Does God exist? If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them. And the claim is that in the absence of God, moral values are not objective in this sense.
This blog post on euphemistic language reminds me of how we do not take corporal punishment as a serious offense. The negative effects of corporal punishment have been demonstrated and yet we still generally think of it as just a “spanking,” just a way to discipline our kids. Corporal punishment can be viewed as a socially acceptable form of child abuse. Children disciplined via corporal punishment are at an increased risk of physically attacking a spouse, abusing their own children, and using drugs according to Family Violence in a Cultural Perspective by Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Denise A. Hines (page 100). I’m sure if we referred to it as child abuse it would be much less practiced and would no longer be viewed as acceptable. Now that the literature has proved that there are in fact many negative outcomes associated with corporal punishment how is it that we still are not holding ourselves accountable for these outcomes? Just like using the term “friendly fire,” to keep us from acknowledging the fact that this means we are accidentally killing our own soldiers, using these euphemistic terms facilitates our moral disengagement and allows us to ignore the very real consequences of our actions. If we keep thinking of corporal punishment as “spanking,” or giving your child a “whooping,” and not labeling it as abuse it will keep happening.
It seems that gradually corporal punishment has become less accepted than it used to be but it is still be practiced, especially in the African American community. Many people believe that it is almost part of African American culture to use corporal punishment but as pointed out in Family Violence in a Cultural Perspective, “it is possible that these ‘traditions’ are more a product of forces such as social class and chronic stress than ethnicity,” (page 100). Perhaps we need more education and less euphemistic language to help stop these issues.