Gently and respectfully challenging how people define wrong and right.

image courtesy of Andi Jetaime via flickr.com
                                                image courtesy of Andi Jetaime via flickr.com

After doing a very quick internet search for how people decide right and wrong, I found that there are many, many such discussions.  The majority of responses I saw could be divided into three themes:

  • We know what is right and wrong based on the way we were raised.
  • Everyone gets to determine right and wrong for themselves.
  • Right and wrong just exist and we don’t need religion or anyone else to tell us what is right and wrong.

In reading these answers, I could tell that there wasn’t much thought put into them.  The answers seemed shallow and in many instances attacked the existence of God or the need for a moral agent of any type.

I know philosophers and serious supporters of atheism would have formulated better responses than the ones I read.  However, most people that we Christians encounter in our daily lives are not philosophers and probably haven’t spend time thinking through how they decide right and wrong and what the consequences of their decisions are.  The answers I read were pretty well in line with those I have heard from people when discussing the basis of morality.

There are questions I like to ask people when I get into moral discussions.  Initially I’m not as concerned with what they view as right and wrong, but rather why they believe what they do.  And I get to that by asking questions.   For the above three responses, I ask the following questions:

  • We know what is right and wrong based on the way we were raised.
    • What happens when you disagree with the way you were raised?  Were your parents wrong for teaching you the morals that they did?
  • Everyone gets to determine right and wrong for themselves.
    • Whose view of right and wrong triumphs when two people’s views disagree?  In this view, how can anyone say that Hitler’s extermination of millions of Jews was wrong?  And how can the Civil Rights movement be right?
  • True right and wrong just exist and we don’t need religion or anyone else to tell us what is right and wrong.
    • If right and wrong just exist, how did they come into existence?  Did they exist before the universe began?  How are we as people to learn or understand what is right and wrong?

While these questions are direct, I am careful to ask them with a tone of curiosity, not attacking their position.  I have found that most people are open to a hearty discussion on morality when they feel as though they are being listened to and understood.  By being prepared to ask a few simple questions, you will then be facilitating a real conversation on an important topic.  But also be ready to give the reasons behind what you believe.

I will wrap of this series on morality in my next post by sharing a solid philosophical argument for the existence of God based on the existence of moral absolutes.


How do you start morality-based conversations with others? 


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2 thoughts on “Gently and respectfully challenging how people define wrong and right.

    • Lauren – I appreciate your desire to bring scripture in as part of your discussion, though many will say that basis cannot be a starting place for them because they do not find the bible to be more than mere ramblings of crazy ancient madmen. That said, scripture is extremely important in the discussion.

      Robert – Great post. I appreciate the directness of your counter-questions for the 3 primary approaches to defining right and wrong. They are certainly compelling and will force the listener to consider the root of their belief. Now if we could only get people to be willing to accept truth when confronted with it. Often the reaction when, I don’t want to say trapped, but logically cornered perhaps, is to demean and attack.

      Liked by 1 person

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