Moral Relativism, Activism and Logical Fallacies

I know the topics I sometimes write about are not very popular. They are not entertaining. So my readership may never be as big as some of the more entertaining blogs out there. But for as long as I continue to get feedback from people who say that something I wrote made a difference in their lives, I will continue to share my thoughts. I’ve been doing this for about twenty years now and I consider the time and effort worth while even if only one person’s life was enriched by it.

Along those lines, there’s something I’ve been chewing on for months now but I struggle to find the correct words to explain it or share it with other people. So I am writing this blog in an attempt to seek those words to solidify those thoughts in my mind. This is something that is very important to me but most likely not very important to anyone else. So feel free to move on if what I write is boring to you.

No More Discussions

I will begin by saying that I have given up on participating in what I used to call “intellectual conversations,” which is another friendlier term for “argument” or “debate.” I’m finished with all of that. Don’t get me wrong, I love to have a good discussion about important issues. Unfortunately, I recently grasped the fact that most people (and when I say most, it seems to me to be about 95% of the people in my life) are playing by a different set of rules from mine. And to be quite honest, that takes all of the fun out of it for me. So I have no desire to get into “intellectual conversations” on ANY issues right now.

I actually made this decision about a year ago, but it took me a while to implement it. Like I said, I love a good debate, so I kept getting pulled back into the fray. I think it was in December when I was finally successful at just ignoring the opportunities when they came up.

Now, I should probably clarify that when I made this decision to exclude myself from debates, I wasn’t sure yet what was bothering me. I knew I was feeling frustrated, but that’s a normal part of a good debate, isn’t it? That’s what we (those of us who love to argue) live for is rubbing up against other people’s perspectives and ideals. So what was it that was bothering me so much more than usual?

A World of Activists

Before I answer that question, let me explain to you who I think those 95% who are playing by different rules are. They are activists. Now, when I was younger, to be labeled as an activist was a bad thing.

NOTE: For what it’s worth, I do not want to give the impression that I think people have changed. I believe nostalgia is an evil emotion and people who go around saying that the good old days were better and that today will never be as good….this is an evil way to live…denying God’s goodness in our lives today. So no, I am not saying that I long for the good old days. Instead, I am explaining how my perception of the world around me has changed over the course of the past forty years.

When I was young, to be an activist was a bad thing. The people in my life saw activists as people who couldn’t make a difference any other way. They were not viewed as heroes. They were failures for lacking the skills and ability to follow proper channels to get things done.

Interestingly, today this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing anymore. In fact, like I said, 95% of the people in my life are activists. The popular belief today is that all of the proper channels have been exhausted and that people are at their wits end. I disagree of course. I believe that people only feel as if they have no other options due either to their laziness or ignorance…both of which can be remedied without becoming activists. Unfortunately, we live in a society that encourages laziness and ignorance to an extent where this is the norm. And THAT’S what seems to have changed in my life. Activism is no longer for hippies and other deviant subcultures. Everyone is doing it now!

I Said 95%

A Total Saturation of Moral Relativism

So, before you get offended and think that I am singling out people on the so called “left“, the way things look from my perspective is that so many people have become activists that those who are not activists are in a rare minority. This is why I can no longer participate in “intellectual conversations“, because activism is something that exists on a completely separate intellectual plane from where I operate. Activism is a byproduct of “moral relativism.” So yes, that means that I am accusing 95% of the people in my life of practicing “moral relativism“.

That last sentence should shock a lot of people, because that 95% obviously includes a people who openly criticize people of believing in “moral relativism“. It includes just about everyone who calls themselves “conservative.” I see “moral relativism” everywhere. I see it in church. I see it in academia. I see it among supposedly intelligent organizations.

What is “moral relativism?”

Merriam-Webster says that relativism is “the belief that different things are true, right, etc., for different people or at different times.”

It is ironic that I see so much “morally relative” behavior in people who publicly criticize “moral relativism.” I saw a pastor of a church, week after week, say “I promise, I promise, I promise, we will be done in five minutes,” only to finish up fifteen, twenty or even thirty minutes later. That pastor is a very passionate man. He is almost exploding with energy and excitement about Jesus and the works of the Holy Spirit. But the bottom line is that he constantly dishonors his word. But that’s okay right? He is an activist for Christ, right? And that makes it all okay.

This attitude has saturated our entire society. I get the impression that this kind of dishonor is justified, not only by the pastors but by the congregations as well, justified by the passion they have for what they are doing. But I ask you, how is that any different from other people who feel equally passionate about what they are doing? When we see someone from “the left” behave this way, we call it “moral relativism.” But if someone does it in the church, being so passionate and energetic about Jesus, this is okay? Um….NO…THAT’S MORAL RELATIVISM! That is the very definition of “moral relativism.” When what is right or wrong changes according to each person’s individual situation, that is called “moral relativism.”

So, Who Cares? What’s Wrong With Activism or Moral Relativism?

For me, “moral relativism” and activism creates an environment where everyone is speaking the language but me. Everyone is playing according to a different set of rules from what I believe in. So there is no point in me playing the game at all. At this point, I consider all serious debate to be a complete waste of time because I would rather deal in truthful information but everyone else is more interested in persuading me emotionally.

Activism and “moral relativism” are connected to each other:

In a world where there is no right or wrong, where there is no truth, where some lies are justifiable and others are not, in this type of world, there is no way to motivate action without emotional appeals.

In a world without right or wrong, the only means of making any progress is to motivate people emotionally.

In a world without right or wrong, true or false, good or bad, the only way to get anything done is to push people’s buttons.

We cannot argue what is right or wrong, true or false, good or bad, because all of these are relative, conditional upon the individual’s circumstances. Thus, all that is left is activism. All we can do is try to convince other people to feel just as passionate about our cause as we do.

As an example of this, I once saw a post on facebook. It was a photo of a beautiful landscape with text about another country. The gist of the photo and its message was basically that this other country was doing everything right, that the USA is doing it all wrong, and that we should be doing things more the way that other country does them. So, looking through the comments, I read several statements made by people who actually live in that other country. Those people pointed out major inaccuracies of the text which seriously compromised the message. And here I thought that that should have settled the whole issue. Right?

Wrong!

Continuing through the comments, someone here in the states responded saying,

“Accuracy is one thing, but the sentiment of the message is very real.”

This person’s comment summarizes moral relativism succinctly. Sentiment is more real than the truth.

Don’t bother us with arguments about whether something actually did happen or not. All we care about is your passion, your emotions, your feelings. If you are passionate about what you believe, that is all the truth you need. Accuracy? Don’t waste my time with that!

Different Rules

You see, these are entirely different rules from how I operate. I believe that,  when people come together to help each other find the truth, everyone benefits from the conversation. But when the discussion turns into a contest to win people over with emotional appeals, I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to play that game. I do not believe anything good will ever come of that kind of argument.

I have already written about some of my thoughts  concerning truth in a blog post I called Recognizing Truth. I believe that there is such thing as truth and that the only thing that changes from one person to the next is our perspective of that truth. I may see something from a different perspective from what you do, but that does not mean that there are two different truths or that there is no truth at all.

When we play the game with my rules, the objective of all debates and intellectual conversations is to help all of us get closer to the truth. I believe that part of what changes in our perspective of the truth is our proximity to it. Sometimes we are very close to the truth, other times we are very far from it. When we discuss issues  with other people, it should serve the purpose of helping us each get closer to the truth of those issues.

In contrast, when activists discuss issues, it is with the objective of swaying you to act the way they want you to act. Truth has nothing to do with it. Good or bad, right or wrong, these have nothing to do with the issues if you want to discuss them with an activist.

Objectivity

Merriam-Webster defines the word “objective” as: “expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.”

If you believe in “moral relativism” and practice activism, then you are inherently subjective.

I know some activists who laud themselves as being objective based on the fact that they consider all sides of any issue. I’m sorry, but this is not objectivity. It doesn’t matter if you consider all sides if you still continue to filter those different sides according to your emotions, your prejudices or interpretations.

Logical Fallacies

Before I decided to no longer participate in “intellectual conversations”, I made an effort to introduce some of the activists I knew to logical fallacies. Learning about logical fallacies changed my life. In terms of practical stuff that I learned in college, the logical fallacies have been more helpful than any other single thing that I learned.

Recognizing logical fallacies helps me save money by helping me recognize what advertisers are trying to get away with.

Recognizing logical fallacies has helped me make good career decisions when so many people would have persuaded me otherwise.

Recognizing logical fallacies has helped me avoid getting swept up into pointless political debates.

Recognizing logical fallacies has helped me become a better teacher by helping me sort through the stuff that works from the material that is more popular.

I could go on for hours telling you about how learning about logical fallacies has helped me in my life. So it’s only natural that I would want other people to enjoy these life advantages. I tried sharing these fallacies with my friends and all it did was anger them.

You see, activists don’t care about reasoning or truth or any of that. Logical fallacies are tools that help us find the truth. Recognizing logical fallacies helps us to change our perspective to something closer to the truth than when we are susceptible to emotional appeals.

That’s when I realized that something was up, when something wasn’t right, when I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It turns out that my friends don’t WANT to be closer to the truth. What they want is for me to vote who they want me to vote for. The want me to believe what they believe. They want me to hate who they hate. They have no interest in truth, especially when that truth works against their causes.

Conclusion – Finally – I’m Done

For that reason, I am done with all of the intellectual debates and conversations. I won’t waste my time with it anymore.

About Eddie Lewis

Eddie Lewis is primarily known as a Christian free-lance trumpet player in Houston, TX. Eddie makes a living playing trumpet, teaching trumpet and jazz improvisation, writing trumpet music and authoring trumpet books. His second book, Daily Routines for Trumpet, is used regularly by thousands of trumpet players around the world. If you would like to purchase some of his CD's, feel free to visit our online music store at http://www.TigerMusicStore.com.
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