Additional problems with relativism to share in a conversation
I will continue the story of my walk with Hito that I introduced in part 2. You will get to peak in on the actual conversation and by doing so I hope you continue to learn how to expose major weaknesses of moral relativism.
Before we went on the 15 mile hike, over the years I had built a good relationship with Hito. He told me he enjoys talking with me because I listen and don’t try to jam my viewpoint down his throat. He had met Christians who do and he regularly hides from them. He knew I was interested in what he said and believed.
Hito told me he was a moral relativist and believed that all morality is determined by society or the culture. Since this was a mock trial and he was on the defense, I felt I needed to get Hito’s attention, so I started with a strong argument. I said that if he is a moral relativist then he…
- Cannot say Hitler was wrong for murdering 6 million Jews
I told him he may not like what Hitler did but the fact remained he couldn’t say it was wrong. You see the German leaders defined Jews as non-persons; if they weren’t a person then it was permissible to kill them.
If society sets the moral standard then a moral relativist cannot say this practice is universally wrong. If they say it is wrong they are appealing to a universal standard, “killing innocent people is wrong.” However, they don’t believe universal standards exist. Therefore, by appealing to an objective standard they are no longer a relativist.
Most honest moral relativists will cringe at having to accept this first point. Hito certainly did and tried to get around it by saying he didn’t like it. But I said, “Hito was in wrong for all people at all times in all locations to kill the Jews?” He said he couldn’t say that. Saying it was wrong would be appealing to an objective standard and wasn’t willing to give up his relativism.
Once a relativist friend of mine said it was possible the Germans had good reasons for killing the Jews; that their murders were a good thing. Do you see what a person has to do to cling to his or her philosophy, even if it means taking the side of Hitler?
Remember Hitler defined the Jews as non-persons and any society today can do this to any group of people. This is why “society says” relativism can now be called “power ethics,” because the group in power gets to define what is right. A hundred years ago the south defined black people as non-persons and made them slaves. Today we classify the unborn as a non-person and they can be killed at any time during a woman’s pregnancy. Maybe tomorrow the new group in power in the US will define white people as non-persons. If there is no standard of morality, what’s to stop them?
A moral relativist cannot condemn what Hitler did or any act of genocide. They can only say they don’t like it. Hito said he didn’t like what Hitler did but agreed he couldn’t call say Hitler was wrong for murdering the Jews. He begrudgingly stuck to his relativism. I then told him…
- If you lived in Germany and opposed Hitler you were immoral
I said Hito to be moral in Hitler’s society, you had to kill Jews or approve of the practice. Think about it! If you lived in German society, during the time of Hitler, and you didn’t kill Jews or support the killing, then you were outside the moral standard, which would make you immoral. Cori Ten Boom who saved many Jews from certain death would be considered immoral for her actions, according to a moral relativist.
Any society that practices genocide, it is immoral to oppose them if you are a relativist. Moral relativism actually breaks down to MIGHT MAKES RIGHT. Right and wrong is determined by who is in power and if you go against the moral code of that society you are immoral.
I could tell Hito was not comfortable with that position but he couldn’t come up with a good response. This position of “might makes right” is truly what moral relativism supports. Whoever is in power makes the rules! You are immoral if you don’t follow the rules, no matter what they are. He didn’t like it but he continued to hold his position. In part 10 I will give two additional arguments I used in my walk with Hito.