Dangers of Moral Relativism

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
With secularism comes a disconnect from belief in God and the consequent reality of an absolute right and wrong. Faith in God and the idea of ultimate accountability to Him is replaced by moral relativism, which leads to a loss of respect for religion and even to anger against religion and the guilt that is seen to flow from it.  “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part IV).

What has caused the current public and legal climate of mounting threats to religious freedom? In this, my second major point, I urge that the weakening guarantees of the free exercise of religion are not attributable to causes that are legal but to changes in culture. The diminished value being ascribed to religious freedom stems from the ascendency of moral relativism and the expanding variety of intellectual orientations that I will refer to under that broad label. Today an increasing and influential group deny or doubt the existence of a God and insist that all rules of behavior are man-made, to be accepted or rejected as one chooses, because there is no such thing as right and wrong. We live in an increasingly godless and amoral society.  “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part V).

The denial of God or the downplaying of His role in human affairs, which began in the Renaissance, has become pervasive today. This glorifying of human reasoning has had good effects and bad. The work of science has made innumerable improvements in our lives, but it has also contributed to the rejection of divine authority as the ultimate basis of right and wrong by those who have substituted science for God. In contrast, many religious people are now asking why the viewpoints of any of the brilliant philosophers of the liberal tradition should be thought more relevant to moral decisions than the will of God.  “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part V).

I believe that those who have used human reasoning to supersede divine influence in their lives have diminished themselves and cheapened civilization in the process.  “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part V).

My esteemed fellow Apostle, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, asked: “How can a society set priorities if there are no basic standards? Are we to make our calculations using only the arithmetic of appetite?” He followed with this practical observation:  "Decrease the belief in God, and you increase the numbers of those who wish to play at being God by being “society’s supervisors.” Such “supervisors” deny the existence of divine standards, but are very serious about imposing their own standards on society."  Elder Maxwell also observed that we invariably increase the power of governments when people do not believe in absolute truths and in a God who will hold them and their government leaders accountable.  The ascendancy of moral relativism weakens religious freedom because it encourages the proliferation of rights that claim ascendency over the constitutionally guaranteed free exercise of religion.  “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” Address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations (CARI) April 23, 2015 (Part V) (citing Neal A. Maxwell, “The Prohibitive Costs of a Value-Free Society,” Ensign, Oct. 1978, 53 and 54)

 Elder Quentin L. Cook
This chorus of voices was lamented by an LDS Apostle, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, many years ago. He said, “How can a society set priorities if there are no basic standards? Are we to make our calculations using only the arithmetic of appetite? Decrease the belief in God, and you increase the numbers of those who wish to play at being God by being ‘society’s supervisors.’ Such ‘supervisors’ deny the existence of divine standards, but are very serious about imposing their own standards on society.” Notre Dame Sydney School of Law Religious Liberty Lecture, Sydney, Australia, May 27, 2015 (citing Neal A. Maxwell, “The Prohibitive Costs of a Value-Free Society,” Ensign, Oct. 1978, 52–53.)

 My fellow Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks is a champion of religious liberty. He recently pointed out “that the weakening guarantees of the free exercise of religion are not attributable to causes that are legal, but to changes in culture. The diminished value being ascribed to religious freedom stems from the ascendency of moral relativism. … Today an increasing and influential group deny or doubt the existence of a God and insist that all rules of behavior are man-made, to be accepted or rejected as one chooses because there is no such thing as right and wrong. We live in an increasingly godless and amoral society.”  Notre Dame Sydney School of Law Religious Liberty Lecture, Sydney, Australia, May 27, 2015 (citing Dallin H. Oaks, “Challenges to Religious Freedom,” address at the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations, Apr. 23, 2015.)


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