“We only have one life to live.” – Anonymous
I was speaking with a friend and he used the phrase “you only have one life to live.” It’s a commonly used statement when one is considering say taking a vacation to an exotic spot, buying something that is very expensive or doing something that one would not usually do. It is an excuse to be extravagant or imprudent. The idea that one has only one life allows one to do things now without a virtuous, ethical or moral basis. It allows one to become self serving. To live for the here and now, the future consequences be damned.
There’s only one problem with living as if you only have one life. It can allow you to do the unthinkable. It can lead to moral relativism.
Moral Relativism vs. Moral Objectivism
Luke Pollard, who studied philosophy and theology at Oxford and Rebecca Massey-Chase, who studied English and Philosophy at Bristol, co-authored an article titled “An Argument on the Moral Argument” published in Volume 57 of Philosophy Now in 2006. Pollard wrote:
There are two views in ethics: morality is either ‘objective’ or ‘relative’. Objectivism in morality is the theory that there are at least some moral statements that are right or wrong, whether we believe them to be or not. These truths are not dependant upon us or upon any changeable thing. For instance, “Torturing babies just for fun is wrong” is objectively true whether we believe it to be or not. Even if everyone was brainwashed into thinking that it is morally acceptable, torturing babies just for fun would still be wrong.
Moral relativism, on the other hand, is the complete rejection of moral objectivism. At its core is the assertion that all moral statements are grounded purely in the whim and subjective taste of each individual or culture.
This ethics issue of moral relativism has come to the forefront recently with New York State legalizing the killing of babies at the moment of birth (infanticide). Infanticide is now the ultimate goal of the morally relative, albeit legal, act of abortion.
Infanticide, Mass Murder and Genocide
Infanticide has now become public policy. They are many examples of moral relativism in human history, from mass murders to genocide on an industrial scale. Is history repeating itself?
From the mass killings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2017 to the Holocaust between 1941 and 1945, the one common factor is moral relativism. Moral statements, like though shall not murder, are “grounded purely in the whim and subjective taste of each individual or culture.”
One culture may think that torturing babies just for fun is okay and another that it is wrong: under relativism, both views are equally valid. We cannot tell a baby-torturer that what they do is wrong, and they should stop – their torturing is just as morally acceptable as our non-torturing. There is no logical reason why they should change. And, by relativism, if a society did change their behaviour, they could not have progressed morally, because there is no unchangeable measure by which to test their values. They have simply altered their moral outlook, and nothing else. There is no value-added, because there is no value.
When life has no value then what can the individual or collective do in the name of adding value?
Pollard concluded, “Relativism is clearly ridiculous.”
Moral Objectivism and God
Moral objectivism requires a belief in one all powerful monotheistic God. The three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all believe in a monotheistic God.
However Rebecca Massey-Chase argued,
In stating torturing babies just for fun is wrong “whether we believe it to be or not”, Luke [Pollard] is simply stating a view that he knows those reading this will probably (hopefully) agree with. But there is no reason why that specific precept is any more ‘objectively true’ than any other example he could have extracted from the ethics of his own personal moral criteria. Furthermore, he clearly believes that he can access God’s dictates on morality; yet what evidence is there to support his claims that he, or indeed anyone, can know such objective truth? Does one find it in divine revelation or religious texts; and if so, which ones? Is the Bible the absolute authority?
[ … ]
Luke maintains that objective moral values do exist, and thus necessarily God exists. He maintains that he is providing us with a proof of this hypothesis. However, I suggest that he is demonstrating only firmly held belief. His arguments rest on his perceptions of the world. I approach this argument from a different position; my perceptions are different and I see no reason to accept his main premises. I reject his claim to knowledge on a matter that rests only on belief and interpretation.
Massey-Chase is questioning if God exists. Philosophers have been arguing this for centuries. The final conclusion is the following logical argument:
- Objective moral values exist.
- Objective moral values necessitate the existence of a God.
- Therefore, a God exists.
These statements are only true of one believe that there is a God and His Son is Jesus Crist. As John 3:16 reads.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Without God and His Son there is no life after death. There is nothing but one life to live, which can lead to moral relativism. Moral relativism can, and has, lead to atrocities like the law allowing the killing of babies in New York state.
The question is what morally relative atrocity comes next?
EDITORS NOTE: The featured images is from Pixabay.