The trouble with bedrock beliefs…
Posted by 1minionsopinion on October 24, 2009
..would be their inability to change without applying great force.
I can’t say I see that as a good thing, unlike columnist Rebecca Hagelin at the Washington Post in a recent piece.
“Of course I dislike the Nazis. But who is to say they’re morally wrong?” The shocking statement was made to a college professor in New York by one of his students, as documented by author Kerby Anderson in a much-needed book, “Christian Ethics in Plain Language.” Mr. Anderson reports that the professor “said that he has never met a student who denied the Holocaust happened. But he also reported that 10 to 20 percent of his students cannot bring themselves to say that killing millions of people is wrong.”
That’s an alarming statistic, but I wonder if some of that might have to do with the fact that God killed a lot of people in the bible. Genocide cannot be evil if God does it. Check this list for 20 horrible death fests God created and/or encouraged.
Morality is an interesting concept. Common Sense Atheism quotes a piece from Alonzo Fyfe in another post regarding the inability of both Christians and atheists to accurately explain what leads to moral beliefs. One side says “evidence” or “reasons” and the other says “divinity.” In the end it amounts to the same nonsense; it’s feelings oriented and not based on reality.
This is certainly an indictment of how modern society has made a false religion out of “tolerance” and how we adults have failed to teach that there are, indeed, moral absolutes. What evidence more strongly proves the dangerous folly of moral relativism than young people who can’t distinguish between learning to “tolerate” what they merely “dislike” and recognizing what is, on its face, evil? We’re in real trouble when even the most egregious evils can’t be named as such.
Ms. Hagelin needs to travel to a few new places and see how other cultures live. True, a lot of cultures come to the same conclusions about murder and theft that we have, but that doesn’t make “Do not kill” and “do not steal” moral absolutes. They’re common rules found in many societies because they are useful rules for keeping a society healthy and productive. Too many murders, too much loss of property, and nobody feels safe anymore. Weapons get popular and fear leads even more people to be hurt and killed. It’s a hard cycle to break once it starts.
Ms. Hagelin needs to spend more time with more kinds of people to understand what the word “tolerate” means. I think we don’t do enough mingling, frankly. When we don’t like how some people think, we’ll avoid them or make enemies out of them rather than be friends with them anyway. We seldom associate with our neighbours, especially in areas where there’s a lot of change all the time. It gets hard to know who to trust when we don’t make an effort to get to know anybody.
I don’t want to label these as “the most egregious evils” but I concede she has a point here:
Recent surveys that reveal a growing number of youth believe that lying and adultery are acceptable behaviors indicate that we are headed for serious trouble as a society. We’ve become so obsessed with what is “politically correct” and the need not to “offend” that we are failing to teach the principles that every civil society must uphold in order to survive.
I don’t know what we could do about the lying. There’s something called Radical Honesty but I think if we all did that we’d be insufferable bastards and everyone would be upset and offended all the time. I don’t think we, as a society, can handle truth and criticism with a rational mind. I think most individuals never learned how.
When confronted with anything we don’t like to hear, we’ll automatically deny it or we’ll cry about it, as if we were still four years old. This is especially true when it comes to politics and religion, because we keep those issues and beliefs tied so close to our identities that we can’t pull a piece out and objectively study it like we can a rock or microbe.
Adultery may be a product of our inability to be honest with each other and ourselves. We sleep around because we a) deny having carnal urges that need satisfying and b) don’t want to offend and upset our partners when we say they “just don’t do it” for us. We are taught there is a moral obligation to stay by the one we’re with (til death do us part) but that isn’t always the best option. None of us should be forced to remain in a relationship that is going to endanger us or abuse our mental health. Some promises don’t need to be kept.
That said, why do so many of us act on our impulses instead of stopping ourselves? Why do we refuse to really look at and accept what we have? Why do we always feel like we have to look for more, for better? Is there some evolutionary reason we’ll seek the greener grass when what we have is already adequate?
Some truths are supposed to be self-evident. Yet even our Founding Fathers saw the need to clearly state them as such. Jeff Myers, a recognized expert in leadership development who has trained some two million people in mentoring and worldview understanding, warns, “We live in what may be one of the first generations in Western Civilization that is not intentionally preparing to pass its values to the next generation.”
How did Myers come to that conclusion? I don’t want to claim he’s wrong. Common sense isn’t something we’re born with, we have to learn it. We have to learn how important it is to share, to be polite, to be honest. We have to be encouraged to behave in a trustworthy fashion. We need our parents and role models to demonstrate how important it is to keep our word so we don’t disappoint those who count on us.
We also need to learn how to think critically and this is where a majority of us seem to be failing. It isn’t enough to pass values onto the next generation. The reasons for holding those values has to be better than “Because God says so.” It has to be. Why? Because values change over time and what worked then or even two hundred years ago might not fit the world today.
Beliefs about the nature of marriage and homosexuality and health and a lot of other topics within the Bible are no longer accurate in today’s world. Portions of the book advocate the use of slavery and stonings, too, and I hope we all agree that it’s a good thing we don’t support that anymore. But why are only some parts of the bible allowed to be dismissed as out of fashion (or just plain “wrong”) when other ludicrous things get kept?
Ms. Hagelin thinks it’s vital to save people from the “evils” of moral relativism, but I think she’s wrong to assume it’s invalid. Of course it’s a real morality system. That’s why there are so many cultural identities. So many Dash-Americans. An identity doesn’t change just because the country of residence does, but a country can change if enough identities find common ground. Those Founding Fathers Ms. Hagelin is so fond of might be appalled if they could see what their beloved United States have become.
One resource to help you train the next generation are the materials from Mr. Myers’ organization, Passing the Baton. At www.passingthebaton.org, you can order a kit that will enable you to mentor and equip young people with the ability to develop a strong moral compass.
How to fight back against manipulative marketing campaigns that target your child, including what to say to your teen when you pass Victoria’s Secret in the mall
I doubt the answer will be, “Girls like lace, Son, and if you want to wear that, you can, too.”
Hagelin also offers a link to Probe Ministries International, which sounds like someone didn’t think too hard about what that would sound like.
You can probe that at your leisure and I might find blog fodder in there at some point as well.