Rugby League Sex Scandal and the Moral Zeitgeist

Philip Jensen has written a helpful article highlighting the hypocrisy in the way many people have reacted to the NRL sex scandal – not that the players weren’t wrong in the way they treated the poor woman – but the condemnation hasn’t recognised the wider problem in our society.

I think this incident also highlights a real flaw in the approach to morals suggested by Richard Dawkins in the God Delusion. I was working on this for an evangelistic sermon last week, and Dawkins suggests that there is no need for God in morals because we can simply follow the Moral Zeitgeist – the moral consensus of our age.

The problem with the moral zeitgeist is that it struggles to offer any critique of the actions of the footballers. The moral zeitgeist when it comes to sex is that what is done by consenting adults in their own bedrooms is a private matter, not to be judged by others. And yet here is an event which meets those criteria and yet which has left many people feeling very uncomfortable.

Dawkins would probably argue that the moral zeitgeist is determined by ‘civilized’, ‘enlightened’, ‘progressive’ society (and rugby league players would probably be excluded from this group…..). He frequently appeals to civilized people and progressive societies without definition, in a most un-postmodern way. He seems oblivious to the critique that because he defines what is enlightened and progressive, he is actually setting himself up as the final arbiter of what is right and wrong.

Dawkins also claims that the Bible simply dishes out commands in a deontological way, with no principles to help people work out right and wrong for themselves in new situations. This, like many of Dawkins claims about the Bible is simply wrong. Love, the nature and purpose of creation, and the example of Jesus are examples of the key guiding principles in Biblical ethics.

The Bible’s insistence that sex is for a man and a woman in the context of marriage is a refreshingly clear ethic in the face of the confused attempts to sort out what was wrong with the Rugby League Players’ actions and attitudes, and is certainly much firmer ground than the moral zeitgeist which is the cause of the problem not the solution.

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