When it comes to judging the values of another culture, another religion, another social group of any kind, we do well to tread lightly: "Live and let live"
should be our motto. Relatively superficial values, values which have more to do with taste, style, environmental conditions or historical peculiarities,
values which in their affirming or their expression bring no harm to others, should be respected if at all possible by those who are on the outside.
However, when it comes to certain core ideals, principles or beliefs of a moral nature, we must recognize that the concept of the “outside” does not
apply. That there is only, the human family, the “human culture,” “the human state or religion”: there is only the House of We and we are all inside of it.
We are our brother's and our sister's keeper, even when our brother and our sister happen to live in a society or be part of a religion very different from
our own. For while it is not our place to impose the parochial values we hold dear on other people, it is our moral responsibility to uphold those values
which are deep and universal, even if it means questioning, criticizing or in some cases physically interfering with a different system, a different
perspective, a different creed. The distinction, between those values which are the product of a subjective formulation and those which are common to
all, which have a basis in universal truth and fundamental experience, may not be easy to make. Was the war on communism as it was carried out for
instance in Viet Nam, a war against absolute, objective evil as those in power portrayed it, or something that was only evil from our capitalist
perspective? Probably the latter. On the other hand, the war against fascism, against the "values" and "truths" of Hitler and the Nazis, was most
certainly a war against the dark side, against something that was evil from every point of view.
To assert that anything, including political torture, sexual slavery and female circumcision (acts considered legitimate and even spiritually laudable by
various cultures past and present) can be right in the right situation: the belief that evil is relative, or to deny that some things are wrong in any situation:
the belief that evil is absolute, is to reject the notion of a basic human experience common to all men and women. Our intuition, our instinct, our
common sense, our heart and our mind should tell us that we are too much alike for that to be possible.
A COMMON CREATOR, A COMMON TRUTH
Furthermore, such a rejection casts doubt upon the cornerstone of monotheistic belief. For if there is no common essence of being, no underlying,
fundamental humanity which links us together in a single chain, the existence of a common creator, a universal God of all things to which we, without
exception owe our existence is called into serious question. Indeed, those who doubt or reject the existence of moral absolutes, tend also to doubt or
reject the reality of God.
On the other hand, if we assume a basic level of human experience, a level on which we all react the same, feel the same, are the same, then it is
theoretically possible to define or identify those things which are universally wrong, wrong for everyone, and those which are universally good and right.
When you look at the collected works of a single artist (or at a sub-group of works from a single period), it is impossible to ignore the unity of style and
technique they reveal. Common elements in the work of creation suggest a common creator.
If, as monotheistic religion teaches, we are all engendered by the same God, then we, like the paintings of Ernst, or Bosch or Klimt are likely to exhibit
common traits as well, of both an internal and an external nature. And if we are linked by certain universal attributes, certain needs, certain
vulnerabilities, certain potentialities, then, despite the individual and tribal differences which must be taken into account, what is good for one of us in
many cases, is good for all of us, and what is bad for one of us in many cases, is bad for all.
The argument for absolute standards of good and evil is bolstered therefore, by the primary tenet of monotheism that we are all painted as it were, by
the same artist, the same Maestro, the one the voice of the dream calls, "The Creation-Painter."