Monday, September 19, 2011

A Glossary of Terms

There are certain philosophies or ways of thinking that have negative connotations attached to them. As I use many of these words in my blogging vernacular regularly, I want to explain how I define them.

Moral Relativism

This idea has received quite a bit of negative press from religious institutions.  I believe much of this comes from fear and misunderstanding.  Moral relativism, at its foundation, opposes the idea that one society, culture, or religious group has the monopoly on moral values.  To me, I see this as an explanation for why so much good is witnessed in the world--people are born with a conscious and it is up to parents and/or other caregivers to nurture this.  If a child is born in less-than-ideal circumstances, it is up to us--the community--to teach them "right" vs "wrong" within the context of love.  I really do have an optimistic view on humanity.


It would be easy to categorize all of our beliefs within one group; however, most of us realize this is impossible.  I have a very complicated personality that refuses to fit in one box.  Hence my religious/spiritual beliefs are varied and open to change.  At the moment, I do not believe in a God (atheism).  However, the idea of God doesn't bother me; if I die and find out He does exist I would be pleasantly surprised (agnosticism).  If He does exist, I do not feel He plays a direct role in our lives (deist), nor do I think He actually answers prayers--the world is far too complicated for this idea to make sense to me (i.e. if He really answers prayers, why would He bless a family with 10 children only to take the mother or father away a few years later? OR why close the wombs of women who would be fabulous mothers? OR if gender is essential, why would He make people gay/lesbian?).

Additionally, I cannot fit the divine feminine within the current Judeo-Christian dogma.  I know many people feel God encompasses both male and female qualities but my mind just cannot wrap around this concept--or the idea of trinity.  It would seem Divinity would be much more simpler if we were intended to worship Him/Her/Them.


Many so-called intellectuals use this self-proclaimed title to put down those who do believe in some sort of religion.  I find this practice to be irrelevant and hurtful--just as hurtful as those who think (or insinuate) I haven't prayed hard enough or read the scriptures with the right spirit to explain why my testimony is gone.

Religion, in my opinion, is not a following of "blind sheep."  It is a community center, if you will, that brings people of similar spiritual paths together.  Some churches work for one group, while another church will work for an entirely opposite group.  But to say religion is full of ignorant people is to spew hateful remarks that are unnecessary and completely wrong.

When I label myself an intellectual, it is to be taken like any character attribute or flaw.  I think like an intellectual--my mind is constantly sifting through new information, seeking to correct or expand the current ideas I have--and it is part of my personality.  I wouldn't change this aspect of myself just like I wouldn't ask a believer to dispel of their faith.  However, when religious people brand my intelligence as "worldly" or some other derogatory term, I think it comes from knee-jerk defensiveness.  Believe me, when I talk about issues with scriptures, God, or religion, it is my way of thinking aloud; of bridging what I have learned in the past with what I am learning now--knowledge begets knowledge and I am allowing myself to go through a natural evolution of my personal philosophies.

There you have it.  A glossary of the terms I regularly use.  I am sure I will add to this as time goes by.


In other news, this weeks Parents Supporting Parents theme is chores.  Do your kids do chores? If so, how and why?  Any funny stories about kids "cleaning" and "helping" that you want to share?  Link up!  It will be fun.  I promise.

(I even have a new button.  If you need the code, e-mail me. I'm having problems with getting the handy html code beneath it.)


  1. It's been too long since I defined these terms myself. Moral relativism to me means that situations and community structures often effect the correct moral choices. Murder is never right, but self defense is for many of us. And what constitutes self defense? Is it not something that we define in our heads? If so, it is based in our construction of reality which is certainly based in our culture and our society. There are other examples of things that matter little to us, like when we cut our hair or what happens to the clippings, but matter deeply to others and carry moral connotations.

    Your talk about religion makes me think of Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. I can see how many faithful communities would not like to his ideas, but for me, they fit. Very much boiled down, he says the feeling you get at church of something bigger, that's 'social effervescence' or the joyousness of being part of a group committed to something together. To me, community and love, that is the presense of God here on earth. Beyond that, the divine, the Divine, well, that I cannot know.

  2. Re: moral relativism - to me it has nothing to do with teaching "right vs wrong," because that concept is alien to moral relativism. There is no "right vs wrong" because there's no objective truth stating, "this is right" vs "this is wrong." (Objective truth, btw, spans all religious/social groups; some just have recognized more of it than others.) What moral relativism teaches is "might makes right;" i.e., that the social or religious groups with the most power, political or otherwise, get to impose their subjective morality on the rest of the populace.

  3. Oh, funny - kept clicking the wrong icon when I was trying to comment, kept just reloading the page again. Hee!

    I am very much with you in the essence of what you are saying. I too, have far too much value for the other people inhabiting this earth with me, to say to anyone, 'You are not like me, I do not accept you or what you are saying'. To me it seems that many of our religious institutions ask people to 'sell their souls' to be able to belong and have a place in the congregation. If you had asked me to define my moral code when I was young, it would have been grounded in what I had read in the Bible, or what i had been taught by others within the context of that faith. If you ask me now, what I would explain to you is based on what I have learned from sharing in the life experiences of others, from reading and further learning of my own and other cultures. I think maybe I am becoming a Values Ethicist?


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