“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” – Pope Benedict XVI

We are in a philosophical crisis, and it is caused by too much self-interest. This leads to us thinking a great deal about one another as well, which sounds good until we realize that our impetus for doing so comes from the same dangerous philosophy of self.

We are so interested in not offending one another that we avoid speaking truth due to its tendency to often offend people. God, being truth, subsequently falls into a very inconvenient corner of our conversations.

It’s not that we don’t like God, but we are rather indifferent toward him. We can all go along with our lives quite easily without even thinking of him. We are much more interested in ourselves, so much so that we empower others to think excessively about themselves as well.

This self-oriented indifference is a bitter fruit of relativism, which our culture has arrived at by way of skepticism and existentialism. We’ve gone from Aristotle’s words, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom,” to René Descartes’ words, “I think therefore I am” to the life mantra, “I think _____ (fill in the blank), therefore _____ (fill in the blank).” In our modern minds, the self has gone from being a good starting point for contemplating existence to being the very arbiter of existence. I wouldn’t exactly call that philosophical progress.

It’s a shame that the contemplation of self has gone this far, because it was the pursuit of self-knowledge that led the classic philosophers to God. They sought to know themselves because they were interested in wisdom, and in seeking wisdom they found truth in transcendent, unseen things. Seeing glimpses of perfection in the physical world, they inferred that perfection must exist; and they called that perfection God.

What a poverty it is for us to have fallen so far. In this age of relativism, we limit the human spirit to a tiny cell – the physical world – and even at times question its existence. If we want to agree upon something that everyone can see, can’t we see what this philosophy is doing to our environment, to our culture, to the arts? Relativism is a Trojan Horse that promises to unite people under the banner of humanism, but in the process, strips us of the very things that make us human. Everything from our architecture to our movies to our ideas concerning God have been robbed of their creativity and vitality. We thought having a more open mind about these things would open the world to new possibilities, but it has only made us into a ship without a rudder.

Without a positive vision of reality, the stars are just lights in the sky and we have no heading. Our understanding of truth, goodness and beauty become lost and misguided. We then replace these ideals with our own ideas of truth, our own thoughts on what is good and bad, our own impressions of beauty. Aware of how precarious such a tower of nonsense is, we avoid challenging others who have erected similar towers of nonsense. Thus we remain safe in our own.

Millennia ago we left Plato’s cave. Now, after observing all we can take concerning the real world around us, we decided we’ve had enough. So we built our own caves, choosing to live by our own shadows of reality rather than walking in the light of day. I hope I live to see the day when we stop trying to make reality revolve around ourselves, and start pursuing truth again.

David Kilby is a freelance writer for The Monitor. He attends St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton, and writes for http://www.ramblingspirit.com/. He can be reached at kilbyfreelancer@gmail.com.