I’ve been having a discussion in the comments section of this post about whether morality is subjective or objective. Feel free to read the discussion if you fancy, although like any conversation it drifts off on tangents. Here’s the summary:
- Objective morality: God has a standard of what’s good and what’s bad. An action is either good or bad based on this one morality.
- Subjective morality: Actions are neither good nor bad, they just are. I hold my own moral standards which are likely to be different to yours.
Now, these are the extremes. Most people in today’s secular society would probably hold a position somewhat in the middle (some actions are objectively good or bad, some actions are neither good nor bad), but that doesn’t really work. If God holds an objective morality then that’s it, end of story. And if he doesn’t, then nothing’s subject to an objective morality.
In other words, to believe that some things are morally subjective rather than objective is to have to believe that all things are.
And here’s the example. There’s a tribe somewhere that doesn’t have the concept of personal possessions, so theft isn’t simply not considered bad, it’s not considered an action. Who am I as a westerner to tell them that their morality is wrong because of something like this?
In today’s society politicians love to talk about tolerance; people hold different cultural standards, but we should tolerate them. People disagree with our opinions, but we should tolerate them. One politician recently said something like ‘the only thing we’re intolerant of is intolerance.’
And that all sounds lovely until you apply it to real life. A man is drunk, gets angry and murders his wife. Under an objective morality, this is wrong. Under a subjective morality his defense in court could be ‘I believe it was the right thing to do under the circumstances,’ and it would be morally wrong to then judge him; he’d done what he thought was best.
- The obvious one is that if you think him murdering his wife was wrong, then you probably believe he should face consequences for his bad actions. But under a subjective morality this can’t work because it can’t be applied to other people by definition. That’s a problem.
- If morality is subjective then judging someone else for doing something they consider to be morally right is surely morally wrong (as in the example above)…but that shows that having a subjective morality is logically incoherent; it assumes an objective morality within which subjective morality must operate.
Conclusion: Subjective morality simply doesn’t work, therefore morality must be objective. Murder is wrong. Forgiveness is good. Rape is wrong. Mercy is good. Racism is wrong. Love is good. Lust is wrong. God is good.