Is truth absolute or relative?
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 truth and
falsehood. Each system has many defenders and many more opponents.
If one moral belief is:
|absolutely, objectively and universally true, and|
|is sufficiently complete to resolve the moral question that is under discussion, and|
|is capable of generating an single unambiguous answer,|
then many would consider the moral belief to be absolutely true.
But this is not much help, because there seems to be no way to reach a
which, if any, of the many sets of theological beliefs in the world is true. Religious followers
certainly have their opinions as to which is true; they tend to support
their own beliefs and reject many of the teachings of other religions. No consensus
appears to be possible.
Different religions teach totally different sets of
beliefs. Many teach that their own set is absolutely true and that others are at least
partly false. An inter-faith consensus on which set is absolutely true cannot be reached. For
|Some Christians are certain that their fundamental beliefs match the above criteria, and
that their moral truths are thus absolutely true. However, many Muslims believe that their
set of beliefs and moral truths are absolutely true. Since the two differ, at least one group's
beliefs are not universally true.|
|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 probably disagree.|
|Similarly, within Islam, radical, extremist, Fundamentalist Muslims
have entirely different sets of foundational beliefs from their fellow
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:
|When compared to their own personal system of morality, or|
|When compared to the beliefs of the vast majority of individuals
within the country, or|
|When compared to the formal teachings of their religion, or|
|When compared to the beliefs of most or all religions, or|
|When compared to the conclusions of most philosophers throughout
But 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
E-mail us so that we can alter this essay. (This request has been in place for
over six years and has generated dozens of Emails. However, none have
contained disproof of the statement)
Most individuals and groups believe 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 they 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, drinking and driving, common assault). 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 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.
But on moral questions as diverse as permitting clothes-optional
beaches, requiring compulsory prayer in public
schools, allowing parents to disciple children with corporal
punishment, and giving adults access
to handguns, no real consensus exists. Laws in democracies are 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. Thus, there will always be some level
of unhappiness with some laws.
Copyright © 1999 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2005-OCT-24
Written by: B.A. Robinson