Originally Published April 9, 2013
Yep, there went another one. Short circuits can be a real pain sometimes. What’s worse is when they occur in a fundamental system of philosophical belief. There is an alarming number of philosophical beliefs that contain logic which loops back upon itself in some way, which essentially shorts out the logic of the belief. These in themselves aren’t even really a matter of what’s right and wrong. They’re simply bad logic. Yet these beliefs continue to persist and even grow. Today, I’ll be looking at three of those philosophical “short circuits” and why they’re a problem.
1. There are no absolutes!
Are you absolutely sure about that? Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Yet relativists continue to assert to the world that absolute truth does not exist. Of course, looking at this belief system readily reveals the error in logic: The statement “Absolute truth does not exist” is itself dependent upon being absolute, or it is an empty statement. The blatancy of such an error has all but discredited Relativism among philosophers.
So why am I writing about it here? Because it is still alive and well beyond philosophers. Where? Among ethicists. While talking about absolute truth may seem a bit distant to most readers, bringing up the topic of moral rightness conjures immediate discussion and debate. “Well, something that is morally wrong for you is fine for me,” is a statement too often made these days, and it is entirely dependent upon relativism. To say “I can [fill in the blank] because, for me, truth is different” is dependent upon absolution at some level in order for me to be able to say that I’m correct in that claim. Relativists claiming that absolute truth doesn’t exist doesn’t really counter the existence of absolute truth. It just shows their error in logic. Likewise, those who claim that right and wrong are a matter of perspective doesn’t really make moral rightness go away. It just shows they are not thinking logically.
2. I believe in not being negative.
“No Negativity” is a fad that circulates around society. I first encountered it in the Church where it likes to buddy up with current Christian ideals of total love and acceptance. So what’s wrong with living a life free of negativity? Nothing – as long as you really are doing it. The problem occurs when you take a stand.
Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi. – Isaac Newton
Newton’s Third Law of Motion essentially states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Of course, he was addressing physical motion, but the principle applies to any active force. Taking a stand on something is an active force, and it will unavoidably be in opposition to something else, and someone somewhere will take offense. Such is the case with “No Negativity.” You can strive to reduce your perspective of negativity in your life (and should), but promoting that lifestyle opposes other lifestyles in a negative way. The truly non-negative person is a perfect pacifist, which is unattainable for anyone who has a self-will (pretty much everyone).
The active no negativity fad isn’t really dangerous to society. But it is a flawed belief that is annoying to anyone who can think, and as such paints a poor intellectual picture of anyone who promotes it, usually Christians. It is, however, contrary to fundamental Christian teachings. Even the New Testament is filled with instructions for actively combatting evil and injustice:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Eph. 6.12
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. I Tim. 5.19
– from English Standard Version
From these and other passages, Scripture is clear that Christians are to take an active stand against evil, both from within and without the Church. “No Negativity” undermines that stand and confuses Christian youth about what they should really stand for.
3. I insist upon your tolerance!
I was talking to a friend in my institution’s human resources department a while back concerning intolerance against intolerance. She’s a Christian woman, and she shared with me that her job is growing more difficult because of this tolerance movement. Even as she led a harassment seminar in which I was present, she was attacked by an audience member because she said that religious professors have the right to have religious items in their offices. She said attacks like that are a regular occurrence at those seminars. The attack arguments are typical for what we hear in the mainstream movement for tolerance:
First Statement: I demand that you respect and tolerate the views of other people.
Second Statement: Your religion is offensive to my views. Keep it out of my sight.
Thus, we saw a “progression” of secularism from removing prayer and the Ten Commandments from schools to the point where it’s a crime to just be a traditional Christian due to “hate crimes.” Intolerance against Christians continues to escalate –
There are more people alive than have died since Jesus: all waiting to board the Great Cruise Ship in the Sky. Don’t put off dying too long. – recent tweet from British Professor Richard Dawkins
As a philosophy, the “Tolerance Movement” is just as flawed as the above two. It’s easy to throw the monkey on someone else’s back and demand that they “love as Christ loved,” using their own convictions and morals to your advantage. The flawed (and unjust) part is that it always goes unspoken that while I am criticizing you for your intolerance, I am being just as intolerant of you, perhaps more so. Like negativity, tolerance is a passive idea. It would benefit people greatly to realize this truth:
It is impossible to actively advocate a passive principle.
Appeal To The Masses
These beliefs and ideals are obviously flawed and erroneous. Yet they persist and grow. Why? Because despite being flawed, they appeal to people in some way. Elimination of absolute truth and moral rightness has the benefit of no convictions and free living. “No Negativity” has the benefit of looking good and noble, as well as the benefit of being non-confrontational and non-aggressive in religious convictions. Tolerance has the benefit of ethically (and now, legally) forcing another person to accept your own ideals, and doing so without resistance. Since Aristotle proposed the tripartite model for the human soul, philosophers have realized that the masses can be controlled, not by reason or logic, but by appealing to their desires and appetites. It’s evident in the Bible also. If people would just stop and think, these issues would have long been discredited. Perhaps as more and more religious lifestyles and freedoms are oppressed and repressed, we will wake up and realize that we have to use our God-given minds along with our loving hearts.