No, I don't actually believe that murder is ok in any culture. And neither do you (I hope). Quite a few people in this day and age, however, claim beliefs about reality which actually conflict with their moral beliefs, to the point that if they truly lived consistently with their beliefs, the above society would be totally acceptable. Many, many people claim moral beliefs with their intellect which conflict with the moral beliefs they actually demonstrate in the way they live their lives. This is an interesting paradox, and one which very much gets taken for granted these days. Let us not grant it so easily here.
Everybody agrees that this culture is wrong. But on what basis? The interesting dilemma here is that everybody agrees on a morally objective judgment of this situation, but probably half of the current generation claims to believe in moral relativism. The other interesting dilemma is that many of these same people who agree on a morally objective assessment of, for example, Hitler, also claim that there is no God.
You're probably asking "What on earth does the existence of God have to do with making morally objective judgments?" Well, the answer is actually "Everything." See, the problem is that you can't actually consistently believe in objective morality if you don't believe in God. The two (though I can hear you protesting) are mutually exclusive.
What I mean is this: if there is truly no God, then morality is merely a human construct, imagined and not real at all, for the express purpose of the preservation of our genes. In other words, evolutionary biology must become our "god" if there is no actual supreme guiding force, which means that everything in life is meaningless, purposeless and only exists to keep our race going. Of course, I can imagine several scenarios, not the least of which is the one which began this blog post, which suggest that murder could actually be beneficial to the preservation of a group of people, not to mention an individual. Such situations have played themselves out repeatedly throughout history, and are almost always decried as evil and intolerant from a modern perspective. However, this is an inconsistent claim if one does not believe in God because from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, there is no basis for which to say that such murder is wrong. Ironically, to claim that such murder is wrong and to carry out punishment upon the murderer is an admission to the truth of objective morality. It's a claim that "our" morality is "better" than that of the murderer's, and is therefore not relative at all. But again, if there is truly no God, there is no basis for which to make this claim. We are simply another example of trampling on somebody else's culturally correct moral views if morality is actually non-existent and therefore relative.
One might then profess that simply because morality is not really there, that does not mean we can't act morally, or for the general "best interests" of all people everywhere. But again, on what basis can you determine what are their "best interests?" What you are then saying is that you don't believe murder is inherently wrong, but you will live the rest of your life believing it is. It is like saying you don't believe there is a monster hiding under your bed, but you will sleep for the rest of your life with the lights on. Why will you live this way? Because everything in the core of your being tells you that murder is wrong, even though your worldview says otherwise. You are living in conflict with your beliefs, and claiming that your morality is better than those of others who supposedly have just as much a right to it as you do. Ironically, if there truly is no God and no objective morality, you are actually being intolerant by saying that your views of what is right and what is wrong are better than those of murderers (or anybody else who does anything you don't agree with). The only consistent way to live here is to believe that there is a God and therefore objective morality, an entirely consistent perspective with everything your sense of morality tells you about the world we live in, or to believe that there is no God and believe that morality is relative, therefore not having a foundation for which to challenge anybody's moral choices, ever.
Despite these realities, as mentioned near the beginning of this post, many who do not believe in God live as if they acknowledge objective morality, and many who believe in moral relativism do not live consistently with this view either. It seems quite apparent to all of us that murder is wrong, as is stealing or sleeping with another man's wife or another woman's husband. Yet, if this is true, then morality is indeed objective, and God must indeed exist by necessity. Otherwise, it is all just an illusion, a belief in right and wrong formed on the basis of nothing except natural selection and the preservation of your genes.
The flip side to this moral conundrum is that when you are "wronged," if there is no God and therefore no objective morality, then you haven't actually been wronged at all and there is again no basis for which to say you have been. In the eyes of that other person who wronged you, they may have been doing something they viewed as morally right (as messed up as that may seem). What makes your subjective morality better than theirs? How, in this case, could a rape victim ever claim to have been wronged if there is no actual objective standard of right and wrong for them to appeal to? That seems horribly wrong to me. Where does this intense hurt and cry for justice come from in our hearts if morality is merely a construct and has nothing really to do with what is true?
Another problem with this view is that relative morality isn't actually morality at all - it's selfishness disguised by natural selection. It's about the preservation of yourself and your genes, and therefore excludes what is best for other people unless it just so happens to coincide with your own best interests. Even if you end up serving others' best interests, that is not morality in any sense of our contemporary definition. It's simply pure selfishness - the exact opposite of what we would deem "morally correct behaviour." Motives have absolutely every bit as much to do with moral goodness as the actions themselves.
Despite the fact that many reading this will protest vehemently, there is not really any way around this moral conundrum. You cannot simply escape from it by claiming that morality is only a result of natural selection unless you are fully willing to accept the consequences of that claim. To try and claim that morality can be objective and valuable apart from the existence of a higher power who created us and designed us that way is incredibly shaky ground to stand upon, and certainly not the most believable hypothesis in light of our sense of justice and belief that selflessness is actually something higher to be aimed for and attained in our society. The belief that altruism is simply another result of natural selection is not a belief in altruism at all - it is only a belief in pretending to be selfless in order to benefit yourself.
The purpose in writing this is not to convince people to a certain belief system. It is to challenge what you have taken for granted and to get you to think about the inconsistencies of the way you live and what you may currently believe.
What do you believe about morality?