Saturday, August 23, 2008


It seems the one absolute to the relativists is that there are no absolutes. That this is a contradiction will at once be obvious to the logician, but to the philosophical magician, it escapes notice in the same way he might make his assistant disappear. When told by a relativist on an airplane that there are no absolutes, my wife's uncle calmly replied, “Are you absolutely sure?” Saying there are absolutely no absolutes is like saying the one law of the jungle is that there is no jungle.

Relativism is essentially the same animal as secularism. Most of the differences between the two approaches are purely technical. Whereas the ideals of secularism can be traced back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, relativism in the Western World is believed to have originated with the Sophists.

Known for their clever thought, the Sophists predate Socrates in fifth century Greece. Plato acknowledged Protagoras as the first professional sophist (i.e. teacher of virtue). Sophists were traveling philosophers who noticed wide variations in customs and beliefs between the many cultures they visited. From their observations, they concluded that everything is subjective to people’s experiences: all is relative.

In certain ways, the Sophists were right. It is that they made relativity an “ism” which made them wrong, essentially. Sophists of today might say, “It’s all good.” There is a universalism about them, which embraces everything from Totem Worship to Environmentalism, Atheism to Zoroastrianism, and nearly everything in between. The only absolute the relativist seems to embrace is that there is neither one God, nor one way.

It is interesting to make a side-note at this juncture, which relates to relativism from the scientific angle. It concerns "The Theory of Relativity.” Einstein was actually not happy with that appellation, because he thought it sounded as if “anything goes.” Moreover, though The Theory of Special Relativity (E=MC2) shows that everything is relative to light, it has been taken by scientists and philosophers (in a kind of sophistry) to mean that everything is relative to the way individuals see things.

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle rightly argued against the Sophists, but neither are they quite right themselves. Aristotle held that through the proper employment of reason, one could know truth objectively. This is a reasonable idea, indeed, and a great improvement on the ethereal ideas of Socrates and Plato. The problem all of them had was akin to the problem a man missing his limbs has, or that of a woman missing her sight. They were not altogether incorrect, but their theories were incomplete.

Socrates’ conflicting beliefs that one can know “nothing,” but can know himself, were merely the reverse of relativism; that Plato leaned on his own understanding did not make him un-relativistic, it merely made his scope smaller. The secularist’s world is smaller than the relativist’s, but it is relativistic, nonetheless.

Rather than a universal relativism, secularism holds that all is relative to itself. The philosopher is, after all, superior to the common man. It is not every tribe which knows best, it is the secularist who knows best. By employing one’s own understanding, one can decide which god is real, if any, and which culture is right. Relativism and secularism are alike. Secularism does not leave a blank spot where God should be in the equation; it doesn’t merely pull out Buddha, Mohammed or Zeus. It seats self on the throne as an absolute ruler, deciding between good and evil, right and wrong, according to its own philosophy. And its philosophy is usually built around its particular emotional and cultural habitat. It is no secret that many in Christendom have misguided philosophies as well, but that topic is too big for the present discussion.

One can embrace almost everything, and at the same time embrace nothing, if in all one’s embracing one does not embrace I AM. Embracing the ideas of all religions, all philosophy and anything one can imagine, in the end, is to embrace nothing. It is to embrace figments and thoughts, and figments of thoughts. To embrace I AM is to be more truly universal than the universalist. Apart from the Light of I AM, human reasoning is fallible at best. God's Light alone rightly enlightens.

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