The end of tolerance

Another excellent piece from Mercatornet:

The illusion that moral diversity is a viable social strategy is at its last gasp…. [F]or about sixty or so years, Western culture has been engaged in a protracted rebellion against whole swathes of public ethics. For whatever reason, our culture has effectively disdained to engage in moral debate on subjects that pertain primarily to matters that prick the individual conscience, or invoke personal moral responsibility….

Issues such as abortion were subsumed into the greater struggle for women’s rights, eclipsing the traditional ethical discourse that had long held abortion to be intrinsically immoral. This situation is now typified in the infamous conclusion that abortion is a private matter, and should not be subject to public ethical debate.

Abortion is only the most obvious example of how personal ethical issues can be removed from the public domain under the auspices of protecting individual freedom. Individual freedom is the ‘big picture’ moral imperative that justifies the present culture’s disdain for those who attempt to ‘moralise’ over personal choices….

As an ethicist, I find the status quo intellectually disappointing. Tolerance might seem like a social panacea, capable of neutralising all conflicts and overcoming all evils, but in principle it merely calls an uneasy ceasefire in the implicit ethical battle underway in our society. It’s all very well to say: “Don’t like abortion/gay marriage/euthanasia? Don’t have one!” But an objective ethical question remains unanswered: are these things good for us, as human beings? What we are finding, at last, is that the ideal of unbounded individual freedom to make morally neutral choices just cannot satisfy human nature. We need to believe that we are doing what is right, even if we shy away from words like “good” and “right”….

Attacks on the legitimacy of religious institutions in areas of marriage and adoption correspond to increasing pressure to override the right to conscientious objection for doctors and other healthcare professionals. This new appetite for moral coercion signals the end of tolerance, the end of a pretence that we could “live and let live” without reaching binding moral conclusions.

What was once illicit became tolerable; now the merely tolerable has been normalised. But, as tolerance comes to an end, so will the illusion that moral diversity is truly a viable long-term strategy for a society. We might begin again to ask in earnest what is good and evil in human life.

Read the full piece HERE. This elucidates the position we have held for years: Individual choices do affect the broader culture. People do not live in bubbles where they alone can live with the consequences of their choices. Their choices will and do affect others and trickle into  society as a whole. This is why we say “as the family goes, so goes the culture.” Individuals build marriages, which build families, which build communities, which build states and nations. We cannot live in a self-made, self-defined paradise and ignore what our actions do to other people. There are no magic bubbles that allow us to do so. Morals and ethics permeate entire cultures and must derive from a transcendent, unchanging source–not from the whims of man.

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