Stubborn Atheist and Moral Relativism


#1

I have a friend who is really big on moral relativism. He believes that his morals are no better than Adolf Hitler’s simply because our morals are just determined by our culture. I asked him if he thinks that the ancient Canaanites were wrong for sacrificing infants on burning coals to Baal. He said to me that of course he thought it was wrong, but if he were to have been born and raised as an ancient Canaanite that he would think it perfectly fine. He refutes any absolute truths. I’m having a hard time getting him to accept that there is such a thing as objective morality. He just keeps on telling me that all morals are subjective. He doesn’t believe that there are any absolute truths, because our morals vary from culture to culture.How can I get across to my friend that there are such things as absolute truths that are just infinitely true regardless of one’s culture?


#2

Ask him if in 5 years our culture deems it just to kill all atheists would he be ok with that. Would it be moral?

Also regarding hitler, by his position it would seem immoral for the US to have fought to stop hitler. Why should we impose our morals on their culture.

If he stays consistent then you can at least credit his consistency but you’ll have to try a different angle.


#3

Relativism is the assertion that truths, especially moral truths,
have no validity independent of the “values” treasured by the person
or society that asserts them.

Definition from Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind Edited by John Zmirak (Relativism chapter by Eric Metaxas)

Ask your friend if he thinks *Relativism *is true.

When he says “yes”, ask him if he is ABSOLUTELY sure relativism is true?

Repeat that once or twice.

Then remind him that asserting *Relativism *as an absolute truth is in and of itself, self-contradictory.

(“Yes! I’m ABSOLUTELY sure Relativism is true! I am ABSOLUTELY sure there are NO ABSOLUTE truths!”)

If it is self-contradictory (and this proposition is self-contradictory), than it must be false.

Peter Kreeft walks you through this argument in detail in his book, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist. It can be found here.

“We are moving toward a dictatorship of Relativism which
does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as
its highest goal ones own ego and one’s own desires.”
-Pope Benedict XVI

Dr. Benjamin Wiker has a good article on Benedict vs. the Dictatorship of Relativism

Another variation of *Relativism *is “the happy medium” which sounds good on the surface.

But here is what the late Dietrich von Hildebrand said about this concept . . . .

 "Now, the idea of the mean as the *happy medium* applies to many instances of rational choice. For example, food should be neither too salty nor saltless; the temperature in a room should be neither too hot nor too cold.  When, however, it comes to the exploration of truth, to philosophical controversies, to antithetical approaches to the world, or to opposed world views, the theory of the happy mean does not apply.
 **Extremes are not incomplete truths**
 In these questions the truth lies *above *the two extremes, not *between *them. In every extreme there is a wandering from the truth into error. Although the reciprocal extremes seem to be completely antagonistic, they actually share the same crucial error. The true position differs from both extremes much more than they differ from each other."

From Trojan Horse in the City of God: The Catholic Crisis Explained
by Dietrich Von Hildebrand (Author), John O’Connor (Foreword) p. 21.
Bold and italics original


#4

Ask him if he believes in LOVE. If he does then that is the solid defining structure of morality…as it is our guiding Christian light and golden rule. If he doesn’t then he is blinded, deceived and held in captivity from the truth which is the resounding gong of LOVE and feeds morality. For without truth one cannot understand nor perceive what is wrong or right in context of morality.

Morality begins when we learn to understand, and we are taught not to lean on our own understanding. So invariably morality is set by the one whom we are to trust in; that being GOD the heavenly father and his son lord JESUS CHRIST.

“So what standards are set by morality that we must understand…GOD and JESUS CHRIST the heir; the son of GOD are the one/s that have given us those standards.” The word and scriptures and the spirit of GOD help to define it.

Praise be to GOD the heavenly father and his son lord JESUS CHRIST forever>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


#5

Most atheists aren’t relativists, if an atheist goes to Afghanistan, he won’t start stoning women for “honour” or deny their rights, even afghani atheists most of them stand against this brutal behaviour , it’s a part of a religious primitive objective law that atheists stand against, they have an objective morality against another cruel unjust objective morality…

Stating that morality is evolving in time and place doesn’t make the person a relativist, it’s a fact about societies, whether old or new, east or west, a good moral person will have same objective morals with acknowledging that societies are relative.

Also, theistic moralities aren’t all the same…


#6

The taking of a life is intrinsically evil in any culture. In the State of California in the USA abortion is legal. Objectively it is a grave disorder since abortion is murder. Different cultures can adapt any moral code they wish but objectively there are certain ethics that remain non negotiable regardless of the time and place.


#7

Suggest that he read “The Abolition of Man” by C.S.Lewis.

“the Nietzschean ethic can be accepted only if we are ready to put ourselves in a position where we can find no ground for any value judgments at all. It is the difference between a man who says to us: ‘You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?’ and a man who says, ‘Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes instead.”

“An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or of Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut. He can say nothing to the purpose. Outside the Tao there is no ground for criticizing either the Tao or anything else.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man


#8

LibralAteoJesus stated:

Most atheists aren’t relativists, if an atheist goes to Afghanistan, he won’t start stoning women for “honour” or deny their rights . . .

Why not “start stoning women for ‘honour’ or deny their rights” LibralAteoJesus?

I agree with you they wouldn’t and shouldn’t, but I might not agree with “why”?

Especially since you said they “aren’t relativists”.


#9

LiberateoJesus, you said:

they have an objective morality against another cruel unjust objective morality

This is fascinating. Would you agree that since both are objective and both are in conflict, at least one must be wrong?

To the original question:

He said to me that of course he thought it was wrong, but if he were to have been born and raised as an ancient Canaanite that he would think it perfectly fine.

Ask whether he would be correct in thinking one of those things. He has four “options”:

a) It is wrong to kill babies on hot coals = true AND It is fine [not always wrong] to kill babies on hot coals = false.

b) It is wrong to kill babies on hot coals = false AND It is fine [not always wrong] to kill babies on hot coals = true.

c) It is wrong to kill babies on hot coals = false AND It is fine [not always wrong] to kill babies on hot coals = false.

d) It is wrong to kill babies on hot coals = true AND It is fine [not always wrong] to kill babies on hot coals = true.

given the statement:
p: It is wrong to kill babies on hot coals
a negation is:
~p: It is sometimes not wrong to kill babies on hot coals
which is what I think he means by
It is fine to kill babies on hot coals

© and (d) cannot can both be eliminated since statements (p and ~p) are contradictories. That leaves us with (a) or (b). But in both of those, we are forced to admit that either p is true and ~p is false or vice versa.

Alternatively, you could ask him whether it is wrong for you to stop others from killing babies on hot coals. If he says that it is, then he’s trying to force you to not do something (assuming that he would do something about your actions), implicitly admitting that he thinks he can enforce his “moral code” on you. If he says that it is not wrong for you to do so, he is implicitly admitting that you can enforce your “moral code” on others. How does he justify enforcing moral codes on others if morals are all relative?
(if he says it would be wrong for you to do so, but he wouldn’t do anything about it, change the question to something like abortion where he would do something about it)


#10

I think there is absolute truth of certain morality because I believe in a God, who reveals to us the absolute truth, who says certain things are moral. I believe God has the knowledge to know what is absolutely true. But if I were an atheist, and I also believed that no man has either the authority or the knowledge to know what is absolutely true concerning morality or could say that there were such a thing as absolute truth, then of course I would have to conclude the same thing as your friend. Providing I am humble enough not to determine that I know the absolute truth.

From his point of view you are someone that has believed in things that simply do not exist. He is actually a step ahead of you when it comes to knowing what is true. You are hardly qualified to tell him what is true about absolute truth and morality. You would have to stop believing in God to hope to be his equal.

From the believer’s point of view, the atheist is far behind. He hasn’t even gotten to the hard part yet, figuring who God is and what he wants. The struggle over those things is much fiercer than the struggle over whether he exists. He hasn’t even gotten to the point where he thinks there is some kind of supernatural level to existence, like the Buddhist. He is all the way back at square one. “Is this all there is? Yes.” (I’m guessing) And there he is stuck. It seems to me you have to help move him past this point before you can teach him more advanced things like absolute truth and morality. Will he have opinions on every kind of issue? Sure, he’s not stupid, but he’s gonna be wrong about a lot of things because he lives in a false reality.

If you can find any desire in him to believe then maybe you can do something. But if he has no desire to believe then pray for him. Tell Jesus you care about this person. Jesus might know what to do for him. But there’s lot’s of people who won’t listen to Jesus either, as we have learned in the gospels.


#11

You will not get through to him with words.

You will get through to him by your example, by living a life of prayer and penance, an authentic life of Christian virtue and love. When the world is going to Hell and everyone is in a rage, and you instead are at peace and full of Joy, courageous and unafraid, he will want to be like you and will ask you how you do it. That will be the time to talk about Jesus and the sacraments.

-Tim-


#12

its my understanding that this thread was about a specific person with there specific beliefs. oh and that “religions primitive objective law” you brought up, yea tell that to the soviets and north koreans


#13

**josef

He doesn’t believe that there are any absolute truths, because our morals vary from culture to culture.How can I get across to my friend that there are such things as absolute truths that are just infinitely true regardless of one’s culture? **

Remind him that differences in opinion does not mean all differences are equally true. Does he believe the flat earth people are as onto the truth as the round earth people.

Does he really believe that Adolf Hitler was as truly moral as Mother Teresa? If he thinks so, smile, nod your head, and run for your life. This is a dangerous person to know! :wink:


#14

I gathered that his friend, the atheist, would think Mother Teresa was the moral one but he thinks that if he were raised Adolf Hitler he would think Adolf was a moral man. So he concludes that morality is subjective and based solely on how you are raised (or culture). In other words, the atheist is like saying that since people can be raised to believe various truths, there must be no absolute truth. Absolute truth is just a belief system like religion (he thinks). He’s not saying he doesn’t have a notion of what he believes is moral.

He’s an atheist. Stuff like religion and absolute truth begins and ends between our ears. There is nothing beyond that. (if he is that kind of atheist).


#15

That may be your preferred way but there is no reason that one can not live as you say and still defend the Faith and evangelize with words.

The spoken and written word doesn’t work so might as well shut down Catholic Answers, the forum, EWTN? :shrug:

Btw…our first pope did pretty well with words talking to another corrupt generation…
Acts 2:38-41…


#16

** Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
You will not get through to him with words. **

That’s very possible. But it depends on how stubborn he is. Some people, I have discovered, are driven to irritate other people by saying outrageous things. It’s a bad habit they cannot seem to overcome. Possibly it’s related to not getting much attention early in life, or never being taken too seriously because they are not so bright as they think they are?


#17

The person isn’t saying there are no absolute moral truths, but that society dictates the absolute moral truths in which a person lives. But these absolute moral truths dictated by the culture may change over time with the change in the moral views of the culture.

If one moral truth can be proven to be constant and never changing with the culture, then the argument is proven false.

I believe the argument would be indiscriminate killing of humans in that culture. This proves absolute truth exists, for indiscriminate killing of humans is against the culture itself. For no culture of humans wishes to be annihilated and this would never change.


#18

**fred

I believe the argument would be indiscriminate killing of humans in that culture. This proves absolute truth exists, for indiscriminate killing of humans is against the culture itself. For no culture of humans wishes to be annihilated and this would never change. **

:thumbsup: The indiscriminate killing of persons would be absolutely evil in every culture. When that does happen, in the case of mass murders, the murderer is usually insane, which emphasizes the connection between sanity and absolute morality.


#19

Different cultures can adapt any moral code they wish but objectively there are certain ethics that remain non negotiable regardless of the time and place.

But that’s not true is it?

Numerous States and Countries support the death penalty.

Either all human life is valuable and precious, or it isn’t.

I happen to think it is, which is why I have such strength of opposition to the death penalty and abortion.

Not all religious leaders, or people of faith, would agree with me though :shrug:

Sarah x :slight_smile:


#20

**atheistgirl

But that’s not true is it?**

I think teach means the unlawful and indiscriminate taking of life is immoral in every culture.

Self defense would be called an absolutely lawful taking of life in every culture. Unless you can show me a culture that even forbids self defense killing. Can you? :confused:


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