Letters

Maybe morals are objective - but applying them isn't

Regarding David Klinghoffer's Nov. 16 Opinion piece, " 'Moral values' aren't just Christian": To the believer, morals originate with God, but they take their life from men and women - humans who struggle and learn and grow and change over lives and generations. Human law has evolved and should continue to do so. When approached in good faith, such evolution will bring us closer to knowledge of our Creator.
Charles A. Warth
Greenville, S.C.

Fundamentalists' narrow approach to "objective" morals leaves little room for the morality of social, political, and economic justice such as that expressed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount or by Gandhi in 20th-century India. Believing in the inerrancy of scripture and in literal acceptance of religious doctrines, fundamentalists steadfastly refuse to accept enlightened evolution of religious interpretation. In essence, they reject societal change - and true democracy - within today's irretrievably interconnected, yet remarkably diverse, global community.
John V. Bergen
Owatonna, Minn.

Klinghoffer attempts to distinguish between God's morality as expressed in a religious text and people who determine what is and is not moral without religious texts. For example, the biblical commandment "Thou shall not kill," is taken to mean thou shall not murder - that is, kill a human being unjustifiably. Well, who decides what is unjustifiable killing? It is people who make these distinctions. So some dead civilians are seen as collateral damage, while others are the victims of cruel terrorists. Deciding what constitutes murder or any moral issue is subjective whether it is an atheist, a religious fundamentalist, or anyone in between who is making the decision.
Robert M. Silver
Raleigh, N.C.

Nothing Klinghoffer cites from the Kerry camp commits them to moral subjectivism. The two major points in favor of this claim are that Kerry disagreed with the Catholic church on abortion, and that he would consult with other countries before going to war. If there is an objective truth, and the bishops are mistaken about it, then it is absolutely the right thing to do to disagree with them.

In the case of war, it can be difficult to know whether a war would be right or not. Perhaps Senator Kerry might think that though there is a truth about whether a war is right, it is possible for him to be mistaken about it. If so, it's a virtue to allow others the opportunity to persuade one of the truth.

Communal decisionmaking involving persuasive argument can lead to better understanding of objective truths than having each individual decide alone.
Kelsey Rinella
Bloomington, Ind.

The essence of Mr. Klinghoffer's piece is that there are two broad moral value stances: objective morality and subjective moral democracy. I am concerned that the author might be painting an either/or picture of the situation - something that does not encourage effective dialogue.

I want to suggest an alternative model that is inclusive of those two perspectives but acknowledges that there are others as well: a continuum from pure moral objectivism to pure moral relativism.
Thomas F. Hawk
Cumberland, Md.

Just like my relationship with my husband, my relationship with God is private. Does it guide my decisions? Yes. But we are headed for another Dark Age if we refuse to use common sense. Separation of church and state is not ideal, but it is the only way Americans have managed to live in peace.
Joy Cassell
Apopka, Fla.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Any letter accepted will appear in print and on www.csmonitor.com .

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.

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