The Responsibility of Freedom

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We should celebrate diversity and freedom. People should have the right to believe in God or not believe in God. They should have the right to worship or not worship. They should be free to believe as they wish, vote according to their convictions, choose whether to live alone or with others, and to engage in whatever lifestyle or actions they choose (so long as they do not harm or abuse others). Freedom is good and downright essential to a healthy, vibrant, successful society.

With freedom, however, comes responsibility. And we must not neglect our responsibility to learn, grow, and develop. We must recognize reality, be self-aware, pursue education, eschew laziness, practice critical thinking, seek wise counsel while still thinking for ourselves, be kind to one another, guard against absolutist extremes, and strive for a high moral character. 

People who are truly happy and successful, over an extended period of time, generally hold themselves accountable to some kind of moral compass or ethical standard. But morality has no intellectual basis in a postmodernist context. In their book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, they write: "When truth dies, all of its subspecies, such as ethics, perish with it. If truth can't be known, then the concept of moral truth becomes incoherent." It may be possible for individuals or communities to get things write once in a while, but certainly not in any kind of consistent or stable basis.

Beckwith and Koukl explain:

"For to deny the existence of universally objective moral distinctions, one must admit that Mother Teresa was no more or less moral than Adolf Hitler, that torturing three-year-olds for fun is neither good nor evil, that giving 10 percent of one's financial surplus to an invalid is neither praiseworthy nor condemnable, that raping a woman is neither right nor wrong, and that providing food and shelter for one's spouse and children is neither a good thing nor a bad thing."

Morality functions most effectively in an environment that understands and respects objective truth. And not simply a generic sense of objective truth, but a context that recognizes a Higher Power (one over and above humanity, which is admittedly limited - as postmodernists remind us - by biology, language, and culture). It was George Washington who put the lie to the idea that objective morality can exist outside of a Higher Power. In his Farewell Address, Washington warned:

"And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Atheists and agnostics will predictably scoff at this idea on two grounds: 1) That such an argument implies they are immoral, and 2) That the introduction of religion into this equation inevitably makes this a subjective, rather than an objective matter - thus undermining the case for absolute, universal truth. They are, however, wrong on both points.

First, atheists and agnostics are as capable of living moral lives as anyone else, including people of devout religious faith. The point is that there is no intellectual or logical foundation for objective morality in an atheist or agnostic (and certainly not a postmodernist) framework. The late skeptic Paul Kurtz, often called "the father of secular humanism," admitted as much, when he said: "The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, they are purely ephemeral."

On the second point, the appeal to a Higher Power is not necessarily a religious one – at least not in a sectarian sense. It only becomes such if and when certain behaviors, rituals, practices, sectarian beliefs, etc. are associated with such an appeal. A person can be a Deist or even a humanist and still hold that a Higher Power of some type is responsible for objective moral laws. Few people would, after all, describe Thomas Paine or Benjamin Franklin as religious, yet they each believed in a Higher Power of some sort and that morality was ultimately based on that Higher Power.

Not everyone reading this will embrace my Christian faith or even the monotheistic faith-perspective of America's Founders. That's the beauty of freedom. You get to choose whether to worship and how to worship. You get to choose your beliefs. In no way do I wish to be seen as challenging freedom. On the contrary, freedom is indispensable to society. 

Embracing the reality of Truth, however, is not the threat to freedom that you need worry about. So long as our society retains the freedom of speech and a commitment to education and critical thinking, and so long as people remain humble and willing to listen, our freedom will remain secure. 

The real threat to freedom is when society jettisons objective truth in favor of feelings-oriented groupthink that can be imposed by force. That will bring about an Orwellian nightmare, and there are indications this may be coming. 

If we want to preserve freedom, we must reject the postmodernist lie of relative, unknowable truth. To steal a phrase from Ronald Reagan, we must consign postmodernism (along with communism) to the "ash heap of history."

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