Kids today, they suck at moral reasoning. I know this because David Brooks told me so. He read a book by some Domers about it. He takes this as his starting point. He then concludes:
In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.
Way back, "cultures shaped people's imaginations and imposed moral disciplines" but now, "people are led to assume that the "free-floating individual is the essential moral unit." Sorry for retyping those two sentences, but together they sound kind of funny. On the one hand culture has no more moral force, but, on the other, in a masterwork of passive voice construction, people are "led to assume" stuff about morality. By whom? I wonder. Since we're talking about free-floating individual units, I imagine that Brooks is talking about Kant, or maybe John Rawls, whose views must have percolated down into the brains of the young ones these days. Whatever is doing the assumption leading, after all, it's not culture.
It's silly. The whole thing is even sillier. Better just to read this blog: Shut up David Brooks.
Sanctimonious Christian moralist and Iraq war salesman Michael Gerson has questions about atheism:
But Christopher Hitchens is weaker on the personal and ethical challenge presented by atheism: Of course we can be good without God, but why the hell bother? If there are no moral lines except the ones we draw ourselves, why not draw and redraw them in places most favorable to our interests? Hitchens parries these concerns instead of answering them: Since all moral rules have exceptions and complications, he said, all moral choices are relative. Peter Hitchens responded, effectively, that any journey becomes difficult when a compass points differently at different times.
One of the neatest things about Philosophy is the way it forces one to think through remarks such as these. Is it the case that that "good" has no meaning without God? Whatever would that question mean anyway?
It seems to me, after all, that's it's not obvious what it means to be good in the first place. Is it to have the right kind of intentions–as in "when I dreamt up oratory justifying a human rights catastrophe I meant only the best." That doesn't seem right. What about this: "when I went along with those with insufficiently skeptical beliefs about the nature of the threat from Iraq and Al Qaeda, I was a sinner with an imperfect, flawed character"? Well, that doesn't seem right either. What about this: "no one really can know what the good is, like say invading Iraq, as we are not God, we're sinners and we can't know the future." That has something going for it. It just has one problem: it puts you on par with the atheist.