our language has no shortage of odd cultural attachments. consider the commonly misused but convenient word ‘religious.’ used vaguely, as in, “is so-and-so religious?” (everyone is religious, by some definition… what we usually mean is “does so-and-so go to church?”), we can determine a person’s feelings about God without bringing up any offensive specifics. and most importantly we stay comfortable. over the course of human history, i believe three things ran their course to shape the way we use the word today. one: people do stupid things. two: because people in general are stupid, comparing our own mistakes to those of others does a great job of making us feel better. three: people who profess a faith in God (Christians, for the sake of this essay) tend to believe in moral guidelines more strict than the general population would like.
combine these things, and it’s only a matter of time before the Christians – who, being human, rarely practice the love that they preach – start to grind on the non-Christians’ nerves. everyone has different tastes but that’s all they are: inpidual preferences. therefore, no one can pretend that what they say is fun or appropriate is more fun or appropriate than anyone else’s favorite activity. no one – except for those darn Christians, who have to complicate the matter by claiming their morals come from a higher power and apply to everyone. but then the radical doubt philosophers came along and said, ‘hey, don’t get all worked up about these Christians with their right and wrong and absolutes! there’s no logical proof that God exists at all, so religious beliefs are just another personal taste!’ (by the way, not a direct quote, but you get the idea). their arguments were not great but the implications of there being no God sounded good to many people.
and for many, from academic elitists to pop-culture fanatics, it’s been all downhill ever since. what we know of science and technology has been built upon exponentially, allowing for more and more sources of fun and distraction – and an ever increasing number of things to sample and choose favorites from. strictly speaking, the philosophers (and later the Darwinists) never disproved God – but things sure are easier without the idea of someone smarter than us always looking over our shoulder! so, as usual, the bulk of society took the easy route and just let God sit somewhere in the stack of things to check out whenever we get around to it. if you don’t want to think about something, you don’t need much proof to be convinced it’s fake. with God “disproven,” it only made sense that ‘religion’ should become just another column of check boxes on a survey, a personal taste no more right or wrong than choosing blues over jazz.
in spite of all this, the Christians continue to grow in numbers. unfortunately, many aren’t bothered by the relativist theory of multiple ways to God* and heaven. because again, like everyone else, Christians are human and get sucked in by culture as surely as anyone else. yet in spite of foggy vision and widespread misdirection, there are believers in God who still try to spread his truth and love. while some of us apply our gifts wisely, others make a downright mess. the result, naturally, is the prominent feeling that Christianity is a way for the judgmental to ruin everyone else’s good time. we live in a culture turned off to ‘religious’ people and the old-fashioned, stuffy, boring tone carried by such a word. is this what the radical philosophers of centuries past intended? some have, at least, come up with a popular alternative not only to Christianity but also to any sort of absolute truth.
“relativism” is a very popular, academic-sounding word. the thinking man’s replacement for any connection to God. unlike “religion,” relativism is a word with worldliness and education practically oozing from its every syllable. and, it’s a cop-out. ask a Christian how he knows that right and wrong exist, and he’ll tell you because the Bible and our own deepest instincts tell us so. the philosopher’s reply? Christians beg the question, beat around the bush, retreat from the issue. ask your local relativist philosopher the same question about right and wrong, and he’ll reply that they are relative: what’s good for you may be bad for me and vice-versa, and there’s not a lot we can do about it. right and wrong change to keep up with the latest issue of rolling stone; that’s not to mention differences in truth from one continent to the next. as a dedicated seeker of logical answers, how can a philosopher overlook the fact that relying on culture for truth is nonsense? if relativism is truth then truth is meaningless…and every philosopher is out of a job.
an example problem: who gets to pick the definition for ‘society?’ what if i have always lived alone, and decide one day to start kicking every person who walks past my house? if the only practices and ideas i knew were my own, i would be blameless in kicking all hapless bypassers, (and punting their dogs) so far as relativism is concerned! who says that a society has to be a country or even a state or county? if i never have contact with anyone besides myself, i am society – as far as my crazy brain is concerned. but, no, i’m sure there is some handy rule that works around little kinks such as this. i suppose in their spare time after disposing of God, the great atheist thinkers found a few social absolutes to apply to their theory that there are no social absolutes. what happened to being flawed, less than omniscient, human? those seem to have gone out of style along with philosophies that make sense and worldviews that are not self-contradictory.
* – Jesus told him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 New Living Translation