The Obvious Problems with Moral Relativism

No one really believes in moral relativism — including the very people who advocate for it.

(photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. —Benito Mussolini

In his The Poison of Subjectivism, C.S. Lewis, tells us that moral relativism “will certainly end our species and damn our souls.”

Remember, this is the guy who wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with all the cute talking animals.

Christ’s Good News was, and still is, that salvation is possible for us all — however, those who wish salvation must repent of their sins. To be clear, one can’t be repentant unless a real, objective moral law exists. Moral relativism makes repentance and forgiveness―both human and divine―not only impossible but useless. It follows that all moral relativists imperil their salvation.

Relativity. A man standing perfectly still on the equator is actually moving at a speed of about 1,000 mph relative to an outside observer. At the same time, the earth orbits the sun at 67,000 mph. In addition, our solar system revolves about the black hole at the center of the Milky Way at 490,000 mph. Further, our galaxy and all of its companion galaxies in the Virgo Cluster are speeding toward the Great Attractor though the medium of cosmic microwave background (CMB)―the electromagnetic radiation remnant from the Big Bang―at 627 ± 22 km/s relative to the CMB.

However, in God’s Universe, though motion is relative, morality is not.

A moral relativist is someone who believes that there is no objective good and evil in the world. A moral relativist is someone who sees no difference between giving a sandwich to a homeless person and punching him in the nose. For the relativist, there is no good or evil in any act and therefore both choices are acceptable.

If everything is relative… Suffice it to say, that the moral relativist must admit that his opinion of moral relativism is―wait for it―only relative. That is, his opinions have no real objective value. It’s, like everything else in the universe, only relative. Thus, there is no reason at all to give his opinion any credence at all. There is no reason, according to the moral relativist, to even bother listening to him.

Relativism is relative. There are many serious problems with moral relativism but the principle one is that no one actually believes in it. It’s a theoretical construct like a “square circle” or a “Christian abortionist” or a “loving terrorist.” These things don’t actually exist but instead, are like the “x” in an algebraic formula. We discuss these ideas only in terms of theory but no concrete example of these self-contradictions can be found in reality. Pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia pseudophilosopher Peter Singer often complains that he is the only moral relativist left among his colleagues. This should be a wake-up call and yet, he’s unwilling to read the writing on the wall.

A real moral relativist, when confronted by someone who holds a different moral opinion, such as the Christian absolutist morality, should say, “Oh! OK” and have it over and done with because a moral relativist knows that everything is relative including his own relativism. He can’t then argue, “Everything is relative except everything I have to say which is all Gospel truth!”

If one treats a moral relativist unfairly and he balks insisting that your poor treatment of her is unfair, then she must, by force of logic―and her claim to supposed mental stability―admit that there is no such a thing as moral relativism. She can’t have it both ways.

If everything is relative―and it obviously isn’t―why do atheists complain at all? Do they believe the Catholic Church to be morally corrupt? So what? They can't insist someone or some organization of individuals is evil if evil doesn’t exist. I’m embarrassed to have keep reminding them of this salient fact and I have to do it with great frequency.

If everything is relative, why do moral relativists insist they’re right about everything? This is blatant and unrepentant self-contradiction on their part. If everything is right, then that means the Catholic Church is right. If everyone is also wrong, then moral relativist are very wrong indeed. Moral relativists can’t have it both ways.

Relativists are never relativists. The very people who insist there is no such a thing as morality are the first ones to whine when they are mistreated. Cannibals don’t want to be eaten. Thieves don’t want anyone stealing their stuff. Murders never want to be found in the crosshairs of assassins. Liars balk at being lied to. Adulterers never want to be cuckolded. Scam artists never want to be duped. No one advocates for moral relativism — including the very people who advocate for it.

Without God, all things are permitted. There’s an important epistemological need to consider when deciding what is right and wrong. Otherwise, it’s just nonsense you’re pulling out of thin air. In other words, if a morality suits you for the moment but is otherwise expendable, then you’re merely practicing a form of sociopathic narcissism and not morality. You’ve set yourself up as the final arbiter of all that is good and evil. This is pride―the deadliest of sins―and the rejection of all that is good in the universe. Moral relativism is thus the rejection of God and, as Fyodor Dostoyevsky reminds us, “Without God, all things are permitted.”

A slippery slope. If everything is permissible―nothing can ever be labeled as “wrong.” And if such is the case, then there will be no virtue, saints, monsters, sociopaths or humanitarians. Everything is “OK.” In fact, no one would be allowed to have any opinions, scientific, historical, artistic, personal, emotional… nothing.

Complex nature of morality and the world. Some would argue that there are so many moral issues and extenuating circumstances, it’s “unrealistic” and “unreasonable” to demand universal norms for every situation. Poppycock! The same could be argued against universal laws of science or of medicine or the law. This reminds me of the petulant whining of lazy adolescents. “I don’t want to do my homework… it’s too hard!”

Moral relativism is inflexible. It’s often argued by moral relativists that moral absolutes are inflexible. This is inaccurate in the extreme. Even the most flexible application of a moral standard presumes a rigid standard. Without a rigid standard, everyone is set adrift upon an indifferent amoral sea. No one would have the right to cry “Foul!” no one could seek justice or redress. Everything would be “OK” and no one would have the right to say differently. If such is the case, then the moral relativist would be incapable of distinguishing extinguishing a threatening fire and setting one.

Aleksander Augustynowicz, “Alleluia,” 1906

Erika Ahern on Safeguarding Your Family From Relativism and Secularism (April 10)

The Easter Season is here, and Catholic families are trying to get the most out of the season, especially as we emerge slowly out of the pandemic. This week on Register Radio, we are joined by Catholic vlogger and Catholic family expert Erika Ahern on her Easter Octave Guide for Catholic Families and her advice for safeguarding families from relativism and secularism. And then, we talk to Register editor Alyssa Murphy who gives a round-up of not-to-miss stories at