I remember seeing an amusing skit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus about a football match of some sort between philosophers. They would wander around, chin in hand, until one was ready with a platitude or postulate of some sort – then (and only then) could they play the ball. Of course it was voiced over by a commentator: “It looks like… yes… Archimedes has had an idea!” and the ball goes into play.

The musings of academics and philosophers may seem anal, but these lines of thought have a way of finding their way to the ordinary person. The other day I made a statement concerning someone famous for his polemic against faith in God.  When someone countered that this was “just my opinion”, I was taken aback. I might be wrong, but there is no relative truth here. Either he or I are wrong: either it’s “just my opinion”  or I’m right.

Is not the business of life to search after truth, and order our lives accordingly? Is it “just my opinion” that a bridge around the corner is washed out? Of course not. Either it is, or is not. And in our hearts I think we believe that concrete issues can be either true or false; but that matters of morality and spiritual truth are somewhat softer; that mere opinion informs us, and no particular person is right. But can this really be so?

Ideas matter. If we believe morality is relative, for instance, we may have less scruples about cheating, or even about speaking out against injustice: who are we to judge the perpetrator, or even ourselves? But if we believe in real morality based on truths considered self-existent and self evident, then we have a basis to judge situations and to act.

We can’t tell someone they need Christ if morality is a relative issue. We can’t even (in all honesty) disapprove of some heinous act we witness if everything’s relative. Who, after all, are we to judge?

But the falseness of this position is obvious.  Do any of us think we should not condemn the act of rape, of child abuse or genocide? Of even bullying, and ordinary selfishness? If we are to be thoroughgoing relativists, we’d better keep our mouths shut. Nearly everyone is better than that, and we’re horrified at such acts, but nobody stops to consider the apparent contradiction.

Regrettably, this sort of  moral relativism is rampant in society today, and has had dire consequences for society and for eternity. Such accommodation seems open, more pluralistic, more democratic; but if we are looking for truth, it’s less than useless.

Without some sort of overarching moral consensus, we become essentially competitive. We may say thing are all relative, a matter of opinion, but that’s easy to say in a society where there’s plenty to eat and the rule of law is enforced. When food is scarce, and it’s someone’s “opinion” that they want the food I have, if they are the stronger they will simply take it. I can’t complain about the wrongness of the act, because they are just acting according to their own particular reality. There is no moral restraint on the other party to leave me alone, or even to share what they have taken.


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