Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The new girl guide promise & the origins of liberalism

The Girl Guides in the UK have changed their promise. No longer will the girl guides pledge to "love my God" but instead they will promise "to be true to myself and develop my beliefs."

This got me to thinking about the way one branch of liberalism may have developed over time. There is a certain logic to the change to the Girl Guide promise. There are now more people without religious belief in the UK. Therefore, the promise to "love my God" might have seemed to exclude these people. The new pledge "to be true to myself and develop my beliefs" would still allow Christians to follow Christianity but it would include atheists as well.

At the surface level, therefore, the pledge seems to be neutral and to allow for a variety of beliefs. It doesn't immediately seem to do harm.

But it does do harm. If we try to incorporate every possible belief or lifestyle by retreating to a position of being "true to myself and developing my beliefs" then we are establishing as the default public position a relativism and an individualism.

We are establishing relativism because the pledge to be "true to myself and develop my beliefs" sends the message that something is true only relative to myself and my own subjective beliefs. And we are retreating to an individualism in the sense that we are no longer recognising a shared belief within a community, but only an individual one.

But it is difficult for a community to operate without some sort of shared value system and so what is then left to liberalism is to make the commitment to being inclusive the focus of a communal, and publicly enforced, morality.

Furthermore, what is clearly lost within this kind of liberal value system is a commitment to shared objective goods and truths within a community. How might people feel compensated for this loss? By focusing on the freedom to make up our own individual goods. So a certain concept of freedom will then be emphasised.

It is said by some that liberalism developed from the attempt to deal with religious diversity in the wake of the Reformation and the various wars of religion. It is possible that the starting point was the well-intentioned one that I have described, but that the logic of the falsely "neutral" position it involved then went on to do great damage to Western societies.

So how then should a diversity of opinion or belief be dealt with in society? If we learn our lesson we would have to say that the relativism and individualism of the "neutrality" position should be the least favoured option. Other options:

i) The atheists are allowed to simply opt out of reciting that part of the pledge.
ii) That part of the promise is dropped and the focus is on other goods that are shared by theists and atheists alike.
iii) A separate group of guides is set up for those parents who wish to avoid the promise to God.

These are only suggestions, but I make them to show that it's not necessary to deal with a diversity of belief by turning to a principle that is perhaps intended to be neutral, but which in reality is anything but neutral and which instead strongly preferences a view of the world which is relativistic and individualistic and which leads ultimately to the intolerant enforcement of tolerance and to a dissolving view of freedom based on the idea of the self-defining individual.


  1. One problem with the pledge to be "true to one's self" is that the self is rather unstable, particularly when one is the age of a Girl Guide. Am I being more truly "myself" when I whisper a slanderous rumor, or when I help my mother set the table? I suppose both are equally expressive of the self, assuming I am at either moment doing what I want to do, because the self is nothing but the will. A pledge of truth to God, if it had any effect, held the will to an external standard that did not change from moment to moment.

  2. Another option:

    iv) Maintain the requirement of a belief in God, and encourage the atheists leave and create their own organization. It isn't necessary for an organization with a certain set of values to accommodate everyone.

    As a BBC article mentions, until 1994 the pledge contained the words "do my duty to God", which is much more demanding than "love my God". The former implies some external action is required, the latter is a state of subjective feelings. The latest change takes it completely into the realm of the solipsistic.

    I am proud to be a leader in a Boy Scouts of America troop, where we still pledge:

    "On my honor, I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law"

  3. It looks like the Girl Guide UK is just following Australia:

    "And in July 2012, the Girl Guides in Australia dropped their allegiance to both God and the Queen, agreeing to serve their community and be true to themselves instead."

  4. "Community" isn't about the autonomous self; it's about an approved collective, such as the Aboriginal community, the gay community or the Muslim community.

    Approved communities, practically speaking, are those that conflict with the interests of some white nation.

  5. The people responsible for this change have stated that if some GG groups don't adopt the new pledge for religious reasons then they may be forced out of the GG's altogether...the idea that this new pledge will be 'inclusive' is Leftism 101. "Equality, inclusiveness, diversity, and tolerance" are simply tyranny's trojan horse.


  6. Things like 'being true to onself' and 'developing one's beliefs' are nebulous and vague, and therefore they mean nothing. There is no standard which they are pledging to uphold, it's just the same old 'follow your heart' nonsense.
    I once saw a billboard promoting the USMC. It showed a Marine, and the words 'Committed to a sense of honor'. It always bugged me because it's that same nebulous... thing. Instead of saying, 'Committed to a life of honor', it's just the 'sense' of honor. Nothing real, nothing solid. Whatever your sense of honor is, you run with it. I'll run with mine.
    I think that nowadays everyone is so afraid of anything concrete and objective that they will do anything to sound as all-inclusive as possible. In the attempt to offend no one, they've made everything meaningless and empty.

  7. It could be worse. They could use "challenging" one's beliefs.

  8. Values derived from the individual will is not moral relativism butmoral subjectivism;they're not the same thing, not even remotely. Moral relativism is the idea that what is right and true is a product of hitory and varies by time and place.

    Not only is moral relativism andmoral subjectivism notthe same thing but they are probably mutually exclusive of each other.

  9. Let's face it,mostindividuals, by themselves, are mundane, pretty boring. At theend of a day when the average person looks at themselves thoroughly and without the rose-colored glasses what they see is a very common object. The solution is to invent gaudy trappings that is the "real" self. As a very non-normal person, myself, I still perceive a lot within me that is still pretty mundane and I cannot imagine the horror a truly averge person would find in their very average selves.

    Nietzsche nce wrote that in individual sanity I rare but in groups it is the norm, not the exception. Replace the sanity bit with mundanenessb and you have a good amount of insight into the state of late stage liberalism. The deracinated individual seeks an escape from mundaneness via an ever increasing kaleidosxop of gaudy trappings.on the other hand, the mundane individual naturally escapes the mundane by being a part of a cultural heritage.

  10. The thing is tat cultural relativism is the best weapon against moral subjectivism, and conservatives who rail against moral relativism are just shooting hemselves in the foot, if not, the head.

    In the Bible, God explicitly states that he is pure spirit; I.e. nothing other that Absolute Subject. God's Law is the product of that pure subject and is therefore, completely subjective.

  11. Asher, I'm not sure the categories are as clear cut. People often write about ethical subjectivism as a form of moral relativism.

    You seem to be defining moral relativism only as cultural relativism.

    From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    moral subjectivism is that species of moral relativism that relativizes moral value to the individual subject

  12. More from the Encyclopedia:

    Although there are many different kinds of relativism, they all have two features in common.

    1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme).

    2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

  13. Off-topic, but here's a sickening article that appeared in The Guardian recently:


    It's about how the homosexual agenda is used to thwart the traditional Western family structure, and all that. You could even make this post the subject of your next post.

    Peter Tatchell isn't content with his homosexuality being tolerated; instead he wants to change the whole of society to suit people like him. He's a radical political homosexual.

  14. I just typed a long response and I think google ate it :(

    Bad Google.

  15. Mark

    If there is a fundamental tension between people and the social spaces they inhabit then moral subjectivism cannot be a species of moral relativism. When Judges says that each man did what was right in his own eyes that is not a reference to individual moral codes but the absence of any moral code.

    We can get a hint of this from the origins of the term which is the latin "mores" simply meaning nothing more than "what is customary". The mistake the modern church has made was to equate various moralities, notably Western European Christian, with God's Law; they are two separate things. Morality is *always* a human invention and, at best, is nothing more than a dim reflection of God's Law.

    From how I read things to conflate *any* human system of morality with God's Law verges on heresy.

    The Encyclopedia of Philosophy is simply wrong when it asserts that moral subjectivism is a subspecies of moral relativism because an "individual morality" is a contradiction in terms. I mean, if everyone is running around with their own individual morality then those individual moralities have nothing to do with how people coordinate their social lives interacting with each other. The sole exception to the incoherence of "individual morality" is God, and His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.

    BTW, if you really think that there is any such things are "individual morality" then I suggest you check out so-called "anti-racism". A greater example of herd-think you'll never see, yet, they all claim to "think for themselves". "Moral subjectivism" isn't bad, it just ... isn't. Human beings are made to live in groups and those groups always develop their own specific norms and customs; they always have and always will. Anyone who claims differently is simply lying.

  16. Let's look at Romans 1 and its allusion to what get called "natural law": what may be known about God is plain ... because God has made is plain, via what he has made (in the previous verse. Now, let's look at what the first query Google returns for natural law, basically, the first sentence on the internet regarding it: Natural law, or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis), is a system of law that is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal.

    There is a hidden assumption in there and it is one that is blatantly false. That assumption is that nature is uniform and the same everywhere. Sure, there is probably some strong similarities in various things, such as the molecular composition of what we call water; that's really a tautology, though. In fact, nature is a vast kaleidoscope of differences and what is objective fact in one place is objective falsehood in another. Objects are the source of "objective" and if the world of objects are a vast kaleidoscope of difference then objective morality IS moral relativism. But if God, the Absolute, is the source of morality and we arrive at that morality through his word then that morality is subjective, as God is pure subject. He say so in His word.

    The reason for this confusion is that individual humans perceive anything external to their subjective experience as "objective". In fact, this is an error in cognition. The subjective is the realm of mind, all minds, and anything originating from it is subjective.

  17. What so many commenters seem to be overlooking is the last line of the Promise - "to keep the Guide Law" - so whatever beliefs the individual seeks to develop - have to fit within the framework of guidelines provided by the Guide Law. And the Guide Law isn't changing.

    It should also be recognised that the change follows a national consultation open to both all members, and the public.

  18. I just typed a long response and I think google ate it :(

    Bad Google.

    Maybe Google is a bad entity after all...