Why "Anything Goes" is Dangerous
- Jonathan Morrow impact360institute.org
- 2016 5 Jul
Having an “Anything Goes” viewpoint is dangerous. Why? Because it allows people to live with the illusion that they can do whatever they want without consequences. That they solely determine what is right and wrong…good or evil. In short, that they have the power to create spiritual and moral reality.
According to Philosopher John Ladd, the idea of “I’ll do what’s right for me and you do what’s right for you “is the doctrine that the moral rightness and wrongness of actions varies from society to society and that there are no absolute moral standards binding on all men at all times. Accordingly, it holds that whether or not it’s right for an individual to act in a certain way, depends on or is relative to, the society to which he belongs.”
Everyday People On Morality
When we asked everyday people their views on morality for our new Explore Truth study, here’s just a few of the responses we received:
- “We choose what’s right and wrong.”
- “I feel like the rights and the wrongs kind of come from society.”
- “What’s right or wrong depends on a person to person basis really.”
- “Everyone creates their own standard for themselves.”
- “I’d say if you have ten people and nine out of ten agree that something was wrong, that’s going to be wrong, even if that one person doesn’t agree.”
While believing that everything should be fair and we should decide what’s right and wrong has the appearance of sounding sophisticated and tolerant, the reality on the ground is that it is hurting a lot of people and we need to have the courage to say so.
SEE ALSO: The New Immoral Morality
If someone thinks they create what is right and wrong based on what they believe—then they have a rude awakening coming. Why? Because the reality is what we run into when we are wrong.
And contrary to the sound bites and slogans we constantly hear in pop culture, there is a moral and spiritual reality out there whether we believe it or not. Either it’s wrong to be cruel to another human being or it is not. Either it’s a virtue to be kind or it is not.
If our moral map tells us that we can do whatever we want as long as it feels good then that will lead us into a dead end. If the bridge is out on that road and we keep running full speed ahead along that path—that is a very painful lesson to learn.
Exposing the Lie
So how do you expose the lie of this “Anything Goes” viewpoint? You “Reality-Test” it with people. In other words when you try to live this idea out, what does that look like? If you get it out of the laboratory of your mind and into real life situations that affect real people, does it still seem like a good idea?
To take just one of many examples, approaching life this way removes our ability to praise good and condemn evil. It leaves us in the frustrating position of not being able to say that there’s a moral difference between Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa. The only way to do so would be to appeal to an external and objective standard of morality.
Yet this is precisely what it denies. But surely such a conclusion is absurd. Mother Teresa lived to serve and save lives, Hitler lived to destroy them. If ”Anything Goes” were true, then we would not be able to universally condemn the holocaust, rape or genocide as evil and we would not be able to universally say that self-sacrifice is superior to self-centeredness.
The Prophet Isaiah put it this way, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (5:20)
If individuals and cultures come to praise what is evil and ridicule what is good that has devastating consequences for all of us.
As Long As You Don’t Hurt Anyone….
Another myth about morality that needs to be exposed is that “People should be free to believe and live however they want as long as they don’t hurt anybody.” There is a lot going on here, but the main issue is that this slogan assumes that someone can’t hurt himself or herself by living according to these beliefs. This slogan is also naïve because other people are almost always impacted in some way by the beliefs we hold and the choices we make.
So while the idea of ”Anything Goes” sounds inclusive and tolerant, don’t believe that for a second. When people embrace the idea that they create their own morality that ends up hurting everyone because truth itself is lost.
Jonathan Morrow is a sought after speaker and teacher who has a gift for explaining challenging topics in ways the rest of us can understand. He is the author of several books including Questioning the Bible and several online studies including Explore Truth. He is an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. Jonathan has earned master’s degrees in Philosophy of Religion and Theology as well as a Doctorate in Worldview and Culture from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. As the Director of Cultural Engagement for Impact 360 Institute (impact360.org) and founder of ThinkChristianly.org, Jonathan speaks nationally on worldview, apologetics, and culture and is passionate about seeing a new generation of Christ-followers understand why they believe, what they believe. You can follow him on twitter (@Jonathan_Morrow).
Publication date: July 5, 2016