“There should be a less moralistic choice.” This was the opinion expressed by a minister in this weekend’s Akron Beacon Journal in the letters to the editor concerning a local hospital joining the Catholic Health Care system. Like so many people, this minister has been hoodwinked into thinking that there is some sort of neutral position when it comes to ethics. He does not want fewer morals as he thinks he does, but a different set.
Let us begin with toying with idea of if there is a God or not. If one does not believe that there is a God, the basis of moral grounding changes dramatically even if, on the surface, they may seem the same as Christian. If there is no God, then there is no Creator. If all that there is has no intelligent design behind it, then it is a fluke. If it is a fluke, then it has no real meaning. If it has no meaning it really can’t progress toward anything – it is simply what it is. If that is the case, then a human being is no more wonderful than a stone. (Many people like this idea.)
If all that is the case, then the case for goodness, for morals, is entirely based on a social contract. The social contract will be largely shaped by those with power. So “I won’t burn your house down if you don’t burn my house down,” holds as long as the two home owners agree to the contract and are able to enforce it. But if there is no absolute good, breaking the contract may really make someone mad, but in the end it doesn’t matter.
With this is the groundwork, those without power begin to lose out – those without a voice – who cannot defend themselves. Abortions become a right for the woman, using people in other countries to make cheap goods for us makes sense, marriage becomes about the right of happiness for adults rather than the good of the community and the raising of children, and porn becomes enshrined as free speech. Following close on those heals could be physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, and less care for the elderly, the poor and the troubled. Slowly the edges erode away so that it is possible to fall into an undesirable and therefore less protected (or not protected) category. This lead John Paul II to refer to this modern swing in society as a culture of death.
With a God however there is a Creator. With a Creator there is a giveness and a love for that which is created. If something is loved (with far more than a feeling) it has purpose and a goal. If it has a goal it has meaning. If it has meaning it has value and that value is simply in the created’s being, not in their power or usefulness. Concepts of “the good” and right and wrong have much more traction, are clearer, easier to defend, more universal, and are easier to rectify when they have gone off track. The baby in the womb, the sick, the elderly, the parent with dementia, the foreigner, they all have value because they are, not because of how they benefit us. It is a culture of life.
Now, to remain neutral is not to stay out of these arguments but to make your own metaphysical claims about the human person and his worth. These will become the foundations of a philosophy that will have implications in civil law and civility. It will burn Judeo/Christian capitol (instead of enjoying its fruits) and the nuetralist’s presuppositions will lead him toward the lessening of the value of life. Staying neutral is not staying out of it, it simply warps the only two existing systems and acts as a transition out of one toward the other.
The good reverend on Sunday was not asking for “less morals,” for he will be left with the exact same amount of morals the day after his wish comes true as the day before. What he wants is a different set of morals. God help his grandchildren if he gets it.