Culture

Moral Relativism Led to Violent Society — How to Turn the Tide

Ideas have consequences, and the morally bankrupt theory of moral relativism has done damage.

Caroline C. Lewis · May 31, 2018

Some pose that one of our core societal problems is “gun violence.” Yet violence is not the problem, but rather the consequence of the problem.

The actual problem exists in a false idea called “moral relativism,” which basically means that morals and values vary between individuals. This philosophy posits that each person must find his or her (or zim or zir) “own truth” that may differ from everyone else’s. Unchangeable “truth” becomes irrelevant, replaced instead with ever-changing “feelings.”

Yet when we become the sole arbiters of what is just and good, personal pleasure and success (often gained at the expense of other people) remains as life’s core goal. Living for success and pleasure, however, breeds a society of selfishness and narcissism. In our culture, this narcissism has been leveraged, in a large way, by social media that rewards “likes” and quantifies a person’s popularity by displaying statistics of how many friends a person has. Thus, we compete with ourselves and others to be the most liked, most successful person in our circle of connections. And because right and wrong are mostly irrelevant, we pursue self-fulfillment in any way that seems “right” to us, regardless of whether it is actually moral. When someone questions what we have concluded to be “right” for us, we become an offended victim.

Unfortunately, moral relativism, in which we make our own rules and become victims if we can’t have our way, has infiltrated every area of society, including our education system, the discipline of psychology and our legal system. No longer is it, “You killed someone. Go to prison.” It is, “You killed someone because you were a victim of bullying.” But should appeals to victimhood absolve a person of capital murder?

The title of Richard Weaver’s 1948 book says it best: Ideas Have Consequences. And the idea of moral relativism has certainly had its consequences. As Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “Without God, all things are permitted.” All things including, of course, violence and murder.

What did post-modernists think would result from teaching children that they were random results of meaningless primordial sludge and that everyone else is as meaningless as they are? Why are we surprised with the violence of our society, which gives the strong power over the weak, when we have modeled that with the legalization of abortion? Or why did we assume that allowing children to watch Hollywood’s glamorized violence, murder and killings would have no effect? Or that videogames that reward players for killing people would somehow produce virtue? Does good fruit ever come from a bad plant?

The Supreme Court first removed prayer (1962) and the Bible (1963) from public schools in order to be “neutral.” In reality, these rulings made morals irrelevant to the education process. But would a world where children are taught, “Do not murder,” “Do not steal” or “Honor your parents” be such a horrible place? Wouldn’t society (regardless of religious affiliation, or non-affiliation) benefit from such educational instruction?

This leads to the chief question, “What is education?” Is education merely the memorization of facts and figures or is education, at its core, the formation of character, of discipline, of honesty and of treating people with kindness and equity?

The Supreme Court decisions from the 1960s not only removed God from the educational process but separated being (who we are) from doing (what we do). As a result, education has become less about the formation of character and more about producing “results.” Yet human beings are comprised of both body and soul, of being and doing. Re-envisioning the education process as a place that teaches virtue and forms character and returning society to a place that affirms rather than derides values stands as the first step to reviving our culture from violence. Keep Faith in America, a growing movement across our country, has begun to take this step toward a virtuous society by communicating that prayer and faith act as the foundation of our country.

Several states are also standing for values. Recently, Arizona’s legislature passed a bill promoting our nation’s motto “In God We Trust” as well as Arizona’s motto, “God Enriches.” The Arizona bill also emphasizes public display of the Constitution and founding documents. Tennessee also passed a similar bill that promotes “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public schools. Alabama followed with a bill that allows “In God We Trust” to be displayed on public buildings. The Alabama legislature also proposed a bill for the public display of the Ten Commandments. Yesterday, the Louisiana governor signed a bill into law requiring public schools to display “In God We Trust.”

These bills and laws are welcome ones, but true, lasting change won’t happen from the top down. The grassroots must lead.

Ideas have consequences, and the morally bankrupt theory of moral relativism has yielded huge problems for our culture and our society. Growing movements among the people and in state legislatures that acknowledge a moral order will help us return to a moral society, a civil society and one in which we can honor one another.

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