Is All Moral Outrage Equally Valid?




“Is All Moral Outrage Equally Valid?”

by Carmen Misja, guest blogger


I recently listened to Albert Mohler’s podcast on moral outrage. He talked about the moral outrage from Europe over the use of trace amounts of animal byproduct in the new five pound note substrate. The note was made stronger and safer for the environment with the use of the byproduct. He compared it to the outrage from France, specifically at an ad that supported letting children with Down Syndrome live. France banned the ad because it did not want to upset women who have had or were considering the abortion of a child with Down Syndrome.


I had to ask myself if all expressions of moral outrage ought to be taken seriously. If I am morally outraged about something, what is my basis? How do I determine if something is worth being outraged about: that something is so reprehensible that it deserves my full opposition?


The use of animal byproducts in currency, and banning an ad that asks parents to let their children with Down Syndrome live are not equally important. We should be outraged at the banning of the ad. Not that the ad would offend someone. The ad asked us to see the children with Down Syndrome as equally entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We must be outraged at the murder of innocent children and the lack of outrage over the ad being banned. Outrage is justified by a universal set of moral laws that either are accepted or are denied. Killing other humans would be on that list of laws. This is why we can look at the holocaust and become outraged. Likewise why we can look at the banning of an ad that promotes not killing children because they are deemed inferior, and be outraged. But can I be equally upset about animal byproducts being used to make a bill stronger and better for the environment? Not by an objective standard, a standard I believe all people possess but many deny. Another term for this you may be familiar with is moral compass: that inherent sense of right and wrong. I fully acknowledge that we don’t all listen to it, and that it’s just as easy to do wrong as it is right. However I believe no honest person can claim ignorance to such moral laws.


I believe moral outrage loses its credibility when we justify outrage for objectively trivial offences. It is said that if you repeat something too often it loses its power or meaning. This applies equally to the use of moral outrage. In order for our outrage at the holocaust to be meaningful, we cannot be equally upset about the use of animal byproducts in money. We must preserve the credibility of our outrage in order to not undermine real offenses.


(Carmen Misja is a tenth grader who is on staff with his high school newspaper.  He is frequently engaged in discussions regarding cultural and moral issues.)

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