Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Came First? The Egg or Moral Relativism?

I came across an interesting meme the other day. It wasn't one of your typical memes with a little bit of text emblazoned on a funny picture. The picture can be found below, with a long (for a meme) essay attached to it, seen here. The meme is titled "You were on your way home but you died". It involves a man who dies in a car accident, meets a being who purports to be God, with the God character telling the man he will be reincarnated, and will keep being reincarnated until he has lived the life of every living thing on Earth, because then he will be sufficiently mature.

The conclusion is that the universe is simply an egg for this person to mature in. However this person is simultaneously Hitler and Abraham Lincoln. Therefore, our actions do not have any real consequences. In addition, the God character comments that "All religions are right in their own way." Not to mention, the typical nonsense of God being a woman comes into play again, because it's everyone's favorite thing to disregard the fact that God has revealed Himself to humanity as "Father". But anyways, read the whole thing at the link above. We'll be focusing on one main error here: the moral relativism that the author's notion of "all religions being right in their own way" leads us to.

So to start, I wouldn't quite say this is "philosophy to the max" like the meme claims. It's an interesting read, and it can definitely lead one to think and ponder life's meaning... but in the end, the logic is faulty, doesn't get into super-deep philosophical thought and promotes moral relativism, i.e. "everyone has their own truth". For example...

My biggest problem with the post was this-

"All religions are right in their own way."

If all religions are correct, as the God character affirms, how do we determine what is "right"? We see various religions and secular religions (like Marxism or Communism, for example) completely contradict each other on a myriad of subjects. If they're all "right" and "correct" then we have nothing to measure it's "rightness" or "truthiness", as Stephen Colbert liked to say!

If everything in our universe is subjective (all truths are right), then there cannot possibly anything existing that is objective (this action is right and this action is wrong). By writing this thought provoking blurb, the author has basically said there is no such thing as absolute, objective truth; therefore, he contradicts himself when he says "all religions are right in their own way", because he has made it clear that there is no yardstick in the universe to measure the "rightness" or "wrongness" of any action.

For instance, certain schools of Islam, such as Sunni Muslims who subscribe to Wahhabism (these are the terrorists we see today) believe that is permissible to wage jihad by murdering those who do not submit to conversion to Islam. They also believe it is permissible to capture and rape the women who are not Muslim, and they become their milk al-yamin, or sex slaves. Not only are these two actions permissible, they are seen as a good, and seen as right, which leads to more glorification for the Muslim man in the afterlife. In contrast, many religions and secular philosophies see murder and rape as wrong and evil.

Also, in the Mesoamerican religion of the Aztecs, human sacrifice was thought to be a good, as death and sacrifice was believed to be necessary to keep the world in existence. The sacrifices would come from those who were captured during war, as well as from the children of the native population. These people would be sacrificed and killed against their will, yet the Aztec priests saw this as a good, and saw this as the right thing to do. In contrast, most religions and secular philosophies see child sacrifice and the ill treatment of war criminals as wrong and immoral.

In addition, members of the Westboro Baptist Church believe that God hates certain groups of people, and desires their death. However, this is contradictary to what other Christian religions believe; that is, that the Abrahamic God is love itself, and that God loves everyone despite how people choose to live their life of their own free will.
Abraham and the Holy Trinity

My question then, is this:

1. If all religions are right...
2. And Wahhabism Islam, the Aztec religion, and Westboro Baptists are among "all religions"...
3. What about these three religions is "right"?

As we can see you can't call something "right" or "moral" or "truthful" if you don't have something to measure it with. The author of this post wants to have his cake and eat it too; he declares that all religions are right yet denies that there is any way to subjectively determine what is right since all religions are right in their own way. This is circular logic.

Of course, he can't both have and eat his cake. We can't have it both ways. Either there is no such thing as "right" or "wrong" and all our actions have no "good" or "bad" meaning, or there is some way to measure what truth is and what "rightness" is.

And if the latter is true, then this is where real philosophical thought takes us; which perspective and philosophy on life is correct? After examining all the different perspectives out there (religious or secular), which can we determine is correct?

Now at this point, some might note that the author says the various religions are "right in their own way"; perhaps this means that part of each religion is right while some (or most) of the religion is wrong or evil, especially with how vague the author is being? Well, the only problem with that is that the author makes clear this interpretation doesn't fit with what he intended. It being so vague is part of the problem. It contributes to that moral relativism that is very prevalent in our culture. Look at what he says again:

"All religions are right in their own way."

The author is saying that in practicing any one religion, you will be on the right path no matter what since all of these religions are "right" in their own special way. But again, there's no barometer to measure what is right and what is wrong if everyone is correct in their theology and philosophy. It presupposes there is no such thing as absolute truth. 

What the author is saying here is different from saying there are certain aspects of a religion that are morally right and true. Because I wholeheartedly agree with that notion; every religion has something good and true in it, even if it is mainly wrong or evil. More on that in a bit. The author, however, is subscribing to the "God on the mountaintop" perspective; that is, God sits on a mountaintop, and there are many different ways to get to the top. Whatever you choose that's fine, just so long as you get there.

If you're a good Hindu, you'll enter paradise. If you're a good Christian, you'll enter paradise. If you're a good Sunni Muslim of the Wahhabi school, you'll enter paradise. But each of these religions have very different understandings of what is right and what is good, and contradict each other in many ways... and not just in relation to good and evil, or "rightness" and "wrongness".

Christ Praying in Gethsemane
For example, Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the Abrahamic God. But they all have very different understandings of God. Jews and Christians recognize God as "Father" or "Abba" which literally translates to "Daddy". Muslims completely reject this notion (that God could have adopted sons and daughters) as blasphemous, since they believe speculation and study on God's nature is to be rejected and avoided. In the same way, religions such as Buddhism and Christianity have very different understanding of what the true nature of salvation and the afterlife is. 

Now theoretically, all notions put forth by these religions could be dead wrong and false, but it is impossible that two, or more, or ALL could be right. Truth cannot contradict truth, yet each of these religions make truth claims that completely contradict each other.

Think of it like finishing a Rubik's Cube: there's one goal, and that is to have solid colors on each of the cube's six faces. But there's only one right way to do it. If I get part of it done and have only 6 out of 9 blue tiles on one side complete, and say "Well hey, it's right in its own way. I believe this is the correct way to complete a Rubik's Cube!", am I correct? Of course not. My thinking contradicts reality. Just because I think it's right the way it is doesn't take away from the fact the cube wasn't completed rightly. The only way to correctly finish it is to have 9 blue tiles looking at me. However, I have done something right; instead of having only 2 or 3 blue tiles looking at me I have doubled that amount. A part of what I was doing was on the "right" or correct track.

Which leads me back to where I totally agree with the fact that all religion has something right and good about it. This is different from what our author friend has put forth. Each religion has something right about it, but since truth can't contradict truth, only one of them can possess the fullness of truth or "rightness". This is why Jews and Buddhists can both agree that murder is evil, yet completely contradict each other elsewhere. There's a really good video about this from the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen on comparing world religions. He believed that all religions had good in them, a certain degree of truth and rightness. He explained that truth was like a circle, and a full circle is made of 360 degrees: "A religion that started in Los Angeles just this afternoon has some good in it. It only has 10 degrees, but it's got some good." He makes some great points; I'd watch from at least the 13:53 mark to 16:20 for the relevant part... but the reminder (well, the whole video) is great too. A great lesson indeed to all those who have trouble sorting through all the contradictory philosophies and religions out there.

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