The straw man speaks:
How can we, as a secular, pluralistic, (relativist, hedonistic) culture, allow our members to believe that they have access to true goodness? Real goodness? Even absolute goodness. If someone believes they have access to the truth the next thing you know they will be claiming to know what is false. Allowing people to believe that goodness is real leads to a chain reaction in which they can no longer turn a blind eye to evil. Our (unchecked) individual freedom is at stake here! Our right to pursue self-will (to its final end, death) could be, no, invariably will be compromised if we allow certainty of the reality of goodness to develop toward it's natural conclusion.
Yes, once people start feeling certain about goodness, they will become certain about badness, and then there will be conflict. There will be judgment. There will be discord in the (black) heart of our (sleep-walking) journey to (temporal) fulfillment. What is sweet will no longer taste sweet. What seemed not to be our problem will begin to appear so. What seemed to be full will be seen as empty. We will be faced with a yawning chasm in the midst of our being crying out for requital more loudly and more plaintively than any appetite ever could.
We (blindly) hold this truth to be self-evident, (and also quite painful to let go of): that all contradictory claims cancel each other out, each proving the other false (we are paradox challenged). Therefore, since real truth does not exist (said the gun to it's owner's foot), we ourselves are the highest authority for our personal (isolated, solipsist, lonely) microcosm of truth. The only basis for shared truth (or rather, collusive denial) is voluntary and temporary agreement. We must not waver in our certainty about our fundamental individual rightness, (even though at core we have no such certainty). If we question the innate value of self-will there will be nothing left for us (but to seek something higher).
Worst of all, since we know (a priori) that all humans are doomed to be false (particularly those besides ourselves), anything short of absolute individual autonomy will lead to the imposition of falsehoods. The denial of truth altogether is better than having to endure someone else's idea of truth. In order to have autonomy we must accept isolation, and we must unflinchingly tolerate things we feel in the depths our heart to be outrageously bad. We declare the only sin to be the judging of something as sin. (Unless we're talking about ourselves, or if we happen to agree, or unless the party judged is sufficiently far away.)
My reasons for the above, though elusive and undefinable, I declare to be more solid that those others whose (unexamined) ideas I henceforth declare to be erroneous. And through the encouragement of those who share my views (blindness) I apply my regal seal of certitude, and declare that my views are fit to impose on others for their own well being.The problem of 'goodness taken seriously' leads us to a pair of conundrums: we are faced with differing and strongly held views of good and evil, and we are powerfully obliged to discern and follow goodness.
A real goodness means that any given understanding of goodness has real alignments, real omissions and real mistakes.
If our understanding of goodness includes a little humility we will begin to see the scope of the problem. If we have managed to catch a glimpse of real goodness, if God has given us a little grace, then we need to share that. We may even end up in positions where we have to exert authority over others, and we will have no choice to act on goodness as best we can. But we are surrounded, so to speak, by the ways in which we are unlikely to do right by the goodness we absolutely know to be good and true, but personally lack the capacity to understand or implement.
The more we become aware of goodness the more we are obliged to act. The more we realize the importance of humility the harder it becomes to act.
"Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist." - Luke 21:14-15Indeed, if goodness is real (and it is), we have a very big problem. Failing to find and adhere to it means we will, in a very real way, be subject to badness.