Second, if anyone can be said to be a moral relativist (and even this is debatable) it is those philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche who expressly reject the existence of God. Nietzsche famously declared “the death of God”—meaning the end of the belief in objective morality.
In other words, Nietzsche recognized something upon which legions of believers—and other (but certainly not all) atheistic philosophers—insist: If there is no God, there is no objective morality.
God, you see, is the basis of moral truth, that which prevents moral judgments from dissolving into preferences of taste.
How, then, given my excitement over the theological subtext of this play, the manner in which it underwrites the morality of individuality with belief in God, could I of all people be seen as advocating moral relativism?
Finally, if I am a moral relativist for celebrating the morality of individuality, then so is every anti-collectivist that has ever lived a moral relativist—including God.
This last point is particularly crucial. I wrote that “the use of the imagery of the Spanish sailing ships of 1492 underscores the point that every lover of liberty aches to see impressed upon the world: the exercise of individuality, the making of choices, is, or at least should be seen as, an epic moral adventure in character building” (italics added). Here, I state what should be obvious to every lover of liberty: individuality and liberty are inseparable.
There is more. For thousands of years, theists have sought to justify their faith in God in the face of evil by appealing to human free will. God made human beings in His image, it’s been said. And this means that He’s given them the ability to make choices, choices for good—and choices for evil. Still, God knows that this uniquely human capacity is intrinsically valuable, that without it, human beings, being no different than puppets, would be as undeserving of praise as of blame—and, thus, incapable of friendship with Him.
It is the capacity for choice, not the substance of each and every individual choice, in which the morality of individuality centers. This is what my critic either wouldn’t or couldn’t grasp.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.