There’s no such thing as a “dictatorship of relativism”

This might be old news to people who get BBC News when it’s new, but we colonists might not hear these reports until someone feels like setting them up to run a second time during BBC Overnight on CBC Radio 1. This weekend I heard an interesting broadcast that way and was fortunate enough to find the transcript from the program so I could write about it properly.

What it was about was some ballyhoo Ratzinger spouted prior to his fellow cardinals voting him in as Pope in 2005.

(Source: Vatican Radio): Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labelled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize
anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

I’m glad they also get around to explaining what the hell relativism means because I’ve run up against that word so many times and I always forget the definition until I run up against it again and wonder anew. Philosopher Leslie Green explained it quite well in the program. It’s the idea that the public would walk past a group of boys setting fire to a cat and do nothing, feel nothing, and just keep on walking as if nothing out of the ordinary was afoot.

Hardly. Most people would be appalled and, if unable to get directly involved, would certainly look for someone who could. Relativism apparently is the idea that there is a grand scale apathy – a jointly agreed willingness to live and let live, as if morals and ethics no longer hold any meaning across society, let alone at an individual level. It’s the idea that anything goes.

Hardly true.

Green makes another good point later. He thinks that the Catholic church is aiming for a dictatorship of absolutism – that their way is and should be the only way to live in the world. He goes so far as to call them a fertility cult, too.

what it really cares about now is making sure that you know men aren’t having sex with men and nobody’s having abortions and there are no condoms in the JCR around the corner here and that there aren’t any divorces. Well even in a fairly liberal, tolerant sexual morality, there’s nobody that argues that anything goes. The people that Pope Benedict deplores don’t think that rape is okay, and they certainly don’t think that the sexual abuse of children is okay. Everybody agrees there is a bottom line minimum to which we all must conform. And the thing is of course that some folks disagree about where the minimums should be drawn. That’s democracy.

Bold is mine, obviously. Other issues in Britain were brought up, like Bishops against a law that would have allowed assisted death. The Church is avidly against letting people decide for themselves how they get out of here. Also, Catholic-run adoption agencies were going to be bound by law to give children to gay couples so many of them closed their doors because they weren’t legally allowed to be elitist bigots anymore. Fr. Stephen Wang is quoted:

Given in our pluralistic society there are going to be different understandings of family life, Catholic adoption agencies were saying let us keep the freedom to propose this vision of family life for the children that are coming to us. And that freedom was taken away from those Catholic adoption agencies. That’s the sadness in this for me. It was an example, I think – and I’m not … it’s not special pleading this as a Catholic – I think it was an
example of social intolerance.

Green is quick to snap back about that idea – what you do as a church and as a congregation is one thing. If you want to be into whatever constitutes traditions and rituals within those walls and the walls of your own home, go nuts. But if you’re running an organization for adoptions, that is a public service and any members of the public who can be approved for adoption should be able to adopt, regardless of religion or sexual lifestyle. That a Catholic-run institution assumed they’d be allowed to only give kids to Catholic people is proof the Catholics are still embracing the mindset that they are somehow more special and important than anyone else. That they are intolerant of anyone else.

Green also makes the point that there are a lot of studies that prove children in “broken” homes and failing marriages are going to be affected dramatically by that and in many negative ways. There’s nothing for studies that support the assumption that gay and lesbian couples would have the same effect on children in their care. Plus:

None of us think, I hope – although I don’t know what Pope Benedict thinks – none of us think that this [the risk of hurting kids?] is a reason not to allow children to be adopted out into families that were reconstituted after a divorce, people who have been divorced, people who might divorce, and that the evidence there is conclusive.

Bottom line, the real issue is choice. People have choices and while some groups (like the Church) want to have more control over the number of choices and freedoms people have, other groups want people to be capable of making educated decisions to do or not do something – to be or not to be, as it were.

People should be allowed to decide for themselves. And yes, some decisions are bound to be wrong ones, but the majority of people would be trying to avoid that, yes? While many people feel secure in letting a church tell them what a wrong decision might be, we all have the ability to make that call when given the opportunity to make it. I suppose it’s just easier leaving it up to some other agency to dictate right from wrong – even if that agency allows all kinds of wrongs to happen within it all the fucking time.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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