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There Absolutely Are Absolute Truths…

John Trumbull's painting "The Declaration of Independence" - via National Archives

Situational ethics and cultural relativism are all the rage nowadays.

Both schools of thought are based on the multi-faceted premise that there is no absolute truth; nothing is fundamentally right or wrong but is merely a matter of personal preferences and our conduct should be driven by each unique situation rather than some arbitrary forced moral code.

We’ve all heard the popular statement and current buzz phrase, “Every person needs to define right and wrong for him or herself.”

That all sounds good, inclusive, warm, tolerant and politically correct, but there is one problem with that premise – it doesn’t work in real life.

If you truly believe there are no absolutes and “right and wrong” are merely societal/cultural constructs that are foisted upon the masses to keep them under control than I would like to ask you one question…..

“Right now, is there ANYONE you can think of in the entire world doing things that you believe they should stop doing regardless of their own personal justification for their conduct?”

If you are intellectually honest with yourself the only answer is “Yes.” All of us can think of people or individuals who are committing atrocities around the globe or around the corner.

Whether it’s torturing a political prisoner; abusing a child; committing wide-scale genocide; routinely driving drunk; violently raping someone; cheating on taxes or a spouse; writing a book to legally protect pedophilia; poaching an endangered species or any other of a thousand different heinous acts – we can identify people who do these things and we want them to stop.

If you answered “Yes” to that question above and agree that there are individuals who are doing things that you want them to stop doing – doesn’t that mean you DO believe in some kind of moral reality?

Isn’t that moral reality larger and higher than the wants and feelings of any single individual – or society for that matter?

The founders of this country thought so, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While anyone can concoct extreme outlier examples that may pose as weak rationalizations against morality, it stands to reason that life, liberty, human dignity (among others) are absolute truths that can’t be morphed to fit the shifting whims of personal political correctness.

Q: Do you believe that there are moral absolutes? Why or why not?

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  1. This is a hot topic in my house. I admit to not considering the implications of living with a moral relativist for a dozen or so years. Which should have been an alarm bell that resounded loudly enough to shatter my skull.
    I think one of the only “conformities” I have with engineers (of which I consider myself one) is that I understand black and white. Oh, I see greys- all the time- but that does not mean I don’t strive to darken or lighten them. :-)
    The key question is whether one is willing to put themselves on the line to redress or eliminate the glaring situation in their minds.
    As opposed to having a country be a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and violating them with impunity. Or declaring that all men are created equal and then denying rights to some- be they of a different color, different political persuasion, different class, or different religious belief. Those are the impossible internal contradictions.

    • Roy, well said – that fact that there are absolute truths and such a thing as “natural law” doesn’t always equate to equal application of principles. Nevertheless, our faulty application of truth doesn’t negate its existence.

  2. Great point.

  3. Absolutely, there are. These tenets are fine in a vacuum but in the rigors of everyday practice it’s hard to hold to them. If the world consisted of individual contained lives that never co-mingled then maybe these could find some purchase.

    This post reminded me of the saying “The tolerance crowd is so intolerant.”

  4. Luke Cheng says:

    This is a great observation. It seems like American culture is beginning to embrace more and more the view of post-modernism. Everything has become relative and it would be judgmental to rebuke another person. Like you said, although it seems politically correct and respectful to keep things relative, it is clear that the world seeks objective morality. Everyone desires justice, and even the court law could not function if it was not objective. In conclusion, I completely agree with you. There are absolutely absolute truths.

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