Most people don't think much about morality, in my observation. They are given their morals from their parents, pastors, teachers, and peers, etc. They don't need to know terms like "moral relativism". I have done just fine for 41 years without ever thinking about the definition of the term.
I think even once you eschew God and the bible, unless someone challenges you, you'll still rely on your basic moral code which you got when you were younger (and probably indoctrinated). A lot of that might evolve into what "feels" like the right thing to do, more than what the bible said.
Then there are those who think about this sort of thing all the time. I'm not one of those people, normally. I don't like philosophy very much. I prefer science and testable claims to pontificating about things that can't really ever be known. But as I venture on my Quest for Knowledge, lately I've run into philosophy more often.
I've even subjected you to it, such as the whole Free Will vs Determinism argument (which I still have plans to continue).
I think we are best served with examining our ethical code and reevaluating what's in there and why. I did that some time ago with my personal Principles. It was a challenging but rewarding exercise.
Side Note: The Rationally Speaking podcast recently interviewed Joshua Knobe about his new field of Experimental Philosophy (x-phi), which was fascinating. Joshua even made them (and me) gasp with the results of one study that was very surprising! Here's a link to the episode.
The book club I'm in, as I've mentioned, is going to be reading The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. I lost interest in our current book, so I've started in on this one and so far Sam Harris is speaking my language, that science can determine values for conscious beings.
The following excerpt from the book shows what moral relativism basically is (the woman in it is definitely a moral relativist), and why it's clearly flawed. This is an anecdotal story from Sam. But I think it's quite important to share:
Excerpt from The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris. - Highlight Location 765-83 (chapter 1)
We already have good reason to believe that certain cultures are less suited to maximizing well-being than others. I cited the ruthless misogyny and religious bamboozlement of the Taliban as an example of a worldview that seems less than perfectly conducive to human flourishing.
As it turns out, to denigrate the Taliban at a scientific meeting is to court controversy. At the conclusion of my talk, I fell into debate with another invited speaker, who seemed, at first glance, to be very well positioned to reason effectively about the implications of science for our understanding of morality. In fact, this person has since been appointed to the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and is now one of only thirteen people who will advise President Obama on “issues that may emerge from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology” in order to ensure that “scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in an ethically responsible manner.”
Here is a snippet of our conversation, more or less verbatim:
She: What makes you think that science will ever be able to say that forcing women to wear burqas is wrong?
Me: Because I think that right and wrong are a matter of increasing or decreasing well-being — and it is obvious that forcing half the population to live in cloth bags, and beating or killing them if they refuse, is not a good strategy for maximizing human well-being.
She: But that’s only your opinion.
Me: Okay … Let’s make it even simpler. What if we found a culture that ritually blinded every third child by literally plucking out his or her eyes at birth, would you then agree that we had found a culture that was needlessly diminishing human well-being?
She: It would depend on why they were doing it.
Me [slowly returning my eyebrows from the back of my head]: Let’s say they were doing it on the basis of religious superstition. In their scripture, God says, “Every third must walk in darkness.”
She: Then you could never say that they were wrong.
Ok, I get it. That's a great example that he's making. I don't think I was a moral relativist before I read that, but I'm definitely getting his position that science can help us with what increases or decreases human well-being. And that woman's view is disturbing, considering her position in the Obama administration.
So I just wanted to share this with you. If you decide to read the book, please feel free to comment with your take on what he's saying. I'm only on Chapter 2 so far. Don't give away the ending! :P