Jul 18, 2008

Moral Relativism


Fundamentalist Christians and other religious fanatics have this tendency to feel superior over other people when it comes to the issue of morality. They are usually deluded into thinking that their so-called “righteousness” sets them apart from the rest of the sinners. They think that their moral codes are divinely promulgated, absolute, and beyond question. This feeling of moral ascendancy is strong enough to make them numb of the reality of things. Their world view is over-simplified and always based on the template imposed by their faith. It is a faith that is not based on facts but merely on arbitrary hunches. Morality for most religious fanatics is absolute and has no cultural dimension.

This confident assertion of moral absolutism only leads to bigotry. Religious fanatics are sometimes too narrow-minded to realize that majority of human actions or behaviors cannot easily be classified as good or bad, moral or immoral. Cultural differences should be taken into consideration. Culture varies across time and space. Culture is a primary determining factor of people’s mindset and behavior. Even religion is culturally-based. Hence, morality cannot absolutely be dictated by one particular religion. The sense of right and wrong varies from one culture to another, from one generation to the next.

Take for instance the case of slavery. Even within the Christian religion, the moral concept about slavery has changed over the centuries. Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians has this to say about slaves:

Ephesians 6:5-9: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling…”
Saint Paul never explicitly condemned slavery as something that is immoral. He instead counseled slaves to be simply submissive to their masters. This same idea of submission has been invoked by slave traders and owners as justification for their involvement in slavery. In the US, it took a civil war and a century of struggle to completely grant citizen’s rights to the black people.

Today, however, no right-thinking Christian preacher would publicly assert that slavery is morally right or even tolerable. Why the change of view? The truth is that Christian values also evolve over the centuries. Most Christians today would cringe on some of the moral predispositions of their forebears. Hence, morality is not absolute. If you were going to retrace the history of Christianity, you will realize that it has radically changed its moral stand on certain issues. How can now Christians preach moral absolutism if Christian doctrines are evolving?


  1. I'm curious as to how you can label a moral absolutist a bigot. If morals aren't absolute, then how can we tell who's a bigot and who's not?

  2. by definition, a bigot is a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own. being a bigot is a characteristic, a state of mind. you really do not need to have an absolute moral reference in order to determine if a person is a bigot.

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