Ever Changing Morality
The following astonishing advertisements, from just a few decades ago, bring an important theological topic into sharp focus. (If you are are reading this post via email or RSS feed and cannot see the pictures, please visit www.rationalistjudaism.com to see them. It's worth it!)
When these advertisements were printed, they were not seen as immoral. Yet, by today's standards, they reflect a mistaken and disgusting attitude to women. Now, there can be little doubt that in another fifty years, people will look back on that which we consider moral today and will view it as hideously immoral. It would be the height of stupidity and arrogance for anyone to believe that today, Western society has finally reached the conclusion of its moral evolution. That which is moral and immoral today could easily be reversed within a few decades.
What does all this mean for us? It does weaken our ability to claim that the Torah's amazing morality is evidence of its truth/ superiority. For by what measure can we assert that the Torah is perfectly moral? We can only do so by claiming that it agrees with our own sense of morality - but as these advertisements show, our ideas of that change over time.
But the flip side of this is that it also means that those who claim that the Torah is immoral, in its attitudes to homosexuality, women, etc., are also severely weakened in their case. How can they judge the Torah to be lacking vis-a-vis their own modern Western standard of morality, when their own standard is so transient?
Yet, on the other hand, there is a school of Torah thought which claims that there is an ethic independent of Torah - and thus, for example, if one is stranded on a desert island and faced with eating either dead human or dead insects, one should choose the latter, even though it involves more halachic problems. But perhaps this idea of a separate ethic is one that is extracted from basic Torah morality.
This subject requires further study.