Friday, December 20, 2013

The Real God Delusion

There are not many people who will come right out and say that they think that they are God. However, there are lots of people who will tell you that they think that they have the right to make up the moral rules by which they live, and then in an astonishing act of sheer arrogance, expect everyone else to respect their rules as if they were objective universal absolute moral laws. These people apparently think that they are God even if they do not say so in public.

The recent attacks on Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame illustrate this point exactly. Mr. Robertson stated his belief that homosexual acts are sinful based on what the Bible says and his intuitive grasp of the natural moral law. The reaction was swift and predicable in terms of the level of outrage and condemnation it expressed. But what is the basis for this reaction? Those who disagree so violently with Mr. Robertson must surely have some well thought out moral principles to justify their claim that homosexual acts are not sinful? As it turns out the entirety of their position is based on the claim that people should be allowed to do whatever they want in terms of their sexual activity as long as the are not directly hurting anyone else.

Interestingly enough this claim has such wide appeal that those who hold it see no need to back it up with anything more substantial. But is it true? Ethics and morality have historically been given the task of explaining to people why they should not do some of the things that they might be tempted to do. Certainly the harm that one’s action might do to others is one good reason for avoiding certain actions, but is it the only reason for accepting restrictions on what we do? Most certainly not.

Self-destructive behavior like drunkenness and gluttony are irrational and immoral and ought to be avoided. Individual acts of polluting the air or water may not directly harm anyone, but when many people do the same thing great harm can result. Hence polluting the physical or the social environment is unethical and immoral. This means that lying cheating and stealing are wrong even if no is directly harmed in any one particular case. In the same way the ethical principles that prohibited every form of sexual immorality are still sound, and they shall endure long after the current cultural milieu of decadent liberalism and moral relativism has passed away.