Relative Morality

“Mr. Turek: “David, you were just talking about leaving a kid in an orphanage rather than putting it with a gay couple as immoral. I thought you just told us that there is no such thing as objective morality. Is it immoral or you just don’t like it?”

Mr. Silverman: “No. I said there was no such thing as objective morality. I said all morality is relative.”

Mr. Turek: “So why are you objecting to somebody who doesn’t want to put a kid with a homosexual couple then? Why are you objecting to that if there is no …”

Mr. Silverman: “We have the right to object. We are always doing that, okay. We are always making these choices. It’s not wrong to say that I’m making my independent choices—independent of any other book or any other holy book. We all make the same moral choices. I find it wholly immoral.”

Mr. Turek: “According to what standard? Your own standard?”

Mr. Silverman: “According to my standard, yes.”

Mr. Turek: “Oh well that’s okay, so…”

Mr. Silverman: “That’s exactly the same way you do it.”

Mr. Turek: “Okay, but, are you condemning somebody else for having a different relative standard than you?”

Mr. Silverman: “No. I’m saying we all have to take responsibility for our moral judgments. We are all making those decisions in real time, just like you are. For the same reason that you’re not going into Leviticus and you’re not saying ‘okay let’s kill the gays,’ that’s immoral to you and me. We’re making that relative moral decision. You’re supporting your relative moral decision with other Bible quotes that you’re finding. ”

Mr. Turek: “Okay, but you’re confusing the decision with the existence of a moral standard. You’re saying that there is no moral standard or there is a standard, objective, outside of humanity to which we should obey?”

Mr. Silverman: “There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions.”

Mr. Turek: “Responsible to who?”

Mr. Silverman: “To ourselves and to our society.”

Mr. Turek: “Which society? Mother Tersa’s or Hitler’s?”

Mr. Silverman: “The society in which we live.”

Mr. Silverman: “Yes, this is not an easy question.”

Mr. Turek: “So at Nuremburg then we really had no right to convict the Nazi’s [for] obeying their government.”

Mr. Silverman: “We as a world society judge our criminals and we judge them as we see fit.”

Mr. Turek: “I know we judge them. So you’re saying we just judge them based on our preferences. You know in some cultures they take care of their babies, in other cultures they eat their babies. Which do you prefer?”

Mr. Silverman: “I prefer the one where they take care of their babies. I also prefer the ones where the Nazi’s don’t do terrible things under the name of God.”

Mr. Turek: “But it’s just a preference.”

Mr. Silverman: “Yes. It’s an opinion.”

Mr. Turek: “Okay well if it’s just an opinion, you’re saying then… If it’s just an opinion I don’t know why you condemn a Christian couple for not wanting to put a baby with a homosexual because that’s just their morality that they have every right to express themselves, don’t they?”

Mr. Silverman: “They have every right to do it. I’m saying it’s a wholly immoral position.”

Mr. Turek: “According to who?”

Mr. Silverman: “According to me.”

Mr. Turek: “Well, okay, that’s just David Silverman.”

Mr. Silverman: “Of course that’s all according to us. We all make our own moral decisions. The only difference between you and me is that I take responsibility for my moral decisions and you justify your moral decisions by finding a passage in the Bible that matches your moral decisions and saying ‘Ah ha! It’s objective morality.”

Mr. Turek: “Well if there is no objective morality then we have… it’s even hard to talk this way because we say we have no right, but that implies a moral standard too…”

Mr. Silverman: “No, we have a societal right.”

Mr. Turek: “According to you?”

Mr. Silverman: “According to the government that we create.”

Mr. Turek: “Okay, well, then we have no real way to condemn the Nazis for what they did.”

Mr. Silverman: “That’s the hard answer, is you’re correct. The hard answer is it is a matter of opinion. The hard answer is they thought they were doing objective good. They did. So we condemn them as a society but you know we do this all the time.”

Mr. Turek: “Yeah they thought they were doing good, but they really weren’t according to a standard. But the only way you could know whether they were really…”

Mr. Silverman: “According to whose standard?”

Mr. Turek: “The unchanging objective moral standard that is God’s nature.”

Mr. Silverman: “They did it under the name of God.”

Mr. Turek: “Well there’s a lot of people that … You don’t judge a philosophy or religion by its abuse, David. Jesus never said that we ought to go kill the Jews, quite obviously. He was a Jew himself, you should know that.”

Mr. Silverman: “Yeah.”

Mr. Turek: “So because people have abused religion doesn’t mean the religion is false.”

Mr. Silverman: “The fact that people have abused religion shows you that morality is relative. If it was objective you couldn’t abuse it.”

Mr. Turek: “No. You’re confusing sociology and morality. Sociology is how people behave, morality is how they ought to behave. We all ought to behave a certain way but we fail to. By the way, that’s why we need a savior.”

In this exchange, David is confusing how we know the moral standard (epistemology) with the existence of a moral standard (ontology). He is also confusing how people behave (sociology) with how they ought to behave (morality). But one thing that David seems not confused about is that morality is relative. He actually asserted that eating babies isn’t really immoral- it’s just a matter of opinion! Ditto the Holocaust…

If David comes to his senses and wants to take back his outlandish assertion that eating babies and murdering six million Jews is just a matter of opinion, he would have to appeal to an unchanging, authoritative standard outside of himself. But that’s exactly what atheists don’t have. They have molecules. They don’t have God.

Morality isn’t made of molecules. What does justice weigh? What is the chemical composition of courage? ….These are absurd questions because moral standards aren’t made of molecules.

To have an unchanging objective standard of justice, you don’t need molecules- you need an objective, unchanging judge who has supreme authority. Humans can’t provide that. Human beings are changeable and do not hold absolute authority over other human beings. You need God for that. If there is no God above Hitler and every other human, who says murder is wrong?

That’s why when David appealed to society as his moral standard, I asked him, “Which society? Mother Teresa’s or Hitler’s?” “Society” is just a collection of humans, and one collection may assert different moral positions than others, which is why we had World War II in the first place!”

(Turek, Stealing from God, 93-98)



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