Feature

How certainty can lead to moral error

The convictions some people “brew up in their heads” allow them “to ignore the sense of right and wrong that comes from their hearts,” said Gregory Rodriguez in Los Angeles Times.

Gregory RodriguezLos Angeles Times

For a lesson in the moral wages of fanaticism, said Gregory Rodriguez, consider “the gruesome case of Shawna Forde” in Arizona. The anti-immigrant activist was convicted last week for killing Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, during a bungled robbery meant to finance her vigilantism. Forde’s “willingness to discard the most basic of moral standards for the sake of a political obsession” is a commonplace of our age.

The U.S. government sanctioned torture in the pursuit of terrorists. Some pro-lifers see killing abortion providers as justifiable homicide. And some leftists cheer on the world’s Castros and Stalins in the dim belief that “their ideological ends justify their repressive means.” The convictions these people “brew up in their heads” allow them “to ignore the sense of right and wrong that comes from their hearts.”

We hear a lot these days about moral relativism leading us astray. But in Forde’s case, as in so many others, the “embrace of absolutes” is what gives rise to immoral action. Utter certainty, it seems, “is a poor substitute for simply doing the right thing.”

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