The video has been posted to a number of sites and has attracted many hundreds of negative comments, many mocking the students' views. But few of the comments have really identified the underlying problem, namely that the students are only expressing the logic of the liberal belief system they have been brought up with.
I wrote a post as far back as 2006, contrasting the views of two religious ministers, Don Cupitt and Father James Schall. Cupitt claims that we as humans are "outsideless" - that there is nothing of inherent value outside the individual. Cupitt's beliefs are described this way:
Realism is now understood by Cupitt as, 'spiritual slavery', nothing more than an imposition and restriction onto the world of free-choice and free-values. Morality is synonymous with freedom; the freedom to grow into an autonomous person. There is no longer any fixed truth by which one must align and judge oneself. We are free (and must be freed) to be who we want to be.
The key thought here is this: "There is no longer any fixed truth by which one must align and judge oneself." Traditionalists like myself do believe that there are standards external to the individual (that transcend the individual) that the individual orients himself to and attempts to measure up to. We believe, for instance, that masculinity is not just socially constructed but has a real essence that a man can either more or less successfully attempt to embody and that connects an individual man to a higher, transcendent good. It is an objective measure of how we fulfil our given nature; of how we embody a significant and meaningful good; and of how we fulfil our higher purposes in life. It would make little sense for a traditionalist man to decide to take on a female identity - this would not be thought of as "liberation" but as a disordered orientation.
One of the problems with the liberal modernist view is that whilst it expands choice it does so at the cost of making what we choose purely subjective and therefore less meaningful. Here, for instance, is a statement from the website of Don Cupitt's church:
Truths are made within human culture and language. Ideas, beliefs, faiths: we made them up ... So SoF proclaims its mission: "To explore and promote religious faith as a human creation." In this sense, Sea of Faith is humanist."
Its members ... know their religious practices and "truths," like everyone else's, are socially constructed, made by human communities ...
Father James Schall has answered the Cupitt position eloquently:
The initial choice that each of us has to make in life is whether we think the world and ourselves already exist with some intelligible content to define what we are or whether there is nothing there but what we put there...The trouble with being so absolutely free that nothing is presupposed, however, is that what is finally put there is also only ourselves.
Which brings me to something I have been thinking about lately. The issue under consideration is what brought the West to adopt liberal modernist beliefs. One angle I haven't considered much before is the way that God was conceived of in the Christian West. In pagan societies, the deities might act wilfully and arbitrarily - therefore, they might have to be propitiated with sacrifices. I have read as well that in Islam something is made good because it is the will of Allah that it be so - so again, what matters is the will of the deity. But in the medieval West there was not a deity ruling wilfully over a chaotic universe, but rather a divine order, i.e. reality was divinely ordered, even to the point that a hierarchy of beings might be identified.
The concept gives much spiritual depth to man's existence and it is also likely to stimulate man's efforts to use his reason to understand the reality he inhabits. But it has its weak points as well - it has to withstand evidence that the material world is not designed in as straightforward a way as might be imagined (e.g. consider the setbacks to Christian belief through the discovery of the fossil records).
Liberal modernity might be, in part, a reaction to a loss of belief in the existence of a divine order. Here, for instance, is how one Cupitt sympathiser describes his outlook:
Religion ... becomes like art. Christians are artists, creators of truths. We give up the notion of a divinely ordained hierarchical universe that we just slot into. We have always created ethics.
Instead of God the creator, it is now Man the creator. Instead of a universe in which moral values have a real existence, moral values instead are made up by humans.
I'm not sure that this is a key aspect of what has happened, but it's something worth considering.