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  • Rev. Timothy E Byerley, Ph.D

Relativism Is Not Neutral

Updated: Apr 9

Moral relativism is the belief that there is no moral order to the universe, no moral norms that are objectively right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances. All morality is in the mind of the individual. To a relativist, someone who declares that a given act is sinful, is labeled judgmental. The more extreme relativists would even consider a believing Christian to be a close-minded bigot.

Professor Edward Sri has recently suggested that we could respond to a relativist by asking him to explain his position: “Why do you think that there is no universal moral norms?” “Why do you believe that each individual decides what is right or wrong for himself?” As he tries to explain himself, then ask him, “If someone is personally convinced it is okay to harm an innocent child or enslave a woman for personal pleasure, is it then okay?” Quickly the relativist will find himself in a logical dilemma. He will have to admit that certain actions are always wrong.

The problem is that relativism is not a morally neutral position. Relativism itself is a definite way of viewing reality. It is a specific world view. At the same time, relativism attempts to impose itself on everyone. If you uphold traditional moral values, you are marginalized and classified as judgmental or intolerant. Actually, it is relativism that is intolerant. As Pope Benedict once observed, “The more relativism becomes the generally accepted way of thinking, the more it tends toward intolerance, thereby becoming a new dogmatism… it prescribes itself as the only way to think and speak.” Practically speaking, relativism is a “super-dogma” that subordinates all religious convictions to itself. It becomes what Pope Benedict termed, “a dictatorship …whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s ego and desires.” It brooks no dissent.

We can see then, the conflicts that the dictatorship of relativism produces in a society that once defined itself as Christian. By its nature, relativism seeks to subjugate all moral teaching to its own subjective principles. But we know that no matter what the popular philosophy of life may be at a given moment in time, in the end, we will answer only to God. His Word is the final standard to which all reality must reconcile itself.

St. John Paul II, pray for us!

Fr. Tim Byerley Pastor

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