Many people regard religion as the opposite of, and the antidote to, subjectivism. In fact, however, religion is a form of subjectivism. Indeed, it is the most extreme form of all.
To see why, consider the nature of secular subjectivism, both personal and social, and compare them to religion.
Personal subjectivism is the notion that truth and morality are creations of the mind of the individual, or matters of personal feelings or opinion. Social subjectivism is the notion that truth and morality are creations of the mind of a collective (a group of people), or matters of social convention.
The personal subjectivist says, “If I say something is true, then it is”—or “It’s right because I say so”—or “It’s good because I feel that it is”—or the like. The social subjectivist says, “If my group says something is true, then it is”—or “It’s right because my tribe says so”—or “It’s good because that’s the consensus”—or the like.
In short, subjectivism is the notion that an idea is true or an action is moral because someone or some group says so.
With that in mind, what does religion say about the source of truth and morality?
Religion is the idea that a God exists and demands our faith and obedience. He is alleged to be an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being who is the creator of the universe, the source of all truth, and the maker of moral law. According to religion, if God says something is true or right or good, then it is—by virtue of the fact that he said so.
Well, we can see one level of subjectivity right there. Truth and morality are whatever God says they are. But the subjectivity involved in religion goes further.
In order to accept that God’s say-so is the standard of truth and morality, you have to accept the say-so of religionists who say that it is. “God exists and His word is the truth.” How does the religionist know this? He “knows” it because he said so—or, as he will put it, “because I have faith,” which means: “because I accept ideas in support of which there is no evidence.” And he expects you to accept it because he said so. (Otherwise he would present evidence.)
Seen in this light, religion—or “supernatural” subjectivism—is significantly more subjective than secular subjectivism. It is super subjectivism.
None of this is to say that people don’t have a right to be religious. They do. People are (or should be) free to believe in God and to practice their religion—as long as they do not enact any religious laws or commandments that call for murder, rape, or other rights violations.
But people are not free to be religious without being subjectivists. Religion is not only a form of subjectivism. It is the most subjective form of all.
- Religion vs. Subjectivism: Why Neither Will Do
- Secular, Objective Morality: Look and See
- The Is-Ought Gap: Subjectivism’s Technical Retreat
- The Is-Altruism Dichotomy