In a previous post I noted that while people may pay lip service to moral relativism, no one does, and no one can live consistently as a moral relativist. Not only do moral relativists fail to live out their moral philosophy, but I am convinced that on existentially deep level (if not an intellectually deep level), they know moral relativism is false.
If moral relativism is true, and if the moral relativist truly believes it is true, then why do they continue to believe and act as if some things are objectively wrong for everyone? Why is it that they can’t help but to make moral judgments about what is right (tolerance, fairness, open-mindedness, etc.) and what is wrong (intolerance, homophobia, discrimination, forcing one’s morality on others, etc.), and act as if these truths apply to everyone? It’s because there is such a thing as moral truth, and they know it. All of us are made in the image of God and reflect His moral nature. We all possess moral knowledge. In the same way all of us possess rational intuitions to distinguish what is true from what is false, we possess moral intuitions to distinguish between what is good and what is evil. People are free to deny these intuitions, but the fact that they live in the real world in which moral values are an objective feature means they cannot escape moral knowledge and the making of moral judgments to one degree or another.
This becomes clear the moment you begin to reflect on certain moral issues. For example, does anyone think it is acceptable for someone to torture a child for the sheer fun of it? I don’t care what culture someone is part of, all of us know that this is a grave moral evil. We don’t think torturing children is a matter of personal or cultural preference. And yet if moral relativism is true, not only is the moral relativist prohibited from saying this is evil, but he should not even think it is evil. He should be no more affected by someone else’s personal preference to torture and kill children than he is affected by their personal preference in ice cream flavors. He may not share their preferences, but if they are just preferences, there is no reason to be upset with them or condemn them.
The fact that moral relativists cannot live out or even believe their own moral philosophy is, I believe, the greatest apologetic against moral relativism. It can’t be true, as any amount of serious intellectual and moral reflection makes clear.