Tolerance and Dialog – Tactical Considerations
I penned the following post while writing for another Web site. Please note that since that site is no longer alive, the original comment mentioned below is no longer available.
It’s always of interest to me how people reach this Web site. Yesterday, someone found us by doing a search on Dolly Parton. When I was looking at the other Web sites and blogs that came up in the search, I noticed one called New Queer World that had commented on the same Dolly Parton interview on which I had posted. Since I’m always looking for opportunities to dialog with non-Christians, I left the following comment:
Greetings, Don. I can sympathize with Ms. Parton’s desire for toleration. I too want people to be tolerant of others with whom they disagree. That means we ought to treat them with dignity, fairly represent their views, and respectfully engage their ideas. Today, many of us fall short of this classic definition of tolerance. It’s much easier to name call and to vilify than to truly treat each other with tolerance. May we all strive for true tolerance.
In response to my comment, the author, Don Mohidin, left a comment on my Dolly Parton and Tolerance – Tactical Considerations post. I encourage you to read it. Mr. Mohidin, I believe, showed true tolerance. His comments are both gracious and thoughtful. He also took time to challenge my position. What follows is my response to his challenge.
Is Morality Ice cream?
Points of view that some will view as good and others will see as bad have no intrinsic 'goodness' or 'badness.' They are simply one (or more) person's opinion about something.
Mr. Mohidin, it would seem, is a moral relativist (moral absolutes do not exist). His claim is that ideas have no intrinsic moral properties, that they are simply one’s opinion. For example, Mr. Mohidin might like chocolate ice cream, while I like vanilla. Michael might like feeding starving children, while Bob likes torturing them—none of these views are “good” or “bad,” we all just have different opinions. (As you can see, moral relativism offers a hard pill to swallow.)
I think that what happened to Mathew Shepard was a heinous act, that it was an objective (exists outside of the mind) moral wrong. But, on Mr. Mohidin’s view, there are no objective moral wrongs. Morality is subjective (only exists in the mind). Therefore, the perpetrators didn’t actually do anything wrong, because there’s no “wrong” to do. All that exists are just different opinions.
The point will always be distilled down to a set of values the speaker holds based upon beliefs and a moral code developed during life. Who is to say whose moral code is universally correct?
On Mr. Mohidin’s view, man is a moral tabula rasa (blank slate). We collect our moral views through-out life like a ship’s hull collects barnacles. Adolph Hitler developed the view that homosexuals should be put to death. Does that make the Nazi persecution of homosexuals right? If Mr. Mohidin is consistent he would have to answer, “Who’s to say?”
It takes supreme arrogance to adopt the position that one knows the right moral code . . .
It’s Mr. Mohidin’s moral code that it is supremely arrogant to think that you have the right moral code. Assuming that Mr. Mohidin thinks he's right about that, he has shown us that he is supremely arrogant. (Example of a self-refuting claim.)
. . . because it assumes that the decider knows everything, and knowing everything, can pick out the right moral code to which all people should adhere.
I couldn’t agree with Mr. Mohidin more. No human being can know everything, and no human being can establish a moral code for all to follow. Here’s the Christian claim: Morality is based upon God’s holy, just, and perfect character. He is the standard for morality. We know this in two ways. First, we are beings created in His image; because of this, we are moral beings who are imprinted with His moral code. That’s why everyone engages in moral reasoning. Second, He has revealed His moral law to us in the Bible. Consequently, morality is objective.
Please note that I am not arguing for the truthfulness of Christianity. I’m simply stating the claim. For a thumbnail sketch as to why Christianity is true, please see my post titled, The Lazy Atheist?— The Christian Worldview (Conclusion).
I don’t know Mr. Mohidin. He might be a prince of a man; perhaps he gives liberally to charity, is adored by many, and performs daily acts of mercy. His character is not in question. It’s his worldview that deserves scrutiny.
Moral relativism is untenable. Not only is it self-refuting (e.g., “there are not absolutes” is itself an absolute statement), but it doesn’t work in real life—no one lives that way.
I bet if someone broke into Mr. Mohidin’s house he’d call the police (that he wouldn’t just dismiss the crime by saying that the burglar simply had a different opinion as to who owned the property). I bet he thought Hitler was evil. And I bet he was repulsed and outraged by what happened to Mathew Shepard. These are all appropriate moral responses—they're appropriate, that is, in a world with objective morality. But if morality is simply ice cream . . .