Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A Letter to the Editor on Moral Absolutes

It was interesting to read your words about the recent school board meeting (7/18/04, Dunn County News) regarding the Gay/Straight Alliance meeting in the high school. You started by saying “A wonderful thing happened Monday night” then ended by saying that you “tipped your hat” to the participants for making Menomonie proud. But in the editorial below yours, Mr. Hoffman saw visions of the Salem Witch Trials at that same meeting. Isn’t it amazing how two people can see things so differently?

I was at the meeting as well. I didn’t agree with everything said (from either side), but I was pleased to see the open discussion, emotion and all. Emotion often comes with deep convictions. I don't think that's something people need to be ashamed of showing.

Our society is going through a tremendous cultural shift. For centuries, (right or wrong) our legal system has used the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments as the basis for moral law. It’s provided an absolute in decision making. But today, our culture is heavily questioning that assumption. They have the right to do that. But those who choose to cling to the idea of an absolute should not be labeled as “flat world” believers (as stated in lead article quote 7/14/04). To release ourselves from moral absolutes is not equivalent to making progress in the 21st century as Mr. Hoffman implies in his letter. Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, science is simply the study of what exists. And science has discovered many absolutes that exist; the speed of sound, the speed of light, the force of gravity, and 2+ 2 = 4, every time.

Is it so odd to think that there might be moral absolutes as well as physical absolutes? Every time I board a plane I’m grateful for the physical absolutes that the plane was engineered for and that the pilots incorporate into their flying knowledge. Without their in-depth knowledge of those absolutes, I don’t think I’d want to be flying. (Without physical absolutes, the plane could not have been built in the first place.) Is it too much of a stretch to think that there might be moral absolutes as well? And is it too much of a stretch to think that the breaking of moral absolutes will bring the same level of catastrophe that a plane would experience if it ignored the physical law? Do we really want to risk finding out?

Or is everything relative? Will we some day decide that parents can divorce each other and wed their children or sisters wed each other? That is not too far fetched if we really believe the statement from the other letter to the editor July 18. The writer said that, “What people want to do with their lives is their choice, not anyone else.” Our judicial system tells us that that’s not true. Our judicial system revolves around moral law being enforced not ignored.

It seems that there will be an increasing divide over this issue of absolutes. If we are ever to get “the human relations part” (that Mr. Hoffman regrets we lack) we are going to have to learn how to talk about it without labeling either side as archaic thinkers or Witch-hunters. It’s been said that once you label someone you can then discount them entirely. I hope we can rise above that and eagerly listen to and respect each other. If we can do this, we’ll contine to “do Menomonie proud.”

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