Dennis Campbell
October 12, 2003
Objective truth: A dying concept in America
By Dennis Campbell

As a young liberal in the late '60s attending college in Orange County, California, then perhaps the most conservative community in America, I routinely read the commentary in the equally conservative Orange County Register.

I amused myself with the fogies who railed against the changes overtaking America. They continually warned of the dangers of moving away from objective truth and our republican form of government.

How quaint they were! Did they not realize how we were transforming stodgy America into something new and wonderful?

We were discarding the suffocating morality of our parents, and knew that if enough of the really smart people were given the resources of the federal government to promote goodness and justice and equality, America would have a shining future.

Nonsense, said the fogies. You are driving off a cliff. You have no idea of the consequences of what you are doing.

Now, 35 years later, I can unequivocally say: They were right. What we thought was so right then was all wrong, and we are paying a steep price for it today.

Particularly alarming is America's ever-increasing rejection of objective truth (or moral absolutes) in favor of subjective truth (or moral relativism). One says we can discern right from wrong, and typically is based on Judeo Christian principles or natural law. The other says each is free to make up his or her own mind about matters of morality.

But America was not founded on moral relativism, nor did it lead us to greatness. The Founders believed in "unalienable rights" from our Creator an immutable, holy and righteous God. To them, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was objectively true.

Now, as we rush toward becoming a society in which I am right and you are right and nobody is wrong, have we thought through the implications? Recently, a woman who works with students newly arrived to college expressed dismay at their unwillingness, or inability, to say that anything is objectively wrong. Are we prepared for future leaders unable to condemn even the worst of villainies?

Are we prepared for those who believe that right and wrong merely are matters of strength and power, and if you have what they want, they have the right to take it from you? And when moral relativists say, "No, do whatever you want as long as it does not hurt another," what is their basis for saying harming another is wrong, if there is no objective truth?

Clearly, moral relativism is fine until the guy with the gun shows up for the car. However, if everything is relative, what right do we have to say he is wrong? If he is convinced the strong have the right to take from the weak, are we not obliged to acknowledge that, and hand over the keys?

Perhaps a greater problem is that right and wrong become the province of whoever happens to be in power. If they decree that pedophilia is legal, or that we are free to kill others of a certain race, or that "hate speech" can be prohibited, then those things become law or become acceptable, as in Hitler's Germany.

Moral relativists say that we cannot legislate morality, but this is nonsense, since all our laws against wrong behavior are based on moral imperatives: We know that having sex with children is wrong, that committing murder is wrong, that prohibiting free speech is wrong.

Recently, a writer for liberal magazine The New Republic expressed discomfort with President Bush's "God talk." She did not deny his sincerity, but said that while she envies him his moral certitude, it is that certitude which frightens her.

I am not frightened by his moral certitude. I fear those unable to discern right from wrong, by a person who cannot distinguish good from evil unless it involves his own safety or self interests, by someone unwilling to take a moral stand.

The person who bases his actions and beliefs on America's traditional moral absolutes does not frighten me as much as the person who cannot distinguish between the President and der Fuhrer, as it seems so many today are unable to do.

The logical end of moral relativism is social chaos. The solution to social chaos is tyranny. If things in America continue to go as they are, unchecked by a firm belief in objective morality, it may be that one day we will get a firsthand understanding of the difference between the President and der Fuhrer.

© Dennis Campbell

 

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