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Other topics dealing with moral truths:

Is moral truth absolute or relative?

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Do absolute moral truths exist?

Each person's set of moral truths is based upon their own core, foundational beliefs concerning deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. There are countless different sets of these foundational beliefs worldwide. An individual's personal beliefs are further shaped by their education, their religious instruction, the media, their ethnicity, life experience, thought processes, and many other factors. The result is that the world has multiple systems of beliefs about right and wrong, and about moral truth and falsehood. Each belief system has many defenders and many more opponents.

If a moral belief is:

bullet absolutely, objectively and universally considered true across the entire world, and
bullet is sufficiently complete to resolve the moral question that is under discussion, and
bullet is capable of generating an single unambiguous answer,

then many peolple would consider the moral belief to be absolutely true.

However, in reality, there may not be any moral belief that meets these criteria. No consensus appears to be possible on the morality of any belief.

Different religions teach totally different sets of foundational beliefs. Many teach that their own set is absolutely true and that others are at least partly false. An inter-faith consensus on absolute moral truths cannot be reached. For example:

bullet Some Christians are certain that all of their fundamental beliefs match the above criteria, and that their moral truths are thus absolutely true. Meanwhile, many Muslims believe that their set of beliefs and moral truths are absolutely true. Since the two differ greatly, at least one group's beliefs are not universally true. Perhaps, both are not.

bullet Even within Christianity, there are different sets of foundational beliefs: a Christian Identity believer probably regards their white-supremacist based morality as absolute truth. Liberal, mainline and other conservative Christians would disagree. And so, there is no intra-religious agreement.

bullet Similarly, within Islam, radical, extremist, fundamentalist Muslims have entirely different sets of foundational beliefs from their fellow moderate and liberal Muslims. We can see this in the way that Osama bin Laden reacted with glee while discussing the massive loss of life at the World Trade Center. Meanwhile the vast majority of Muslims who reacted with horror to the mass murder of innocent people.

We will probably be unable to determine absolutely true answers to moral questions for the foreseeable future. 

People can determine that a particular belief is wrong:

bullet When compared to their own personal system of morality, or

bullet When compared to the beliefs of the vast majority of individuals within the country, or

bullet When compared to the formal teachings of their religion, or

bullet When compared to the beliefs of most or all religions, or

bullet When compared to the conclusions of most philosophers throughout history.

However, we have never been able to find a case where a person can conclude that a particular moral belief is wrong absolutely. If you have such a belief that you believe is morally absolute among people alive at every era, of every religion, and every culture, please E-mail us so that we can alter this essay. (This request has been in place for over sixteen years and has generated dozens of Emails. However, none have contained disproof of the statement.)

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Are civil laws dependent on absolute moral truths?

It is generally believed that social stability can only be maintained if the country has an effective set of laws. Many further believe that laws can only be established if they are built on a foundation of absolute moral truths. They might claim that in a society where no absolute truths exist, anyone can do whatever they want, and nobody could claim that others are wrong.

Fortunately, although religions differ greatly in their theological beliefs, almost all agree on the immorality of many behaviors (e.g. killing defenseless people, raping others, driving vehicles after drinking, common assault, or scapegoating -- holding innocent person(s) guilty for the sins of others in their family, their country, or their religion, etc.).

A major part of this consensus is due to the shared teaching by almost all religions of the Ethic of Reciprocity. This is often called the Golden Rule in Christianity: to do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you. People of almost all religious points of view agree with secularists that certain behaviors are damaging to society, are thereby unacceptable and should be discouraged. In serious cases, they should be criminalized. For example, Atheists, conservative Christians,  liberal Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others share the point of view that intentional homicide is immoral and must be punished. A sufficient consensus exists to permit governments to write laws criminalizing intentional homicide. However, no real consensus exists on moral questions as diverse as:

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Laws in democracies are normally established by the will of the majority, distorted by political pressure groups, and working within the limits set by the country's constitution. Ethical and religious diversity will probably always be with us. This will cause the same behavior to be treated very differently in various countries and cultures.

Perhaps the greatest range of responses in today's world involves same-gender sexual behavior. There are between 189 and 196 independent countries in the world. 1 Sources differ on the exact total. In 2015, among these countries:

  • About 8 countries have laws on the books providing the the death penalty for adults found guilty of same-gender sexual activity. However, only five actually implement these laws. They are Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. The population of all five countries are 95% or more Muslim. 2

  • About 67 countries criminalize same-gender sexual activity by adults, with lesser penalties. This is a reduction from about 82 countries in 2006.

  • In approximately 118 countries, such behavior is legal.

  • Among these 118 countries, same-sex marriage is legal in 19 countries and in some Mexican states. Estonia's civil partnership law will come into force in 2016. Finland's marriage equality law will become effective in 2017. 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "How Many Countries are in the World?," World Atlas, 2015, at:
  2. "79 countries where homosexuality is illegal,"Erasing 76 Crimes, 2015-JUL-09, at:
  3. Aengus Carroll and Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, "State-sponsored homophobia," International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), 2015-MAY, at:

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Copyright © 1999 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-NOV-30
Written by: B.A. Robinson

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