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Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture

Last update - Thursday, July 2, 2009, 15:51 By Charles Laffiteau

Moral absolutism is a belief that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of their context or the circumstances surrounding them. Adherents of this belief, by and large, are people who truly feel that there are certain principles which should never be violated under any circumstances. They live in a world of certainty where you don’t ask questions or need to understand; you only need to obey.

I have noticed that there is a particularly strong relationship between this concept of moral absolutism and the religious moral codes of the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the more devout or extremist members of the Abrahamic religions tend to define themselves based on the small differences between their religious codes, rather than their similarities.
While the governments of most western and Middle Eastern countries are largely secular, their societies’ respective moral codes are based on those of the dominant faiths in those nations. As a result, most countries’ leaders and national laws reflect the values espoused by the dominant faith. This mixing of moral absolutism with governance is the crux of the problem in America’s domestic politics, as well as in peaceful relations between various different nations.
In America it’s most evident in the Christian right’s dogmatic position on abortion (which clearly contrasts with its support for capital punishment). Similarly, their opposition to gay marriage is also a reflection of the moral absolutism espoused by many Christian leaders who regard homosexuality as morally and fundamentally wrong. To them, gay marriage violates the religious and moral principles that society needs in order to uphold so-called ‘family values’.
What I find particularly ironic is the fact that most of the recent revelations about American political leaders’ ‘transgressive’ behaviour have involved Republican politicians noted for their strong statements in support of Christian ‘family values’. Senator Larry Craig and Representative Mark Foley were caught making homosexual advances. House leaders Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston have all admitted multiple adulterous liaisons similar to those most recently revealed by 2012 Republican Presidential prospects Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford. At least in Governor Sanford’s case, he had the decency to go to Argentina instead of conducting his affair in the same city as his wife.
Elsewhere, many of Israel’s political leaders – like the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – also believe in the moral absolute of a Jewish state that all followers of Judaism are entitled to live in. Meanwhile, the legitimate grievances of Palestinians, who have seen their own homelands expropriated in the name of the expansion and security of the Jewish state, have in turn been hijacked by pseudo-religious Islamic political terrorists like al-Qaeda, who don’t really care about the Palestinian people – they want to rule the entire world. Other pseudo-religious like Hamas and Hezbollah say they believe in democracy, but in fact hew to the same belief in moral absolutism and the decidedly undemocratic governance of Islamic societies espoused by Ayatollah Khomeini and the powers that be in Iran. 
Politics is about making compromises. You give and take in order to address some of the interests of all parties involved. But as long as we continue to support political leaders who espouse moral absolutism, the problems that currently bedevil us will never get resolved.  

Charles Laffiteau is a lifelong US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is currently pursuing a PhD research programme in Environmental Studies at Dublin City University

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