Cultural Relativism and Iconoclasts

The word “Iconoclast” refers to someone who attacks or destroys “icons”. Historically, the word refers to people who felt that certain religious statues and paintings were worshipped, and were therefore idols, idols that deserved to be destroyed.

“Cultural relativism” is a belief that all religions, ethical traditions, norms and beliefs are just human things and none are absolute, they are just the things a certain part of the herd agrees on locally.

An iconoclast does not seem to accept cultural relativism. An iconoclast seems to reject pluralism, relativism and diversity.

We primates tend to like iconoclasts who destroy beliefs with which we disagree. And on the other hand, we tend to dislike iconoclasts who attack things we like or believe in.

Iconoclasts are like heroes and champions. We primates tend to like or dislike them based on whether we feel they are for us or against us.

Under our current system in the U.S., one role of government is to play referee between competing groups and their heroes.

Thus the primary school injunction, “Use your words.”

What does cultural relativism imply about iconoclasm?

Let me put it this way. The best government practices cultural relativism, no màtter how iconoclastic a particular candidate sounds in order to win an election.

About Ron Goetz

Husband, Father, Author
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