Who determines what is right and what is wrong? This is a very important question. It not only affects how we live our lives, but how we interact with others around us. Whereas science can tell us how the world works, and governments can establish laws to keep order, the popular notion today is that each individual determines what is right and wrong in matters of morality. It’s the old “True for you but not for me” mentality. But, does this really work? Can individuals really determine morality in this way and be consistent?
One morning I walked out to my truck to find that the inside had been ransacked. It was obvious someone other than myself had been in there trying to find something of value (which they did, and I hope they enjoyed the iPod with the broken headphone jack filled with The Beatles). I remember feeling that a serious wrong had been done toward me. Why? Who am I to say they are wrong if stealing is part of their morality? Just because I don’t like it doesn’t give me the right to deny their happiness.
What do we do when different moralities collide? Which one prevails? We will quickly find out that “Live and Let Live” flies out of the window when people with different truths claim to be right. One minute I am proclaiming everyone’s ideas are equal and valid, and the next I am proclaiming that this person here is wrong. How can everyone’s ideas be equal and valid, yet at the same time say they are wrong?
And so we come back to the question: Who determines what is right and what is wrong? Science can only tell us how the world works, not what we ought to do. Government is a little closer in determining morals, but even governments can hold different ideas (think Nazi Germany). But, as it is, there are certain things that most people the world over agree are truly right and wrong. Where did we get this sense of right and wrong? The only reasonable next step is to appeal to something higher, but that is the option many don’t even want to consider. It means that there are absolutes, things that are truly right and truly wrong, and maybe some things I am doing in my life will be called out as immoral.
Keep in mind that these thoughts are not complete. They are merely a gateway into the idea of right and wrong that will be explored further. One final thought before I close: If I claim “True for you but not for me” and “Live and Let Live,” then I need to claim them fully. This means accepting different truths that may be different from my own, and understanding someone may have a truth that hurts me in some way. I cannot say they are truly wrong, even if it harms me, unless I am then willing to admit that some things are truly wrong, meaning that I, too, might be truly wrong about some things. It is inconsistent to say everyone can be right, but many people are wrong. There may be a better way.
1) Is there really a true right and true wrong? How do we know? Can we consistently live out “Live and Let Live”?
2) How do you feel when someone disagrees with you morally? Do you think they are wrong?