Putting His Money Where His Mom Is

  There's nothing secular elites enjoy more than calling Christians "hypocrites." They delight in pointing fingers at Christians whose conduct doesn't quite measure up to what they profess to believe. Well, recently the tables were turned when a well-known secularist was caught failing to live up to HIS beliefs—and thank God for that. Peter Singer is a professor of ethics at Princeton, and he's the quintessential moral utilitarian. Singer believes that an action's morality cannot be judged by any transcendent standard. Instead, he suggests we ask whether a particular action will increase the sum total of happiness in the world. For example, as George Will commented about Singer, "Should one spend a sum to ease the suffering of a family member or send the same sum to ease the sufferings of 10 Sudanese?" Singer's answer would be to send the money to Sudan, because doing so would increase the world's total amount of happiness. He also argues for allowing parents to kill their handicapped newborns, and favors euthanasia for the sick and the elderly—people who can no longer enjoy their lives and who create a burden on others. But Singer's beliefs were put to the test when his own mother became sick with Alzheimer's. You will be relieved to know that, instead of starving his mother to death and thus increasing the world's supply of happiness, Singer is behaving hypocritically. He spends thousands of dollars providing his mother with nursing home care. Singer sheepishly acknowledges the hypocrisy of his actions. "It's not the best use you could make of my money, that's true," he admits. But he then rationalizes his inconsistency: "It does provide employment for a number of people who find something worthwhile in what they're doing," he says. Hogwash. A better explanation is that Peter Singer the son trumps Peter Singer the philosopher. Christians should rejoice at Singer's inconsistency, and not only because taking care of his mother is the right thing to do. The case demonstrates how unworkable secular humanist ideas about human life really are. It's one thing to engage in intellectual parlor games within the safe confines of the academy. In that setting, denying the sanctity of human life or the existence of moral absolutes has little, if any, impact on people's lives. But in the real world, it means the difference between life and death. The last thing people like Singer want is for people to act in accordance with their principles when it affects someone they care about. The truth of any worldview is authenticated by how well it depicts reality. By doing the right thing by his mother, Singer himself has demonstrated that his philosophy does not produce a rational and just society. He would be hard pressed to cite a single example of a healthy, vibrant society that believes that there isn't anything special about human life. As Singer himself demonstrates, this belief produces societies that no one would want to live in—not even him. In short, Singer's worldview flunks the reality test. So if you come across someone who tells you there's nothing special about human life, ask him which Peter Singer they hope their kids emulate when they're old and frail: Peter Singer the avant garde philosopher, or Peter Singer the hypocrite. The one who admits, "It is different when it's your mother."


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary