From Andrew Sullivan, via Ozarque’s Religion and Language Newsletter: “Traditional morality, in D’Souza’s view, ‘is based on the notion that there is a moral order in the universe, which establishes an enduring standard of right and wrong. …’ Liberal morality, by contrast, consists first of all in the right of the individual to choose for him- or herself what morality is. … Theoconservatism refuses to accept that government can ever aspire to be neutral with respect to competing visions of morality. … Given the existence of an external moral order, the duty of the state is therefore to reflect that external order, and the duty of citizens is to obey it.”
Because we might as well bring in politics, while we’re at it!
4 thoughts on “Monday April 30, 2007”
The first problem, I think, is that we are often not sure about what this external and supposedly universal moral order looks like. The second problem is that there are people who think that they can be. After which the third problem would be that they will try to enforce their ideas about it on others.
It’s true that government can never be neutral about morality, if only because its legislation will always reflect society’s morals, but these tend to change over time. Some moral notions appear to be all times and all places though, many of them related to life and death. And still, moral systems may differ in that respect too, often about the situations in which killing is considered morally acceptable.
I don’t believe in an external moral order myself, but I do believe in an internal one with some kind of universal structure, so I’m not a total relativist. As far as your question is concerned: yes, I do believe that people who are evil are also wrong (although they may be right on an entirely different level, one that we can’t grasp anyway, if it exists). It’s interesting that many hideous crimes in human history have been committed by people who felt that they were morally right and often that they were doing God’s will. That is why it’s probably not a bad idea to be wary of those who pretend to know it. All of which is not terribly original, I’m afraid 🙂
RYC: I think your comment about the barge is a kick. I can envision it. A bagpipe corp on the deck playing Amazing Grace as the barge gracefully slides into the water and we all sip Dom Perignon on the dock. Yeah, no. It was like this: hundreds of people walking behind the bagpipe corp while they played music and marched onto the people. Those same hundreds of people mushed onto a pier. A few people spoke about the partnership and what the barge is going to be used for (kinda cool – they’re hauling iron in the warmer months and using it as a type of ‘ice cutter’ in the winter months). Then, the bagpipe corp played Amazing Grace and a local pastor blessed the barge. Then, a woman from the receiving company broke a bottle of champagne onto the hull (actually a metal device attached to the hull) and the barge broke free. It quickly slid into the water sideways – and went hundreds and hundreds of yards into the river. Behind, pieces of the materials that were holding the barge onto the pier floated in the river. A fire boat shot water into the air: blue, red, white. It was really neat.
The current issue of The Religious Language Newsletter that you’re quoting from above hasn’t been posted there yet, but all the other issues since January 2000 are archived (free, and no registration required) at http://www.forlovingkindness.org . We’ll get the current issue posted soon.
RYC: The theme that I saw was alienation, people of different cultures living together without connections outside of their own circle. Closed arms may signify a close mind, in which your interpretation is spot on.
You raised some fundamental (and, indeed, philosophical) questions. If certain perceptions – like, in this case, about morals – are universal, would that mean that what we believe to perceive is universal too? And would this reflect an external reality or something inside us that we happen to share? Apart from that the differences in perception itself can be quite remarkable.
Comments are closed.