Humans have always robbed each other, killed each other and done other evil things to one another. But as we became civilized, we learned that some things are right and wrong. Many of us believed in ideas rooted in natural law and natural rights. Other people rooted their ideas in different ways, but they still agreed upon most of the basics of what was right and wrong.
Sometime during the 20th century, that long-held shared belief about right and wrong started falling away among the public. It wasn’t just the immoral or lawless who were responsible. Those types had always had the willingness to hurt people and to do things that they knew were wrong.
The new belief to take the place of moral absolutes in the public consciousness was moral relativism, even if people wouldn’t necessarily know what to call it. The idea was that there wasn’t really such a thing as absolute right and wrong. Those were old-fashioned religious concepts, they said. Instead, right and wrong were said to be very relative and situational. I saw and heard this idea influence things I was taught in school, and I’ve seen more recent examples that were far more blatant.
I thought about all of that Thursday when I ran across some video that was uploaded to YouTube four years ago. I can’t verify it, but it appears to be the raw footage of interviews done by a TV news station with two young females about a crime they’ve committed. (Since the face of one of them is obscured, I assume she was still a juvenile.) As I listened to these girls, I found myself thinking that they’re the end result of teaching generations of kids that there aren’t any moral absolutes.
These two girls stole $150 from a 9-year-old girl who was selling Girl Scout cookies. Listen to them talk about it on the video below and notice that they have absolutely no sense of having done anything wrong. The only relevant thing to them is that they wanted the money. Even when the reporter pressed them — obviously trying to elicit some feelings of guilt or remorse at having stolen from a child — neither cared. They’re simply irritated at there being any consequences for their actions.
Different people are going to have differing views about what’s right and wrong. We can’t escape that. But we also can’t escape the fact that when people are taught there aren’t any moral absolutes, the only thing that happens is that they become greedy animals with no concern for who they hurt — and certainly no concern that their actions might be morally wrong.
We might differ in where moral absolutes come from, but most of us know that they’re there, to one extent or another. As a people, we need to return to a commitment to understanding “first principles” and teaching the morality that flows from those principles to our children. If we don’t, I think the attitudes that we see here — complete amorality and indifference — are going to continue dragging our culture down.
No matter how moral relativists dress up their fancy philosophies, some things are just morally wrong. Period.