Dark Cloud on the Horizon – Moral Relativism

By Paul Kokoski

The Western world is increasingly succumbing to the prejudice of “political correctness”. More and more we live in a time and situation where pluralism and tolerance are, irreconcilable with absolute truth, the highest values. Laws are constantly being changed or newly introduced in order to satisfy the will of citizens in lieu of and without respect for the “natural moral law”. This can only lead to anarchy.

It is not possible here to present philosophical proofs for the existence of God. Nonetheless, by way of simple logic, when we speak of something like the world in terms of its richness or plurality we also affirm the existence of the world; the “many” presupposes the “one”. By similar arguments one can deduce that there must also be universal concepts of “being”, “truth”and “good”.

The universal good cannot be something ambiguous without also being relative. If it is relative one might justifiably speak, as did Heinrich Himmler, of the altruistic morals of the Nazi regime which is nonsense. The very fact that we discuss the common good proves that a criterion for the “good” ought to exist. We see that virtually all families accept as “good” the concepts of fidelity, gratitude, honesty while viewing acts of betrayal, ingratitude, falsehood as bad. It is clear then that a universal approach toward good and evil is necessary.

For the relativist, however, there is only tolerance. But why should tolerance count for anything unless it has as its foundation some other value. Such a tolerance that is “blind” ends up becoming a form of intolerance for that which actually gives tolerance its true value: convictions. Similarly, one’s convictions would have no value unless they were oriented toward a higher good. Upon this reference to truth is based the dignity of the human person.

The relativist admits to no supreme criterion that would allow him to distinguish between a good and bad conscience. For him, individual and societal actions are subject only to free will. The result is anarchy – the law of the jungle – which is no law at all. Domination and manipulation become the rule. In the 20th century we have seen two World Wars and the proliferation of terrorism. We are also witnessing the growing acceptance of evils such as contraception, in-vitro fertilization, euthanasia, homosexuality and abortion. Human Cloning and perhaps even World War III are lurking on the horizon. Such tyranny – man’s inhumanity to man – is the inevitable result when there is no lawful consensus regarding the true nature of the human being.

Plato has already said that God alone has supreme authority over man. Christ also confirmed to Pilate: “you would have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above” (Jn 19,11). Both the limits and legitimacy of man’s power come from God and are expressed in the natural moral law which is engraved in every human heart and established by reason. Even when that voice has been silenced by so many alternative views of life in our highly secular and materialistic world, it continues to echo in our hearts.

When a government or any democratic majority approves a law that contradicts this order, and in doing so marginalizes some resisting minority as being “fundamentalists”, it is the duty of every human being to oppose it. While claiming to be respecting of one’s freedom of choice, such lawmakers are really only leading people away from the true freedom which the natural law provides.

If the dignity of the will is to replace the dignity of the human person it will even be possible to imagine, in the words of Dr. Robert Spaemann, “breeding slaves, by genetic manipulation, who are fully in agreement with their condition as slaves.” Far-fetched? Spaemann mentions that only recently it became known that a cannibal found an accomplice via the internet who was willing to have himself killed and eaten. This took place according to mutual agreement and without any outside interference. He makes the important distinction that for the relativist this is not a crime.

Is this not a time for us all, especially lawyers and politicians to reflect on the concept of the natural moral law?

Categories: Americas

7 replies

  1. Dear Paul Kokoski, thank you so much for your articles. I completely agree with regarding the limitations of relativism and need for objective moral values. The verses in the Holy Quran that bring out the limitations of relativism are:

    And whoso honors the sacred things of Allah, it will be good for him with his Lord. And cattle are made lawful to you but not that which has been announced to you. Shun therefore the abomination of idols, and shun all words of untruth, remaining ever inclined to Allah, not associating anything with Him. And whoso associates anything with Allah, falls, as it were, from a height, and the birds snatch him up, or the wind blows him away to a distant place. That is so. And whoso respects the sacred Signs of Allah — that indeed proceeds from the righteousness of hearts. (Al Quran 22:31-33)

    Those who do not take absolutes from All Knowing God are blown away to distant place and you have cited an example of that in your post.

    However, when it comes to pluralism or multiculturalism we need to be able to live together in our global village. Please talk to me about religious tolerance in the Bible and in the Catholic tradition from different era, especially in view of the fact that institution of papacy is infallible according to the conventional belief. Thanks again.

  2. Dear Zia,

    Catholics believe that the Pope is infallible whenever he makes a pronouncement regarding morals and faith. The Papacy, which was instituted by Christ himself, is protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Of course Muslims disagree with the Trinity even though Jesus explicitly stated this dogma to which all Muslims must agree since they see Jesus as a prophet. Some Muslims say that God is pure Spirit and that he therefore cannot become man – as was the case with Jesus. Yet if Muslims believe that human beings can have physical and spiritual components why can’t God?
    The Catholic Church possesses the fullness of objective truth but tolerates those of other religions because religion is not something that can be forced upon someone. Rather than descend into murder Catholics choose to enter into dialogue with those of other faiths.

  3. Thank you dear Paul Kokoski for your comments. I have struggled with the infallibility of Popes in a few respects of faith and humanitarian behavior. In this comment I want to bring to your kind attention, my natural concern that Popes have promoted violence in the world over the centuries and did not give us a clear vision of religious freedom of others.

    Read the account of the taking over of Jerusalem in the seventh century by Umar, may God be pleased with him,and reclaiming of the holy city by Urban II four centuries later and you will be convinced of the great enormity of what is called the First Crusade. I have examined the Treaty of Jerusalem signed by Umar in my other writings and here I will give some account of the First Crusade mostly in the words of Thomas Asbridge, a Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Queen Mary, university of London, from his recent book, The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict between Christianity and Islam, published by the Oxford Press in 2004. He writes in the first chapter:

    The image of Muslims as brutal oppressors conjured by Pope Urban was pure propaganda – if anything, Islam had proved over the preceding centuries to be more tolerant of other religions than Catholic Christendom. Likewise, the fevered spontaneity of Bohemond’s decision to take the cross, dutifully recorded by one of his followers, was almost certainly a facade masking calculated ambition.

    Asbridge starts his book by describing the horrific imagery and forceful exhortation that launched the First Crusade:

    A race absolutely alien to God has invaded the land of Christians, has reduced the people with sword, rapine and flame. These men have destroyed the altars polluted by their foul practices. They have circumcised the Christians, either spreading the blood from the circumcisions on the altars or pouring it into the baptismal fonts. And they cut open the navels of those whom they choose to torment with loathsome death, tear out their most vital organs and tie them to a stake, drag them around and flog them, before killing them as they lie prone on the ground with all their entrails out. What shall I say of the appalling violation of women, of which it is more evil to speak than to keep silent? On whom, therefore, does the task lie of avenging this, of redeeming this situation, if not on you, upon whom above all nations God has bestowed outstanding glory in arms, magnitude of heart, litheness of body and strength to humble anyone who resists you.

    Asbridge gives us enough details in his very first chapter of his almost 400 page book, he writes:

    A central feature of Urban’s doctrine was the denigration and dehumanisation of Islam. He set out from the start to launch a holy War against what he called ‘the savagery of the Saracens’, a ‘barbarian’ people capable of incomprehensible levels of cruelty and brutality. Their supposed crimes were enacted upon two groups. Eastern Christians, in particular the Byzantines, had been ‘overrun right up to the Mediterranean Sea’. Urban described how the Muslims, ‘occupying more and more of the land on the borders of [Byzantium], were slaughtering and capturing many, destroying churches and laying waste to the kingdom of God. So, if you leave them alone much longer they will further grind under their heels the faithful of God’. The pope also maintained that Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land were being subjected to horrific abuse and exploitation. While the wealthy were regularly beaten and stripped of their fortunes by illegal taxes, the poor endured even more terrible treatment:
    ‘Non-existent money is extracted from them by intolerable tortures, the hard skin on their heels being cut open and peeled back to investigate whether perhaps they have inserted something under it. The cruelty of these impious men goes even to the length that, thinking the wretches have eaten gold or silver, they either put scammony in their drink and force them to vomit or void their vitals, or – and this is unspeakable – they stretch asunder the coverings of all the intestines after ripping open their stomachs with a blade and reveal with horrible mutilation whatever nature keeps secret.’
    These accusations had little or no basis in fact, but they did serve Urban’s purpose. By expounding upon the alleged crimes of Islam, he sought to ignite an explosion of vengeful passion among his Latin audience, while his attempts to degrade Muslims as ‘sub-human’ opened the floodgates of extreme, brutal reciprocity. This, the pope argued, was to be no shameful war of equals, between God’s children, but a ‘just’ and ‘holy’ struggle in which an ‘alien’ people could be punished without remorse and with utter ruthlessness. Urban was activating one of the most potent impulses in human society: the definition of the ‘other’. Across countless generations of human history, tribes, cities, nations and peoples have sought to delineate their own identities through comparison to their neighbours or own identities through comparison to their neighbours or enemies. By conditioning Latin Europe to view Islam as a species apart, the pope stood to gain not only by facilitating his proposed campaign, but also by propelling the West towards unification.

    So, it was different political and other sinister motivations that launched the First Crusade four centuries after Jerusalem had been taken over by the Muslims in an almost bloodless siege and unprecedented Treaty known as the Treaty of Jerusalem.

    Urban II died in Rome in 1099. He was beatified in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. [5] As we judge Urban II so would be the verdict for the whole of the Catholic Church, from 11th till the 16th century. According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

    Crusades, military expeditions, beginning in the late 11th century, that were organized by Western Christians in response to centuries of Muslim wars of expansion. Their objectives were to check the spread of Islam, to retake control of the Holy Land, to conquer pagan areas, and to recapture formerly Christian territories; they were seen by many of their participants as a means of redemption and expiation for sins. Between 1095, when the First Crusade was launched, and 1291, when the Latin Christians were finally expelled from their kingdom in Syria, there were numerous expeditions to the Holy Land, to Spain, and even to the Baltic; the Crusades continued for several centuries after 1291, usually as military campaigns intended to halt or slow the advance of Muslim power or to conquer pagan areas. Crusading declined rapidly during the 16th century with the advent of the Protestant Reformation and the decline of papal authority.

    As long as the papal authority lasted the Crusades of one form or the other continued. Here in is a lesson for the moderate and well meaning Christians to be continually vigilant against the hate-mongers or the Islamophobes among their ranks, lest eventually they lose their own religious freedoms.


  4. Dear Zia,

    There have been good and bad popes. But the Pope and the Catholic Church do not teach violence. The Crusades were merely a reply to Muslim invasions and desire for world domination at any cost – including violence. This is not propaganda but fact. You yourself state that the First Crusade came AFTER Jerusalem had been taken over by the Muslims in a bloody revolt.
    In his book, The Great Christian Heresies, Hilaire Belloc classifies Islam as a Christian heresy. The foundation of Mohammed’s teaching is Catholicism which he took and simplified to suit his own personal convictions. His central heresy is a full denial of the “Incarnation”. He taught that our Lord was merely a prophet; a man like other men.
    At the heart of Islam is the desire to want to measure the truth of faith by modern society’s individualistic standards. Such people mistakenly believe that divine Revelation must adapt itself to the current mentality in order to be credible, instead of the current mentality converting in the light that comes to us from on high. The result is a stripping of the Redeemer of man (Jesus Christ) of his radical uniqueness, and classifying Him as someone who can be managed and domesticated to suit their own purposes.
    You have still not replied to the contradiction by which Muslims call Jesus a prophet and a liar at the same time. Jesus taught his disciples to go and baptize all men in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son, and (Holy Spirit).

  5. Mr. Kokoski, attacking islam for beliefs that are foreign only to contemporary belief is hardly an argument for its validity. I empathize with athiests the world over when they reject current christian belief because of clear contradictions to science. Because all archaelogical evidence suggests a reality other than your trinity and the irrational behind the logic that all man is born sinful. Its high time ppl break the shacklss of their ego and wake up from their slumber.

  6. Umair,
    Attacking Christianity is illogical. The contradicrions lie with Islam as I have already stated and which you have not refuted

  7. Dear Paul Kokoski,

    You have written that “Muslims call Jesus a prophet and a liar at the same time”. In reality the true Muslims who believe in the Holy Quran can never call Jesus a liar. They believe in Jesus as a True Prophet of God; not only Jesus was righteous but also his mother. The Holy Quran states:

    “The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; surely, Messengers like unto him had indeed passed away before him. And his mother was a truthful woman.” (5:76)

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