the absolute rules about morals.” That’s beautiful, Raut, I wonder if there’s a new path for Christianity in there …
Well, I’m glad we’re still buddies, Violet. I think you’re swell. Your anti-revenge argument–with which I happen to agree–is yet another example of your tendency to make thinly-veiled absolutist moral claims. Your typical method: Make a categorical and absolutist moral claim, THEN engage in copious post hoc rationalization and pretend that you arrived at your conclusion through “pure logic.” You do believe that peace is ALWAYS preferable to revenge, don’t you? That’s what I thought. Now, all that’s left is for you to admit that I’m right and you’re wrong and we can put this unpleasant business behind us. Don’t try to be mad at me, either, Violet. You’ll never be able to resist my charm.
I completely disagree, and I think you know you’re talking rubbish. It seems like you’re just playing with remnants of the Pastor Cal character – the critical manipulator attempting to undermine and irritate people. Absolute morality does not exist, as beautifully demonstrated in this finely crafted post. 🙂
“It seems like you’re just playing with remnants of the Pastor Cal character–the critical manipulator attempting to undermine and irritate people.” There’s some truth to that, and I’m not proud of it. I may quit blogging. It served its purpose, but I’m not sure it’s good for me at this point.
Well, if you’re going to do that every time you lose an argument … 😉 Seriously though, I was trying to demonstrate in this post that no-one is a moral absolutist. People may think they are, but everyone is influenced by what they see in the world and this affects their perspective – even on quite straightforward religious rules that people believe are sent by a deity.
You are correct that in some instances I may have what feels like an intuitive leaning towards a certain opinion, and I then may look for a logical path to reach that opinion, but that doesn’t mean I dismiss other relevant considerations out of hand, or ignore evidence that goes against my opinion. Perhaps someone will show me evidence that will demonstrate that revenge has positive consequences and builds fair societies.
I wonder about blogging sometimes too. It’s very addictive, and I tend to get absorbed to the point of avoiding other kind of important daily living tasks.
“Lose an argument”? Part of the fun is winning an argument regardless of the position I take! My ego is a problem for me, and while I’ve gotten much out of blogging, there’s always that temptation to be … Pastor Cal. LOL! If I do stop blogging, I’ll continue to haunt your blog, and Clare’s, and a few others.
“Do good to those who hate you” sounds nice. It often works, but only with the intelligent.
For myself I reserve the right to defend myself, appropriately.
I read Jesus as being against moral absolutism, except perhaps with the command Do good to those who hate you.
That’s an alternative interpretation! I thought the words seem pretty clear on the absolute right and wrong of certain actions. Do you have any particular quotations in mind?
One rule of Biblical exegesis (what does it mean) is not to read into it modern concepts. Would the writers even of the NT have understood the difference between moral absolutism and relativism or consequentialism? Jim with his philosophy degree would know whether anyone at that time knew. But now we do. Hermeneutics- What does it mean for today- can then take into account these distinctions. On particular sayings, I need a post.
You can cut out a lot of the wishful with a simple rewording which covers all bases:
Do unto others
As they do unto you
No you can’t. That is an eye for an eye- the whole world would be blind, as Gandhi said.
I can, and I did … as I said, it covers all bases. So I do—be nice to me and I’m nice back (hell, I’m usually nice back first).
And atheist or not, I always try to match not-nice with nice … until they don’t take hint. It’s amazing how many ‘not nices’ are actually cowards who when faced with someone like themselves back down very swiftly.
I stand rigidly with “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and I also believe that self-defence isn’t revenge—it’s a duty.
I could admire that.
Thank ‘ee, Ma’am~!
I don’t think you are as ‘absolutist’ an idealist, Miss Wisp, as naive sometimes.
Been there, done that; it took several generations for the scales to fall from my eyes.
And I still think that many cannot see the wood for the trees. Religious ‘law’ is not about the divine will so much as it is a tool for the priesthood, with which to control the masses (no pun intended).
We have to (we MUST) look to the root causes and reasons for.
As I stated before somewhere, give the priest a gun and you’ll have viciousness unchecked.
If the priest can send the Heavies round to your home to drag you to church for a divine public flogging for mal-attendance (first instance) the churches will be overflowing next Sunday. No? And if the penalty for a second lapse in attendance is a public stoning … the priest has it made, he’s on Easy Street for the rest of his life.
Sadly there are never any shortages of nice folks eager to share crumbs from a rich man’s table. The priest will never lack for volunteers to:
a) round up and bring in the malcontents for processing
b) serve as floggers
c) dish out rocks to the faithful
d) observe the proceedings, and
e) visit any laggards later to discuss their possible lack of faith
“Yeah. I watched ya at the stonin’ this morning—”
“Oh! Yes! I was there! And boy, did I ever chuck rocks—”
“Three of yer stones was undersized. Was that deliberate—?”
“No, Sir! I was aiming to kill!”
“And the your marksmanship was lousy! You only hit the infidel bitch once—”
“I was trying too hard, maybe?”
“—and when you did hit the slut it was with the only illegally large rock you had!”
“You can’t kill an atheist with just gravel, you know—”
“Don’t answer me back! Boss suspects you were trying for a mercy kill—”
“No! I prayed to God for guidance, honestly! That I hit her at all was a miracle!”
“You realise that interpretation of the acts and will of Allah (may peace be upon Him and His infinite compassions and mercies) is the sole prerogative of the Mosque?”
“We’ll be watching you closely from now on. Okay, more closely. Step out of line just once and you’ll star in the next stonin’—ya gottit?”
“Would it help if I do voluntary service in my own time?”
“You got spare time? Are you sure yer prayin’ five times a day, every day?”
Repugnant to some at first, after a generation it will become second nature. Eventually many will look forward to the next stoning, some will be observed down at the beaches gathering legal rocks to practise with, there would perhaps even be Rock Clubs (and marksmanship classes in the schools).
Try again, and see where this one goes … thankfully I’ve run out of options (unless someone posted a reply before this, the very last button currently on the page).
Poor Argus! The reply button is below the comments.
Below~! I tried all over the shop on so many different blogs … dumb dog …
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