Subjective morality, the idea that there are no moral absolutes, no such thing as “just wrong” – merely differing cultural and circumstantial opinions – is pretty much the dominant philosophy in Western culture today.
And I can see the appeal. I mean, who wants to be told what they can and can’t do? As I’m often told, “you can’t force your morality down someone else’s throat, you intolerant old sea weasel!” Subjective morality is an easy position to adopt because you get to live how you want and nobody can accuse you of doing wrong. Each to their own and all that.
But here’s the catch: if you believe morality is subjective, and you wish to remain logically consistent within this belief, then there are a few things you can’t complain about. Like the following:
1. The Ulster rugby trial
Without wanting to comment on the verdict of the trial, because I’m not a barrister and I don’t know all the facts, one verdict that we can be sure of is this: in terms of pure misogyny, the defendants make Harvey Weinstein look like Moominpappa.
But who are we to judge? Remember, there is no such thing as “just wrong,” so saying “misogyny is wrong” makes no sense. What rational justification is there within a subjective moral framework to deny these men – who were simply creating their own meaning in life – the chance to play rugby again? You don’t like their womanising behaviour? Really? I don’t like the behaviour of people who noisily eat crisps on public transport while whistling through their nose, but I’m not about to become all shouty and righteously indignant over it. Unless the crisps are prawn cocktail.
2. Pro-life protestors outside abortion clinics
We’re often told that pro-life protestors intimidate and harass vulnerable women (“Really? REALLY?!” says the soon-to-be-assassinated fetus), and that such behaviour is wicked and evil and wrong.
Of course, to make any of these claims requires evil and wicked and wrong to be actual things, which moral subjectivists flat-out deny, so to confirm its existence by calling abortion protestors these things pulls the rug from under their entire argument.
So, the simple answer to moral subjectivists who think abortion clinic protestors are wrong is this: if you don’t like protesting outside abortion clinics, don’t protest outside abortion clinics! Ha! See now how this argument works? See? Now?
3. Homophobia (and all the other phobias)
If morality is subjective, equality is a nonsensical concept. It simply doesn’t exist. In fact, it says so in the very title of the book that many secularists and subjectivists hold up as proof that their view is correct – Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Did you read that? Preservation of favoured races. Stronger races will be preserved, weaker races will be obliterated. No equality here. It’s right there in the secular bible. You don’t even have to read beyond the front cover or anything.
Equality entails treating people right, and right depends on good, which, if what Darwin taught is true, doesn’t exist. In this regard, subjective morality is the ultimate pro-choice position because it allows for all choices – even the choice to be homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic and so on.
4. Chemical attacks
The former head of American Atheists, David Silverman, said during this debate that the Holocaust wasn’t objectively wrong. Although Silverman undoubtedly thinks that such acts are terrible, he has no choice, if he wishes to remain consistent within his atheism, but to deny their just wrongness. The logical conclusion of that, then, is that chemical attacks on innocent civilians aren’t objectively wrong, either.
For an example closer to home, Paddy Kielty’s powerful documentary showed that there’s no regret to be had when ussuns kills themuns because the beauty of subjective morality means that you can force (deadly force, if necessary) your morality on others if it’s in the interest of tribe survival and your personal ethics allow it.
Moral subjectivity makes it impossible to have any kind of meaningful discussion regarding ethical behaviour. There’s nothing to talk about. A conversation on moral behaviour involves juxtaposing one view against another to find out which one is best. But if morals are subjective, there is no reason to view one position over another. You can’t even call something as barbaric as the Holocaust “just wrong”. The best thing a moral subjectivist can do during such a discussion is top up the electric and make the tea.
Living like God exists
The irony of all this is that moral subjectivists often pride themselves on their moral superiority (check out any humanist or atheist Internet group for evidence of this). There’s nobody on the planet quicker at telling you how tolerant and non-judgemental than they are. Moral subjectivists are not like the rest of us insufferable bigots.
In other words, they preach a gospel of moral subjectivity, but when a story like the Ulster rugby trial breaks, or when someone is harassed because of their sexual orientation, their gospel turns out to be a false one that belies who they really are – human beings made in the image of God, coded with an intrinsic moral sense. Their cries of injustice and wrongdoing only make sense in light of the biblical worldview they reject, which is why, if they wish to live in a civil society, they must live like God exists.