February 15, 2021 - Moral Relatives

Remember Joseph Fritzl? Mr. Fritzl made big news a few years back when it was discovered that he held his daughter captive in an underground cell beneath his home in Austria for 24 years. As if that weren’t bad enough, he raped the girl repeatedly, fathering seven children by her who never saw the light of day until they were, finally, freed!


Though sounding like a horror film, it wasn’t fiction; it was real, and after the story made international news, we didn’t hear sentiments like What gives us the right to morally condemn what he did? He has the right to live as he chooses, and who are to stand in judgment upon him? Why should we impose our moral standards on Joseph Fritzl?


In his recent book, The Atheist Guide to Reality, Alex Rosenberg, who believes that all life is nothing but the random movement of subatomic particles, argued that morality is an illusion and does not really exist. “What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad?” he asked. “There is no moral difference between them.”


No difference between good and bad, right and wrong? So there was no difference between what Joseph Fritzl did to his daughter and a person who helps rescue children from the sex trade?


What the universal repugnance regarding Joseph Fritzl showed is that no matter how much philosophers and pundits like to tell us that morals are relative, that moral issues are purely cultural, and that morals are no different than taste in music or art (subjective and personal)—the fact is, no one really lives that way. No one would want to live that way. No society would survive were people to live with such moral relativism.


An atheist and a Christian were debating morality, the Christian arguing that moral values came from God, the atheist that they were purely human creations, arising from personal feelings, culture, and society. As such, the atheist continued, no one could justifiably claim one moral view as superior to another; they all, he said, were relative. "Kind sir,” the Christian replied, “in some societies people love their neighbors, in others they eat them, all based on moral codes. Which do you prefer?"


Which, indeed? No wonder God has given us His moral law, the Ten Commandments. Which society would you rather live in: one in which the Ten Commandments are the basis of morality or one which folks like Joseph Fritzl run free because, after all, who are we to put our moral codes on anyone else?