Ravi Zacharias writes that “with no fact as a referent, what is normative is purely a matter of preference.” No belief has command outside of its singular proponent so long as that belief has no common foundation that is recognized by others.
If I believe that eating tofu is immoral, I cannot condemn others who eat tofu. Aside from my own personal preference, I have no commanding authority that recognizes my belief, and condemns those who disagree. I can believe it, and truly mean what I say, but I cannot impose that belief on others.
Moral relativism is widely practiced, but not deeply considered.
Case in point, the atheists who are protesting the Noah’s Ark theme park. Yes, atheists are raising money to push back against something they are calling (prepare to stifle your laughter) “immoral.”
Atheist group Tri-State Freethinkers have released a YouTube video in which they condemn the Noah’s Ark replica park as “immoral” because it “celebrates…genocide and incest.” They ask their supporters to help them raise money via an Indiegogo campaign to spread awareness about this “horrible” biblical story.
Take a step back, smirk if you need to, maybe let out a Seinfeldian shout of frustration.
Now, let’s break this down.
These alleged atheists are upset about a story in the Bible that they claim promotes genocide and incest. They’re upset because they believe it’s “immoral.” To what, I have to wonder, are their beliefs tethered? It’s a complex question.
If you were to ask a Christian or a Jew to explain the moral system by which they live their lives, they’d point you to a set of rules and ethical foundations laid out by a creator with ultimate wisdom. An atheist doesn’t have this anchor. They exist as free-floating ships in a sea of moral relativism.
An atheist will generally tell you one of two things: “I believe,” or “we believe.”
The “I believe” crowd will explain that their morality comes from within, that they personally developed their own moral system. They will argue that atheists can be good, moral people. I agree. The problem is this: If you developed your own ethical mold, what allows you to condemn someone else who may have developed a mold contrary to yours? What authority can you point to that will arbitrate if contradictory ethical standards come into conflict?
If each individual human being formulates their own scaffolding upon which their moral muscles are grown, they cannot point to a central standard by which all behavior should be judged. That’s a fact.
Allow me to set up a scenario. 100 people are instructed to enter a pastry shop and choose only one cupcake which will be eaten by all 100 participants. How would they choose? For every individual, there will be a multitude of personal preferences, and no preference is wrong. They are just that, preferences. No one can say “Too much frosting is wrong,” or “If it’s not moist enough, it’s wrong.” They can debate various positions, but because there’s no central authority to which they can appeal, what each person believes only carries weight with themselves.
The “We believe” crowd will argue a slightly more nuanced–if still indefensible–position. They’ll say that morality is cultural, that it evolved societally. This argument gives them an authority to which they can appeal. Murdering a child is wrong. You disagree? A majority of people agree it’s wrong, and therefore it’s wrong.
But this position is just as intellectually empty as the previous one. If morality is cultural, then it’s still not universal. There are many cultures in which female genital mutilation is considered normal. Are those practices morally wrong because a majority of Americans would say so? Moreover, if morality evolves, if what is right and wrong is based on the evolution of majority opinions, then morality is time-stamped.
There was a time when slavery was considered the norm, and the majority of Americans would have said it was ethically acceptable. If morality is based on cultural majorities, then slavery wasn’t always “wrong.” If you accept this premise, slavery was totally cool until about 170 years ago.
Neither self-produced nor culturally evolved morality holds water. Given this, how can the Tri-State Freethinkers call the story of Noah’s Ark “immoral?” They can’t. Plus, the guy in the video has a ponytail, which makes anything he says wrong.