Moral relativism and evil

moralityFirst of all, for anyone unaware of the news stories about the two pre-teen thugs from Edlington who tortured and abused two little boys, here’s a link to the story.  Now, I passed a comment online that I regarded the two perpetrators as evil.  I didn’t state they should be hung, drawn and quartered, thrown to wild animals, etc.  Just that they were evil.

Now, the definition of evil from a dictionary I have nearby is “morally bad or wrong; wicked; depraved; resulting from or based on conduct regarded as immoral”.  I think that the behaviour of the thugs could be described as evil under that definition.  And I’m sorry, I may come over as a roaring thunder-lizard of reactionary, non-politically correct thought but I’m afraid that someone who does evil things is, until they reform, evil.  And there appears to be no indication that these boys have shown any regret, repentance or even any sort of apology for what they did.  From past evidence, it would appear that the only emotion they have felt is the dismay at being caught.

I was quite surprised (whether I should have been or not) when someone came back and questioned whether it was right to call them evil, and other suggestions were made about whether the boys themselves were victims of their upbringing and background.  I have to say that the upbringing of these individuals is shocking depressing, but the one thing that separates human beings from animals is that between stimulus and response we have the capacity for choice.  And it is in that moment of choice – that instant where civilised behaviour, conscience and sense of right and wrong operates – that the determination to be evil is made.

The fact that some folks believe that whether a behaviour can be evil or not based purely on circumstances I find to be rather disturbing.   The idea that different moral truths hold for different people is called Moral Relativism, I don’t have any time at all for it.  Not too long ago I posted on here about the dangers of peering in to the Abyss.  These boys seem to be the products of such an activity, aided and abetted by our own culture.  Whatever the cause, I don’t honestly see how anyone can look at their behaviour and say it is anything other than evil, and a moral relativist approach to these matters helps no one except the perpetrators and apologists for them.  I’d go further; it actually promotes repeat behaviour; by failing to come down firmly about an issue and say that ‘that behaviour is wrong’ or ‘that behaviour is evil’  we provide a moral and ethical grey area. 

I don’t believe we should be ashamed to state that something is evil.  As CS Lewis pointed out in his work of Christian apologetics ‘Mere Christianity’,  the vast majority of human beings seem to have a built in feel for what’s right and wrong, what’s good and evil.   As a Christian I try not to judge; I’m far from perfect, after all, but I do believe that there is a ‘line in the sand’ which we can draw in absolute moral terms, and it’s the edge of the abyss I wrote about above.  Moral Relativism takes away the sharp drop, building steps for us all to walk down in to the abyss.  And for that reason it should be shunned.

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