[extropy-chat] Moral Relativism Theory and Practice

John-C-Wright at sff.net John-C-Wright at sff.net
Fri May 27 14:35:12 UTC 2005

On May 11th, Samantha Atkins wrote: "Careful who and what you claim as your own.
 Do you claim Pat  Robertson as your own? If so I don't think it is in my nature
to be insulting enough."

Surely I should have answered this in a more timely fashion. I hope you will
forgive me if draw the conversation for a moment back to a point it has past,
and a small point at that. 

Television evangelists are certainly figures of fun to modern intellectuals,
what with their high hair and southern accents. We can all get a moment of
cheap, malicious pleasure from contemplating our superiority to them, can we not? 

But look at the other side of the equation. 

I know a man who gave up cigarettes and strong drink because he heard Billy
Graham preaching. I have heard of a man who was comtemplating suicide, who had
the pistol loaded and sitting next to him, but who decided to watch one last
television show before doing himself in: by coincidence (though I call it
providence), the television station happened to be carrying a southern preacher,
preaching against suicide. He put off his dark deed for a time: when next he was
tempted, he again loaded his pistol, and again snapped on the television for one
last show before his end. By coincidence (though I call it providence), the
television station had made a mistake, and rebroadcast the same sermon. This
coincidence and this sermon changed the man's mind, his heart, and his life, and
he put his pistol and his desire for self destruction away. 

Now, you may feel free to mock these men and what they do: but as for me, I have
never saved anyone's life by my words, nor convinced anyone to give up a bad habit. 

To insult others is also in my nature, Miss Atkins: indeed, a lifetime of
practice has made me expert at it, and it is only with the greatest effort that
I forebear when barbed and petty wit rises to my lips or bubbles from the end of
my pen. My humble suggestion is that if you are interested in your own spiritual
development, or if you wish to live the life worthy of a philosopher or a hero,
a life of reason, self-command, temperance and justice, that you also forbear. I
apologize if this bit of advice sounds condescending, for I do not mean it in
that way; but the danger of indulging in a malicious nature is that malice soon
begins to seem normal: we come to enjoy it. 

To answer your question, I am happy and proud to claim Pat Robertson or any
other Christian as one of my brothers. For that matter, I am happy and proud to
claim men of other religions, even shallow modern inventions, as my brothers,
or, if they will not have me, as my cousins. 

Perhaps you have in mind a list of every wicked or embarassing thing a
television evangelist has ever done, so you wonder how I can claim kinship with
such Tartuffes. It is because I have in my mind a list of every wicked thing I
have done, and I leave to a judge more stern and more just than I am to deal
with the sins of other men.   

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