Widget Image
HomePolicyMoral Relativism – Boon or a bane?

Moral Relativism – Boon or a bane?

By Merrin Abraham

Edited by Michelle Cherian, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

Being an effective leader has become one of the most important traits in employees nowadays. Every recruiting organisation is looking for that spark, that streak of uniqueness in their personnel; be it being a managerial leader or an organisational leader. But what the society requires right now is a valuable cultural leader. When I say cultural leader, I do not just refer to ministering to the society’s religious needs but also to the needs of the family and friends around them. When you are a cultural leader, you can influence your peer circle, your contacts on social media and of course, culture at large. The level of influence when you are a manager or the head of an organisation is different from the way a cultural leader inspires people. But, society today is facing a problem, a disease that is eating away the integrity of a person. This cancer is “Moral Relativism”. We conform to relativism without even recognizing that fact. Before Pope Benedict assumed the position of the Pope, as a cardinal, he said that “this is the single biggest problem in our society,” and in our society that has a lot of problems, this is quite a statement. You may be wondering what relativism actually means: “It is the idea that there is no universal absolute truth, but that truth differs from person to person and culture to culture” or in other words, “Truth is relative to what each person or culture thinks”. This is an exact definition of our society. Most of us aren’t complete relativists; instead, we could call ourselves ‘selective relativists’. Certain situations garner different reactions, and this variety has lead to a malignant growth that is obliterating the veracity of our humanity. There are a lot of things that are just downright wrong and it is high time that something is done to curb the menace that is wrecking havoc in our social order. I would like to take the liberty to list out a few problems of moral relativism.

  • Moral relativism robs us of meaning, as a people. We may have the urge to understand the intricacies of life, i.e., what is life? What is the purpose of living? But moral relativism says it doesn’t matter, we can make up our own answers because nothing is true, it’s all relative. So when we realize that there is no readymade answer to these questions, it makes us desperate. And this desperation leads us to search for distractions in the form of entertainment. We lose our meaning and strive to obtain some from irrelevant things like texting.  We try to immerse ourselves in such an activity so that we wouldn’t have to confront these issues.
  • It gives us no criteria for making moral decisions. Since a moral relativist has nowhere to look to but himself, he does what makes him feel good. This is very popular in today’s world because it gives us an excuse to not conform to authority. The moral dilemma of choosing the right thing to do can be overlooked. Just imagine a society where everyone does as he pleases. It would be chaos.
  • It deprives children of formation. We encourage our children to be brave and have a high self esteem, but we do not give them guidelines on how to be so. This is equivalent to cruelty. What do they know about right or wrong? When we do not guide them and just say that everything is fine, or offer acceptance without guidance, or teach them ethics without reference to the truth, we are morally abandoning them. We may do this in the name of love, but love without truth and truth without love is a unique form of cruelty.
  • It separates us from one another. Pope Benedict said, “Under the semblance of freedom, relativism becomes a prison for each one for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his/her own ego.” When no one believes in any truth, and chooses to build their own, how can the society be bound under a single binding? It pulls us farther from each other.
  • It undermines the right to life. When such a basic right of humanity becomes subject to relativism, then all rights are nullified. If killing is not wrong then what is? So in a society where there is no absolute truth, you can make up excuses to do almost anything. And this is no way for a society to function.
  • It makes it easy for people in authority to manipulate others. “When people don’t think that their rights are based on objective principles, they come to see them as favours granted by those in power. Such favours can just as easily be taken away by government authorities or by majority vote.” “All that is necessary for evil to prevail in the world is for good people to do nothing.”  Who wants to stand up and speak out what is right? The mentality of I, me and myself overrides the need to be humanitarian.
  • It puts freedom of speech under attack. In this age of moral relativism it is becoming more and more dangerous to just speak the truth or say what you believe in. It is ironic that it is happening in a world that is said to be tolerant.
  • Moral relativism destroys faith. “Moral relativism reduces GOD from the status of an actual living being to just a personal sentiment that can legitimately vary from one person to another.” This obviously implies that each person can create his/her own deity or image of GOD based on their personal tastes just like how we would craft our own drink at star bucks.

These obvious problems may plague our society in varied methods and it is our responsibility to act with truth and grace when we face such situations. What we fear is rejection and the unwillingness to be humble. Being rash on social media is a rave among youngsters. But do you have the integrity to choose right? To think and do right? At the end of the day, they look up to us for guidance, and if we don’t have a strand of authenticity, then what in the world are we?

Merrin is currently pursuing an Integrated Masters Program in Humanities and Social Sciences at The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. She has a variety of interests ranging from singing and dancing to playing football. She spends her time writing short stories and reading novels. An avid reader, she can survive without food if she has books to keep her company. She attends church every Sunday and takes keen interest in her religion.

The Indian Economist has rebranded to Qrius. We’ll continue publishing authoritative commentary and analysis on issues you care about. Qrius is run by the same team as The Indian Economist, and continues hosting the talented contributors, writers & partners that produce the content you love. We look forward to your support.