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The Endless Need for Moral Certainty

Hasn’t gone away:

But in fact, as people have turned away from the religious framework, they have not jettisoned that interior certitude, that feeling of absolute confidence that used to be associated only with religious doctrine and belief. When people stop believing in God, they quickly find surrogate beliefs, construct surrogate values, and embrace a conviction that, in its force and depth, is no different, from that which had previously been supplied by religion.

Newfoundland–where Rex Murphy, the author, grew up–is on the opposite end of the continent’s Atlantic coast from South Florida, where I grew up.  This is so in every sense of the word (and a fine point that some of my visitors, ahem, don’t quite grasp).  The world that he describes at the beginning of his post is as alien to me as it is to most people born on this continent the last half century.

The social changes that have altered our civilisation (and I use that phrase loosely) ostensibly were for the liberation of people.  And in a place like I started out in, that meant that people who had any kind of moral certainty were the “odd people out” and were treated accordingly, although in a place with a limited sense of community that long reach wasn’t as long as it could have been.

Our punditry (and when I say “our” I’m principally thinking of Christian punditry) likes to speak of post-modern society (which began, according to this, in 1973) where all values and morality are relative.  But that’s not what the end game of this revolution is all about.  What it’s about is the change from one moral certainty to another.  That’s reflected in the way the “discussion” goes in our society: same-sex civil marriage rather than none, the endless appeals to “science” as an authority, and mob action when the law is either too slow or too ambiguous.

I think that the process our society has undergone is, to borrow a term from thermodynamics, irreversible.  But that doesn’t mean that the system isn’t headed for a crash, which it is.  When that happens, what comes next depends upon how we prepare for it.

In the meanwhile, don’t hesitate to challenge their moral authority.  They need the humility.


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