Why Not Be Cruel?


Philosopher Richard Rorty allegedly admits that the secular liberal has no answer for that.

But now I’m ahead of myself.

David Brooks titled his September 12 New York Times column thus: If It Feels Right…

And here you have the first and third sentences of his piece:

During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. […] Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.

OK. So it’s only 230 young folks out of million? But even that few people in the 18-23 age range ought to know better. (Surely they didn’t pull a Kinsey and survey Gutter Dwellers.)

Well, anyway, I learned about Mr. Brooks’ column from another columnist (about whose column I learned from I don’t know who or where):

Last week, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column on an academic study concerning the nearly complete lack of a moral vocabulary among most American young people.


  • “When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all.”
  • “Moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner.”
  • “The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste.
  • “As one put it, ‘I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.’”
  • “Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.” (Emphases mine.)


If moral standards are not rooted in God, they do not objectively exist. Good and evil are no more real than “yummy” and “yucky.” They are simply a matter of personal preference. One of the foremost liberal philosophers, Richard Rorty, an atheist, acknowledged that for the secular liberal, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

With the death of Judeo-Christian God-based standards, people have simply substituted feelings for those standards. Millions of American young people have been raised by parents and schools with “How do you feel about it?” as the only guide to what they ought to do. The heart has replaced God and the Bible as a moral guide. And now, as Brooks points out, we see the results. A vast number of American young people do not even ask whether an action is right or wrong. The question would strike them as foreign. Why? Because the question suggests that there is a right and wrong outside of themselves. And just as there is no God higher than them, there is no morality higher than them, either.

Forty years ago, I began writing and lecturing about this problem. It was then that I began asking students if they would save their dog or a stranger first if both were drowning. The majority always voted against the stranger — because, they explained, they loved their dog and they didn’t love the stranger.

They followed their feelings.

Without God and Judeo-Christian religions, what else is there?

Perhaps you’ll find time to read Dennis Prager’s full piece: Why Young Americans Can’t Think Morally.

Meanwhile, here are some answers for the title I chose for this post:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV).

“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:39 NKJV).

“Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity” (Proverbs 22:8 ESV).

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7 KJV).

“And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 AMP).

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11 NASB).

What would you add?

Comment? Sure!

Above all, love God!
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