Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Moral Relativism

Dr. van der Breggen, over at his site Apologia has done an excellent job of skewering the logic of moral relativism.  And from the pen of a convicted psychopathic serial killer, Ted Bundy, takes moral relativism to its extreme conclusion.

"Then I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ I even read somewhere that the Chief Justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured out for myself–what apparently the Chief Justice couldn’t figure out for himself–that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any ‘reason’ to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring–the strength of character–to throw off its shackles…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable ‘value judgment’ that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure that I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me–after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited."

"Ted Bundy, cited in Louis P. Pojman, Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, 3rd edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, 1999), 31-32."


suneal said...

To me this brings home the point that a truly atheistic philosophy, lived out, leads to not only moral relativity, but moral irrelevancy. Ted Bundy, no matter how one views him, in my thinking, was more consistant in his atheistic paradigm, than any atheist I know or have known. He lived what both he logically deduced and had the guts to carry out. I reckon he is therefore less to blame, or rather no more to blame, than his philosophy which he actually adhered to. Therefore, atheism logically speaking can never offer the world anything morally. Of course there may be atheists more moral than me. More power to them. I can only deduce none of their morals are actually attributed to an atheistic world-view. It comes more from an eclectic philosophical/faith based perspective attributed more to the complexities and multiplicities of the human condition.

I deduce the fact atheism offers nothing moral outside of one's own "value judgments," because if one believes not in God, the Judge of all (the traditional view of God), then no universal moral standard can exist, and each person is left as their own judge and lawgiver regarding morality. If each one is their own judge and we all have an equal voice, morality as a society becomes "irrelevant."

Unknown said...


I agree with you, and would like to add that many of the so-called "atheist" morals are actually adaptations and adoptions of pre-existing religious morals. And in Western culture, as Dinesh D'Souza so cogently outlines in What's So Great About Christianity? many, if not most of the morals atheists live by are precepts garnered from Christianity.

Now, this does not make a case for whether morals are derived ultimately from God, but it does make it abundantly clear that no matter how hard an atheist tries to reject religion -- at the very least -- s/he lives by religious precepts every day, whether s/he likes it or not.

But you're right: Ted Bundy has the testicles to follow through on a purely relativistic moral scheme. Too bad his recognition of the relativist paradigm equated 'value' with 'truth'. If it didn't, I'm fairly certain there would be a lot less heartache today.

suneal said...

Yes, of course Chris, and I in no way meant to belittle the tragedy and grief of any affected by the horrific crimes of Ted Bundy against humanity. I do not admire him at all. From a purely philosophical viewpoint, he was more consistent in his beliefs than most people are.

Anonymous said...

Where do you read in that that Ted Bundy is an atheist? How can you possibly make that leap of faith?
in fact after a few minutes of looking i found that Ted Bundy has Methodist, at least raised and involved in the methodist church as a young man. http://www.inoutstar.com/news/Ted-Bundy-1245.html

"if not most of the morals atheists live by are precepts garnered from Christianity."

That makes a large jump in believing that most atheists live in countries founded by christians. I would be willing to wager that the majority of principles that atheists live by parallel the laws of the society they live in.

Of course in north America the laws and society as a whole is based on Christians coming here and taking the land from the natives.

Of course I personally parallel many of the current beliefs of society, as many christians do. At least I don't hear about stoning your wife if you find out she is not a virgin at your marriage and so on.

From my limited reading moral relativism is something we all live with. Even you mighty christians.

What was once morally acceptable is no longer accepted.

examples.. paraphrased..

Lev 20:9 if you curse a parent you must be put to death

Lev 20:10 If a man sleeps with a married woman they must both be put to death

Lev 20:13 if you have gay sex... DIE...

Exo 35:2 Work on the seventh day.... DIE!!!!
(Of course a day could mean an era, so no rest for you guys)

Lev 25:44-45 Slave are to be purchased from other nations. Local slaves can only be leased.

Of course these values are no longer accepted. it may have been at one time though. So it is all relative to the time and society you are currently residing in.

And BTW, Ted Bundy was insane. Not a devote atheist. he talks about god, was a boy scout (christian is an entry requirment state side), raised methodist..... So in the limited reading i have done about him my conclusion is.


Unknown said...

"So in the limited reading i have done about him my conclusion is.


Okay. Thank you. Not sure how this is relevant. But thank you anyway.

Anonymous said...

Read Sunneal's first response.

he seems to believe Ted Bundy was an Atheist.

Unknown said...


Even if he does, so what?

Truth Speaker said...

How come no other Ted Bundy expert use this quote? I read every official book on Ted Bundy and this quote never came up. How do I know it is not made up? Although you do make good points. I'm just curious about the Ted Bundy quote credibility.