An imbecile habit has risen in modern controversy of saying
that some dogma was credible in the twelfth century, but is
not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a
certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot
be believed on Tuesdays.
A convergence of many factors has taken place. Much of education in the 1960s came unhinged from any moral absolutes and ethical values, to wit the book, Excellence Without a Soul, by Harry R. Lewis. We have seen this happening the last 40 years. There have been many voices alerting us to this. But more than just a philosophy took over; a mood took over.
First, secularization generally held that religious ideas, institutions, and interpretations have lost their social significance. People liked the idea of a secular society and a secular government. But in terms of moral values and ethics, they never checked into the internal assumptions of secularization that made it wide open to almost any view on any subject. Beginning in the 1960s, the moods of secularization ultimately led to society’s loss of shame.
Next is pluralization, which sounds like a practical and worthy idea; and in many ways, it is. In pluralism you have a competing number of worldviews that are available, and no worldview is dominant. But smuggled in with pluralization was the absolutization of relativism. The only thing we could be sure of was that all moral choices were relative and there was no point of reference to right and wrong. This resulted in the death of reason.
Last is privatization, which is an accommodation to the religiously minded. If secularization and pluralization were going to hold sway, what does society do with the large number of people who are spiritually minded?
Being spiritually minded was okay as long as people kept their spiritual beliefs private and did not bring them into the public arena. The irony of this was the fact secularization — which had its assumptions on absolutes and anything of the metaphysical nature — was allowed into the public place. In fact, its very trust was to bring it into the public place. But anyone who believed in a spiritual Essence, an Ultimate Reality, and the fact there were transcendent absolutes that needed to be adhered to was told to keep those beliefs private. That ultimately paved the way for the loss of meaning.
These three moods — secularization, pluralization, and privatization — brought about loss of shame, loss of reason, and loss of meaning. How was this authoritatively pontificated in the social strain? This is when philosophy stepped in, the moralizers against morality came in, and political correctness came in. These gave society some parameters that allowed it to expel the moralizing from outside the secular realm.
As a result, everything became pragmatic. Philosophers and naturalists stepped in. In this new century, we have lost all definitions of what it means to be human, and what sexuality, life, and the home are all about. We are on the high seas, battling the storms of conflicting worldviews without a compass.
Tolerance has come to mean that no one is right and no one is wrong and, indeed, the very act of stating that someone else’s views are immoral or incorrect is now taken to be intolerant (of course, from this same point of view, it is all right to be intolerant of those who hold to objectively true moral or religious positions). Once the existence of knowable truth in religion and ethics is denied, authority (the right to be believed and obeyed) gives way to power (the ability to force compliance), reason gives way to rhetoric, the speech writer is replaced by the makeup man, and spirited but civil debate in the culture wars is replaced by politically correct special-interest groups who have nothing left but political coercion to enforce their views on others.
No great, inspiring culture of the future can be built upon the moral principle of relativism. For at its bottom such a culture holds that nothing is better than anything else, and that all things are in themselves equally meaningless. Except for the fragments of faith (in progress, in compassion, in conscience, in hope) to which it still clings, illegitimately, such a culture teaches every one of its children that life is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.