Legislating Morality Pt 2: Objective truth
Last week, I wrote about legislating morality* and how every action by a government entity is the creation or enforcement of law based on moral position. The lone commenter, Beth, made the following points which I would like to address in a series of posts, the first covering objective truth. To be clear, my original post was not intended to take a position on whether government should or should not make such moral judgments, but merely to address the argument that “government shouldn’t legislate morality”.
The best type of government is no government or one that tolerates “whatever they want as long as the act is consensual and victimless.” This makes sense to me as I see how the Catholic church must fight against the HHS mandate for religious liberty and government intrusion. Why then is it okay for Catholics to force our beliefs on a non-Catholic society using man made laws and man made consequences? Gods laws come with their own consequences.
I have often heard the argument asking why is it acceptable for Catholics (or Christians) to force their (our) beliefs on a non-Catholic society. This question originates in moral relativism or the idea that there is no objective truth, no absolute, which is in itself an absolute. It implies that every belief system exists on the same plane, none more important or more true than any other. When faced with this question, many people (I) shrug or stammer looking for some verbal branch to grasp on the way down the rhetorical cliff.
A few examples of objective truth are these: 2+2=4. Light and darkness cannot coexist. George Lucas ruined Star Wars. Are they any less true for a child who has not yet learned to count, or a blind man who has never known light, or a moviegoer who never knew Star Wars as originally released? Of course not. Objective truth does not rely on the understanding of the individual, but is always true regardless of understanding or knowledge.
In order to believe that there is no objective truth, one must deny the existence of evil and believe that anything one desires to do at any given moment is perfectly acceptable. Take for example the action of rape. I believe rape is wrong, as does my wife. John Doe does not believe rape is wrong, and thus decides to rape my wife. Not only does he believe rape is morally acceptable, but he also believes that imposing his views on rape upon another is morally acceptable as well. The two beliefs regarding rape in this scenario are mutually exclusive, so they cannot both be right.
The teachings of the Catholic Church are firmly based on objective truth, and it is our moral obligation to seek that which is objectively true. If we believe, and the Church teaches that rape is wrong, do we not have an obligation to stop it? Certainly it is the duty of the Church to reinforce that message, but what is to be done when one disregards the teaching of the Church? Does it suffice to do nothing and simply allow him to suffer only the consequences laid out by God, or should a temporal authority take action? I will address this issue in the next in this series. Stay tuned.
“The violent history of this century is due in no small part to the closure of reason to the existence of ultimate and objective truth. The result has been a pervasive skepticism and relativism, which have not led to a more ‘mature’ humanity but to much despair and irrationality” ~Pope John Paul, II (Address, n. 5).
*To be clear, my original post was not intended to take a position on whether government should or should not make such moral judgments, but merely to address the argument that “government shouldn’t legislate morality”.