If you held up an apple in your hand, and I looked at it and said "That's an orange!", would I be right? What would you think if I said that the object you held in your hand is whatever I believe it to be? If I believe it's an apple, it's an apple. If I believe it's an orange, it's an orange. Would you agree with me, or would you think I'm a few bricks shy of a full load?
How you answer these questions depends on whether you think truth is relative, or absolute. If truth is relative, the apple is whatever a person thinks it is. If truth is absolute, the apple is an apple, regardless of what anyone thinks it is.
While the apple analogy is extremely simple, the principle can be applied to complex moral issues. Let's take the abortion issue, for example. People usually take one of the following positions in regards to abortion:
- Abortion is always bad.
- Abortion is always good.
- Abortion is good for some people, and bad for other people.
- Abortion is good in certain circumstances, and bad in others.
A person that takes position #1 believes that abortion kills an innocent unborn human being, and that killing an innocent human being is always wrong. A person that takes this position identifies themselves as pro-life, and denies any association with the pro-choice movement. A person that holds this position believes that abortion is wrong at any stage of the pregnancy.
A person that takes position #2 believes that abortion is always good, because it provides a way for a woman to avoid having a baby when she doesn't want one. A person that takes this position identifies strongly with the pro-choice movement, and believes that it is acceptable to perform abortions at any stage of the pregnancy, right up to the point of birth. Like position number one, position number two is an absolute position regarding abortion.
A person that takes position #3 believes that the morality of abortion is up to each individual. People who take this position are the ones who say "I personally wouldn't have an abortion, but I'm not going to prevent someone else from having one, if they feel it's right for them."
A person that takes position #4 believes that the morality of abortion depends on the situation. People who take this position believe that abortion is wrong except in certain situations, such as pregnancies due to rape or incest, or pregnancies that endanger the mother's life.
Which of these positions is correct? Positions 3 and 4 can be taken out of the running right away. Why? Because they are both relative positions, and truth is absolute. An apple is an apple, regardless of what people think it is, or the circumstance. The same applies to abortion. To say that abortion is right for some people and wrong for other people is as ridiculous as saying that an apple is an apple to some people, and an orange to others. To say that abortion is wrong in all situations except for certain ones is as ridiculous as saying an apple is an apple except when you play catch with it.
Since positions 3 and 4 have been eliminated, all that's left is positions 1 and 2. Which of these is the correct position? The answer depends on when a human being comes into existence. The only logical point at which a human being comes into existence is at the moment of fertilization. To think that a human being comes into existence at some arbitrary point between fertilization and birth is unreasonable, and not in accordance with human embryology (http://catholiceducation.org/articles/abortion/ab0027.html). Therefore, position 1 is the only position that can be correct. Abortion is always wrong, because it ends an innocent human being's life, regardless of how the human being came into existence. Abortion is always wrong, whether a person thinks it's wrong or not. Abortion is always wrong, regardless of the situation.