The moral value of the secular world

February 4, 2013

I’ve changed my mind.  I do not think that the secular world lacks moral convictions.  The world is just as convicted as the church, if not more so.  The difference lies in the fact that they have a smaller set of moral values to draw from.  In particular, in the US, it seems that the secular society has only one moral value left to speak of, specifically that of autonomy.  Focusing on any one moral value to the exclusion of all others has a distorting effect on moral judgments of specific issues.

Take, for instance, incest.  Vast majority of people will agree that it is wrong.  However, if we only take the one moral value we have left, the one of autonomy, and make our moral judgments using that alone, then some instances of incest would appear permissible.  Again, this result highlights a distorting effect of our moral judgments due to the lack of proper set of moral values to draw from.

As a society, I think we can all agree on other moral values, if not relative weight of these values in any particular issue.  For instance, courage or honesty or integrity or solidarity or kindness are values that even the secular world would agree to promote in any given society.  Should not these other moral values be part of our rationale in thinking about the wrongfulness of an act?

The Christian alternative, of course, isn’t to impose the Christian mandate to non-Christians.  We can only fulfill our Lord’s commandment to love others as we love ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot expect non-Christians who do not have this Aid to live up to this standard that we ourselves fail to live up to even with the help.  But we can and should work to reintroduce to our society moral values that can be gleaned from general revelation.  The Church, after all, is the salt and the light of this world.

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