Some recent reading reignited the issue for me when I saw the harmful ends to which relativism leads when it is applied to society at large. This form of relativism is marked by the the such politically correct causes as: religious pluralism ("All roads lead to God") and multiculturalism ("All cultures and their respective values are equally valid and worthy of our respect").
No they're not.
Most obviously, and just like the moral relativism to which they are related, these concepts promote ideas that are logically inconsistent. Even though they may share common concepts like living by the "golden rule" or "loving your neighbor," different religions which describe completely different versions of their respective "god" cannot all be true at the same time and in the same way. The Trinitarian God of Christianity cannot be the same god as the singular Allah of Islam. The messianic Jesus of Christianity cannot be the same God as the non-messianic Jesus of Judaism. You can pick out the aspects of some religion you like, but you cannot combine your favorite religious concepts, cobble them all together into something that appeals to you, and then claim that all religions therefore lead you to the same destination.
The simple fact is that the truth of a religion -- which can also be referred to as a "worldview" -- resides in its coherence with the way we find the world (evidence that supports it), and part of our judgment about whether or not that religion coheres with the real world depends on the ramifications of that religion. What are its views of: origins (both cosmological and human), human nature, the human condition, the solutions to the human condition, and the ends to which we are all headed? And how does that religion treat both its adherents and those who choose not to live by its dictates? Each of these is a way to evaluate the value and truth of a religious/worldview system.
And, since the culture that grows up around a worldview is a manifestation of that worldview, it follows that we can evaluate cultures in much the same way. All cultures are not created equal. Some are downright evil. Some are simply ineffective. But those who claim that we should accept all worldviews and cultures have a lot to answer for in this thing we call the "real world."
Take the culture promoted by Islamic Sharia Law for instance. It brings us the burka, honor killings, and female genital mutilation, to name a few things. It also gives us outcomes like the case of Sayed Mussa, and Afghani who was born a Shiite Muslim 46 years ago. During the Soviet invasion of his country, Mussa lost a leg "... and for the last 16 years has worked for the Red Cross fitting prosthetics on amputee children. Inspired by the example of some selfless foreign Christians, he adopted Christianity ..." in a country that, since 2004, has supposedly had the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. For his efforts, the enforcers of Sharia Law in Afghanistan have imprisoned, abused, and humiliated Mussa and now threaten to hang him for his Christian faith (National Review, March 7, 2011, p.12.)
Would the enlightened multiculturalists in America allow that we should promote this kind of culture as "equally valid" to our own? I hope not. But European "progressives" have been promoting and living with a kind of "tolerant multiculturalism" for years and want America to follow suit. Unfortunately, many "progressives" on this side of the Atlantic agree and chastise those who argue against multiculturalism as being backward Neanderthals for resisting it. Even some of our most powerful leaders urge us to look to Europe for our example.
OK, let's do that.
Recently, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, labeled multiculturalism a "total failure." French president Nicholas Sarkozy has said he believes immigrants should "melt into a single community" (Remember that quaint old notion of America as a "melting pot?"). And then there's British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who recently got himself in a fine kettle of fish for this little diversion into honesty and reality:*
A generally liberal country ... says to its citizens, "this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe these things."Cameron was speaking of the classical definition of liberalism, the one that meant that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty and property. What got Cameron in trouble with the multiculturalists was that he went on to cite freedom of speech and worship, democracy, the rule of law and equal rights as the products of such a culture. To them, holding to this classical view of liberalism is an unforgivable sin, even though a cursory glance at the reality surrounding it leads those who have dealt with the nonsense of multiculturalism to attest to its failure. So why are some still so adamant in promoting it?
The sad truth, as Anthony Daniels puts it, is that ...
"Multiculturalists are seldom really interested in the culture of others. Very few of them read books in foreign languages, for example, let alone immerse themselves in [unfamiliar] scriptures or writings ... [In reality, they seek to dilute] the culture of their own country as much as possible: for only by rejecting what they have inherited do they think they can show their independence of mind and spirit. 'Let the heavens fall, so long as I am thought (by my peers) to be a free thinker.'"*Like the moral relativism with which it is inextricably intertwined, multiculturalism is just another way to proclaim that it is wrong for someone to judge you, while you simultaneously make judgments about them. It is another form of denying the absoluteness of objective reality while claiming that your own view is absolutely true. The stated intention is to sound neutral and reasonable, as long you agree to subordinate the values of your own culture to those which the multiculturalist has deemed equally valid -- no matter how horrific its results.
Like its empty relatives, multiculuralism fails because it denies the clear existence of objective reality. And it is dangerous for the very same reasons ... especially when it successfully invades our most cherished and important societal institutions.
More on that next time ...
* Each of the quotes above are taken respectively from National Review, March 7, 2011, p. 12, 18-20.