Moral relativism


The idiocy brigade is at it again.

In an opinion piece in SVD today, a religious twit naïvely tries to defend the distastefulness of catholics who are against abortion, gay marriage, and probably other phenomena that have become urgent since the Bronze age in which they live. This time, it is Jacob Rudolfsson, co-ordinator of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance who is defending EU commissioner Tonio Borg. I won’t go into very much detail, but essentially, Jacob Rudolfsson is the kind of “useful moron” that throughout the ages has been prepared to defend the pitfiends of religion under any circumstances. I will note some small details, however:

Knappast ett uttryck för ett Sverige som säger sig gilla olika och omfamna mångfald och pluralism, i synnerhet i samband med den uppmärksammade twittertråden ”Det här är mitt land”.

The problem with Jacob Rudolfsson’s idiotic opinion is this: If one of my core values, for which I am prepared to fight, is to promote and expand the plurality and diversity of the society I live in, then any force that is explicitly against plurality and diversity, and who is equally prepared to fight for its beliefs, instantly becomes an enemy. Embracing diversity and plurality does not in any way imply unreserved acceptance of all other beliefs. It is perfectly possible and valid to claim to desire diversity and still not unconditionally support any given moral, ethical, political, or religious standpoint.

In particular, any such standpoints that are explicitly opposed to diversity and plurality can, and I think must, be ridiculed and opposed. And when holders of standpoints that are opposed to diversity and plurality desire real political power over a general public, provided this public does not homogeneously support these narrow-minded values, these people must be rejected from any post of influence or power, or we will take one step closer to the dreamworld of the CCCP.

As it happens, I take no moral standpoint on abortion or gay marriage, as these things do not affect me. I do take the deeper moral standpoint that these issues belong to a category of phenomena in which no one except those immediately involved could possibly have a valid point to make. If a woman or a couple do not want to go through with a pregnancy, that is their decision, moderated only potentially if a doctor fears there will be complications with an abortion for medical reasons. In a case with no known medical complications, the whole and entire sphere of people who can have any valid opinion on this abortion is the parents.

If you hold a religious view that implores you to dispute the above statement, you first of all need to grow up, and if you are incapable of doing so, you need to shut up. Unless you are one of the parents, you have no say in this matter. Religion, and especially the monotheistic religions, have done enough harm to society as it is for their views on something as intimate as childbirth, love, sex, or marriage to be taken seriously by any intelligent, reasonable person.

A parallel: If I want a higher biodiversity on an island, I cannot just bring lots of pigs, rats, cats, and dogs to the island. Certainly these will initially give the impression that the amount of taxa per surface unit has increased, but eventually they will destroy all the local fauna and flora, and the island will be dominated by the pigs and rats. This is an almost perfect analogy to what will happen if the holders of viewpoints that seek to limit the diversity and plurality of society are given or allowed to take power and influence society, whether these people are fascists, racists, religious, or other conservatives.

Det är inte heller särskilt demokratiskt att villkora andra politikers övertygelser. Fri opinionsbildning kräver att även de åsikter man ogillar får ta plats.

This is something that is seen quite commonly when you talk to racists, and I think it is significant that the only other major category of people who use this casuistry are the religious. The two groups have more in common than at least the latter group would have you believe.

What Jacob Rudolfsson, and many others, are actually appealing to is a flawed equivalence.
– Tonio Borg has an opinion;
– I dislike this opinion, and say so;
– Jacob Rudolfsson states that a democracy with free speech must allow Tonio Borg’s opinion to be heard even if I dislike it;
– But at the same time, he seeks to discourage me from expressing my opinion on Tonio Borg, as doing do would be “undemocratic”;

That is: the racists and coordinators of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance who make this argument are, in fact, attempting to the very thing they claim to be opposed to. Isn’t that what “hypocrisy” means? No, because the religious have never held this belief in the first place. Their appeal to democracy, free speech, and similar things are sophistry. The religious do not believe in equality, democracy, free speech, nor have they ever done so, nor will they ever, as they already know which opinions are the correct ones, and what facts are the correct ones, and what God wants and thinks and wants. All opinions contrary to their absolute knowledge of what is correct are, at best, superfluous, or at worst heretic.

Certainly this nonsensical pseudo-argument can be rejected, and revealed for what it is: a double standard for opinions you agree with and ones you don’t. You are allowed to express your despicable opinions, but I am not allowed to call them despicable, because your right to hold these despicable views trumps my right to hold the view that they are despicable. This may have worked in the primitive times when the church could, and annually did, back this implicit threat up with outright violence, but it surely has no place among grown-up, civilized people. If you are allowed to express your views, I am allowed to express my opinion on your views, and so on. To try, as Jacob Rudolfsson does, to stifle the opposition with hollow references to a democratic ideal which he neither holds, nor understands, nor respects, is lunacy, and ill suits the pages of a major newspaper.

Tanken att värderingar, som delas av en mängd katoliker, protestanter, judar och muslimer – och en hel del sekulära personer – inte skulle få plats i ett pluralistiskt Europa vittnar knappast om ett öppet och fritt samhälle. Än mindre ett Sverige för alla.

Well, here are some news for you, Jacob Rudolfsson:
The thought that values that have oppressed the victims of catholicism, protestanism, judaism, and islam — not to mention the vast majority of secularists — should be taken seriously after WWII in a pluralistic Europe does not bode well for an open and free society. Your values of uniformity, servility, slavery, sexism, racism, and blind obedience to absolute authority are detestable.

As so often, Christopher Hitchens sums the whole issue up very nicely.


2 responses »

  1. Ah yes, someone who holds that tolerance is the highest value of such high value that no one who does not agree that it is the highest value should be tolerated. In addition, you appear to believe that the most important thing is that no one try to convince others of their belief, a belief of such importance that you are prepared to attempt to force others to agree to it.

    • Not at all. The most important thing is that beliefs that leads to conservatism should be purged from any society that lays claim to the name “civilization”. I have no problems admitting that my values — based around the principles of parsimony, equipoise, and solidarity — are far superior to some other values, such as the conservative values of obedience, servility, and superstition, and that if humanity is to achieve even a tenth of its potential, we need to leave the childish oppression of the political right behind.

      I *don’t* think unreserved tolerance is a desirable goal. Certain moral, ethical, political and — more or less all — religious viewpoints can not be, and must not be, tolerated by any reasonable, civilized society.

      (ETA: I seem to be unable to spell, so I had to make some small adjustments)

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