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Roxane B. Salonen, Published July 12 2013

Living Faith: We can't deny objective moral truths

In discussing moral questions of the day, sooner or later objective truth will be thrown onto the table. Does absolute truth exist or is truth something that moves like a feather in the wind?

When bumping into this issue, the earnest thinker and faith-seeker will be compelled to find an answer.

Until I dissected the matter thoughtfully and thoroughly, I wasn’t fully tethered. The search for truth leads to the discovery of a base that can propel us well and rightly through the world.

Some view truth as a bad word, something confining and oppressive. They say objective, moral truth simply doesn’t exist.

Truth is not negligible but neither does it need to be scary, heavy-handed or oppressive. Properly known, truth liberates.

In his writing “Charity in truth,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the ‘economy’ of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth.”

Without truth, he warned, “charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.”

I wonder if those who disregard objective morality have really thought it through. After all, without it there’s really no fair recourse to being wronged since wrongness is subjective.

Lacking objective moral truth, if you wake up one morning and find your car has been stolen, you’d be compelled to roll with the punches. After all, you and the thief have different moral compasses. If in his mind no wrong has been done, there’s nothing you can do. You can’t impose your morality on another, after all.

It’s not a very logical or sensible approach. In fact, this mentality has wreaked havoc repeatedly throughout history. Think World War II times, when misguided, subjective morality led to millions of deaths.

Incidentally, true relativists don’t exist. Neil Peart, self-proclaimed atheist and drummer for the band Rush, even admits we all, religious or not, have a moral code. And naturally, we all promote our morality with those with whom we interact.

An ordered, just world necessarily includes objective moral truth. This is how we know on a universal level that killing another human being, except in self-defense, is wrong. Truth holds the world in its place and keeps us from destroying ourselves.

An atheist friend and I once debated objective moral truth. Believing moral truth to be subjective, she said she formulated her moral code one afternoon while sitting in a quiet room, weighing her perception of right and wrong.

The problem with creating our own moral compass is that inevitably, our subjective morality will bump into that of another, like the car thief and his victim.

Subjective morality simply cannot stand under the weight of reality. In time, our moral castles will be invaded, and all we’ll be able to say is, “I was worried you might show up,” as we’re being carried away.

Anyone using reason will agree on the reality of objective morality and the need for us to take heed of it.

The faith-seeker has a ready explanation for the source of objective truth. God, creator of the world, is the ultimate architect of order. And out of love, God wanted us to know how to live rightly and gave us explicit guides to help.

Those of the Judeo-Christian background look to resources like the Ten Commandments. Other religions have similar guides. But where does the non-believer go for a truly solid answer regarding moral truth?

Nowhere, it seems, but not to worry. When the car disappears, there’s always a taxi.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com