Who could possibly be more compassionate for a sick child than the mother of that child? Who could be of better service to the land than the farmer who owns it? And would you really go to an electrician for a heart transplant? What I’m getting at here is the power of, and truth found in intimate association; whether it be the interaction between individuals, or those associations of man with the world and its wealth of knowledge. It is no mere coincidence that Christ proclaimed “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But as with all associations, the quality of such relies upon the dependency between those associations. The woman, as mother, is biologically and psychologically linked to the child. The farmer is fully dependent for his family’s stability and health upon the land he stewards daily. The doctor, through his intensive and exhaustive training of the knowledge of medicine, is best suited to perform such a difficult operation as a heart transplant. They all realize and live out dependencies, and in so doing are transformed by them.
We embrace such attributes as virtues, yet as a society we propel ourselves – through increasingly larger communities and complexities of social structure – into a world where personal, second-person interactions are relegated to second-class status. While we proclaim our structures as aids to understanding and improved personal relationships, the truth of the matter is that we understand less of each other now than at any time in history. What we have gained is empirical. What we have lost is communicative, spiritual, and transformative. Without a lengthy, intimate experience, a source of knowledge between one person and another is not much more than a sympathy, or a “There but for the grace of God go I.” rationalization. Modern society claims intimacy through its social structure and embraces the concept of mankind as of one body, but sets goals that move mankind away from constant, personal interaction and into impersonal limitations and suspicious inclinations.
As a result, man pursues and endorses relationships that encourage his own self-centered thinking. In other words, love your lover, love your family, love a few friends, like a few others, like your neighbors, respect your acquaintances, respect those you interact with at the supermarket and shopping mall, care little for those you know not, dislike the competitive, condemn the guilty – as long as you only like, respect, dislike, or don’t know them – and judge them all. I recognize the dogmatic assertion I’ve just made, but look around you, and look in the mirror. Are you really going to tell me that this isn’t you to some degree, and are you really going to tell me that this discrimination is nothing more than the discernment of absolute good and evil?
And what of man’s judgment of evil? While our formula for authority is based in knowledge and experience that has proven beneficial to mankind for centuries and thus called truths, modern man, more than any preceding version of man, subjects those truths to scrutiny through his personal emotions; using them to litigate and execute a wide range of societal laws and preferences. Man loves his feelings as he is beginning to believe them to be a superior authority in a deceptively secure world, where there appears to be no more lions, only skittish gazelles. Problems arise when those same feelings prevent his objective analysis of the relationships between individuals of fixed biology, as well as between man and nature, and man and God. Feelings have little sense of, or patience for biology. Feelings are the panic of human understanding, and if there is an evil entity, those feelings are his primary fodder for deception. Feelings, in the position of authority, are the “behavioral shortcut” I pointed out earlier that requires no engagement or knowledge to be gathered. Simply react to perceived evil as feelings dictate and enact law; indignant that second-person experience and knowledge play any part at all in equality.
In this environment of feelings, our inclination to point out evil and intensify suffering is a badge of courage that conflicts with truth. Human perversion has found solace and purpose in redefining itself into a newly-revealed truth and right. It’s the Pharisee in the temple courtyard. And as such, it must present itself in criticism of those who understand evil and suffering; those who can best manage such events. Christ comes to mind. Christ experienced the full depth of suffering, yet managed it for the salvation of mankind. Saints of the Catholic faith likewise manage suffering and evil for the betterment of man. But the secularist argues that God is insensitive to the human suffering in the world, because He does little about it, and is suspicious of “Saints” as being in the pursuit of their own purposes and simply encouraging their weaknesses in the guise of strengths.
Christ was insensitive to man’s law. Evil wants suffering out-of-control through law.
Our modern societal issues are heavily invested in this philosophy of desire. In man’s earliest centuries, he was part of nature; competing for his daily existence as an individual and small group. The only thing relative was his ability to stay alive. As he organized, mechanized, and overcame the competition, he saw himself as separate from the world, preferring to see himself as somehow relative to the divine. God became evident in his imagination; a condition that to this day man cannot clearly resolve, for his pride prefers God as only in his mind and not in dominion over him. Today’s modern man has come full circle; placing himself back into nature, but reserves natural law as subject to his persona, and holds God as a choice like going to the movies or going to church; it is no better, and perhaps worse.
Tolerance vs. Self-Sacrifice
It is here where we see the argument of some, like Eleonore Stump, Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, who reinforce Christ’s second commandment on the value of personal relationships over the alternatives of third-person knowledge and the ever increasingly popular first-person infatuation. I believe the results of such alternative first and third-person thinking is evident; evil on an expanding campus that teaches tolerance over self-sacrifice.
In today’s world these two words, tolerance and self-sacrifice, seem to have achieved similar meaning, but they are quite different. To show tolerance today means to recognize the equality of another person’s values with your own, and to include within one’s own values, the values of others; to change for the betterment of society. “Values” would be defined as those feelings and emotions that promotes the cause of sociopolitical stability with the goal of equality between all members within the society. ‘Equality’ refers to the successful achievement of happiness by all. So, what we have here is the understanding that what brings a person to a state of happiness through their feelings should be considered a value. Those who resist the concept of tolerance are outside of acceptable norms and therefore must be subject to assertive, public conditioning and punitive efforts until a society is formed without discrimination of values.
“They are, if you like, men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what ‘Humanity’ shall henceforth mean. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’, applied to them, are words without content: for it is from them that the content of these words is henceforward to be derived.” C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Unfortunately, tolerance demands a constant rise in discrimination, prejudice, dogmatism, and violence, for as mankind pursues ever deeper the identification of groups of human inclinations based upon feelings and emotions, he creates separations between individuals and groups through the identification of their differences and not their similarities, and these differences are based largely upon first-person and third-person analysis, in that it is one’s personal feelings and emotions that are driving the analysis, not the reparative, second-person relationship that gives a greater measure of understanding to the other person than to the self. It is by nature selfish, though it claims inclusion. Thus, each newly identified group will become another cause by which to condemn those who disagree and reject their assertion of the good of second-person experience. The hope of the secularist is that he can reach the bottom of the barrel of the infinite diversity of human expression before the world implodes from its own bigotry. The secularist believes he can juggle an infinite number of juggling balls.
The word self-sacrifice refers to the surrender, forfeiture, or giving up of something of worth, merit or importance for the greater good of another, or others, and thus prevent or mitigate what would otherwise be the other’s loss. In simplest of terms, it requires one to lose in order for another to gain. Self-sacrifice means to give up one’s authority or parity in return for equality, and does not require an acceptance and inclusion of the other’s condition. It is a singular act of second-person experience that produces mutual transformation. Values are not for introspection or redefinition for values are absolute and naturally defined. Unlike tolerance, self-sacrifice recognizes no group by which to separate one human from another.
While one can speak and act against those who perform sacrificial acts for others, society has consistently lacked any perseverance to any ideology that condemns self-sacrifice in favor of self-serving feelings and emotions, but times are changing. One cannot be tolerant and self-sacrificial at the same time. There is a huge difference in meaning between the two words, and yet they both claim centrality to today’s sociopolitical path for Western civilization.
Now, why am I even discussing this when the intent of my discourse is to provide some hopeful illumination of evil’s darkness? Ultimately, we hope to illuminate a path of understanding on which we can experience inevitable suffering in a manner that strengthens us rather than weakens us. I task myself to this because I believe the answer lies within our choice between secular tolerance and Christian self-sacrifice.
Of What Good is Man’s Philosophy?
The day-to-day discourse of life appears purely physical with success based upon the ability to relate in a manner that is consistent with the relationships perceived. But while man diddles about with his smartphone – in control of his universe – philosophy measures the consequences of man’s collective thinking and lays out a map for his destiny.
Philosophy has recorded the human perceptions of life since man’s ability to engage in language, to write and to read. It is in man’s nature to communicate with one another on the deepest perceptions of their own condition, and the narrative recorded over the past five-hundred years demonstrates a consistent, declining respect for mankind as a unique species. Modern philosophers, for the most part, paint a very grim picture of the nature of man. From Schopenhauer to Nietzsche to Freud and onwards, philosophers have found it increasingly difficult to find merit in man’s nature as he continues to insist upon his independence from everything that binds him or limits him. I recently came to learn that dystopian fiction writing is an invention that came into being with the Reformation and crystallized itself with the Enlightenment of mankind in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s a telling thought that man’s first visions of a world gone wrong emerged as he began his quest for independence from the absolute.
And what are those thoughts of contemporary man that leads him down that path of independence? Let me run through a few of our current philosophical trends in modern society. These are not extremist platforms I have selected, but rather main stream philosophies that are routinely taught at most colleges and universities. You’ll hear much that resonates in our current sociopolitical reasoning and practice. These philosophies permeate the thinking of our educational system and is dispensed as medicine for our children and teenagers.
Secular Humanism attempts to underscore the responsibility mankind has to one another and the environment in which he lives. The means to such an attempt is a course of re-examination of all past traditions and truths in light of man’s present and future knowledge; not upon the experiences of those men and women who defined the society of man in the past. In such a means, there is an automatic rejection of any tradition or truth that appears as dogmatic or conflicting with the right of present and future mankind to assert his ability of self-determination of his own qualities and temporal truths. The secular humanist sincerely believes that the path of knowledge and its technology, in itself, will yield equality, and equality will yield happiness and peace.
Preference Utilitarianism is a form of utilitarianism – the practice of choice being justly based upon the minimum of pain and the maximum of pleasure – that focuses upon the preference or interests of a person as being rational, and therefore the resultant actions of such preferences are morally justifiable. In this philosophy good and evil are purely preferences and therefore non-existent.
Personism is a philosophy that considers the “rights” of a creature to its existence and its ability to express its own will to be in accordance to its ability to be defined as a person. The word “person” may be defined, in this philosophy, to be a creature with the ability to prefer to continue to exist for the purpose of experience. Those creatures unable to have preferences are not persons, and thus have no “right” to life (that being the state of person-hood); leaving their quality of existence to the preference of persons.
Speciesism is a term used to describe the prejudice of classifying animals into stratum of importance based upon human use. It is meant as similar to racism or sexism; where it is assumed that it is illogical and hateful to believe that one creature is of less value than another and therefore its life is not of the same value as mans. It uses the same criteria as I mentioned much earlier:
“Secular man views society as the common discipline of respect for one another’s existence, and the right to be within the society through the birth of their physical form into the physical world.” (If you’re not born you’re not equal.)
The difference lies in the claim of the extension of such respect unto non-human creatures. There can be no moral distinction here, and thus one who must choose in saving the dog or its master in a house fire is presented with a truthful dilemma.
Is Secularism Dangerous?
Now, all of these philosophies are considered imperative to the secular vision of happiness, and they provide the structural outline for the conditioning of our societal mindset. Perhaps you see in their doctrines an opportunity for the abuse of such reasonable assertions to the benefit of some over others. The issue would then come down to whether these types of philosophies and practices of the secular future are superior to, and more reliable than, those philosophies and practices of the past. Is humanity at a crossroads in its progress towards universal happiness – one direction achieving the goal while the other direction channeling our nature into a dead end and extinction? Are we indeed unique as an earthly creature and can claim a separation from the natural world that leads us to a responsibility for the stewardship of the world, or are we but in symbiosis with all things about us and cannot be judged as better than or worse than anything else? The Christian world believes the former. The secular world believes the latter.
If these models of secular, human thinking are superior to the models of the past, then let’s construct a model human from these philosophies and examine him. Let’s call him “Pete”.
Pete believes that the value of a life is based upon the corollary “the greatest good for the greatest number.” Pete believes he must examine all knowledge for its relevance to his preferred actions (disregarding any dogma or knowledge that claims any absolute condition by which man exists). Pete believes that science is the sole arbitrator of valid knowledge for society. Pete believes that mankind must be pooled with all living creatures and their “personhood” or level of ability for preferential thinking be assessed so “rights” may be assigned. Pete believes that any moral interpretation of actions be seen through the eyes of a non-discriminating observer who sees neither good nor evil in the world.
In his practice of life, Pete believes that athletes should be permitted to take any “safe” drug they choose in order to counter-balance the inequity of genetics and provide for a level playing field. Pete believes that surrogate motherhood should be a profitable venture, run by a non-profit “State Surrogacy Board” in order to ensure the ability of any sentient individual to have a child. Pete believes that sexual relations between humans and all other living creatures to be acceptable where there is no harm to either participant and there is the appearance of happiness; “harm” being defined by the preferences of some authoritative body. Pete believes that the fact that a human is alive has no bearing upon whether or not that human has a right to life should there be a preference for the life of another deemed as more important; “more important” being defined by the competitive other. Pete believes that a living human being only has a right to life in relationship to their ability to meaningfully calculate their existence and have desire for experience; “meaningfully” defined by some authoritative body and not by the individual.
How am I doing here? Is Pete someone you’d like to be friends with, or even his lover? Do you believe Pete’s philosophy is for the good of society? Do you believe Pete’s philosophy clearly delineates the difference between man and all other things of the world, or do you believe that he holds man as but another thing? Do you believe that you could trust Pete with your life?
I should probably note that Pete so passionately believes what he believes that he has taken his philosophy deeply into the academic world; supporting others who believe as he does, forging new ground for his philosophy, indoctrinating thousands of university students to his way of thinking, and calling for what he defines as practical ethics – the subjugation of past, dogmatic morality to the equal consideration of interests between conflicting parties – to be the practice of the world.
And for Pete’s efforts he has received the accolades of the world. Pete is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He’s a Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. Pete serves on the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health. Pete recently received the title Companion of the Order of Australia. Pete is considered by his contemporaries as one of the most read and influential philosophers in today’s society.
As you might guess by now, Pete is not my imaginary construct of a human of the secular world, Pete is a real person in this secular world; one of its philosophical and academic architects. Pete is the future essence of our secular-driven society. Pete wants our secular society to embrace his principles, for in his mind, he sees that man is but one of many things that must receive equal consideration of their interests based upon their sentient nature. He is the logical extension of our current demand that one cannot form distinction based upon past moral ethics, simply because those moral ethics may impede one’s ability to redefine their preferred actions as good for the society.
And if one might be scratching their head over this one, take into consideration that Pete’s paternal grandparents disappeared into the Nazi ghetto of Łódź, and his maternal grandfather was murdered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Such irony; that Pete’s philosophy is so in step with one of the most brutal, genocidal regimes of man’s perverted thinking.
For secular philosophy to succeed in raising man up into universal equality it must do so on the back of man, and only man. Is he up for the task? Does his record as a species merit him the prize of successful entrepreneurship and absolute authority over his actions?
I do not think I have to make any argument for this merit. Our documented history and our daily newspapers records and identifies humanity as a volatile, insecure, dogmatic, corrupt, and murderous species that prefers existence through the extinction of its perceived enemies over that of mutual obligation to co-existence for the benefit of all. I could stop here and just say that man is evil, but I do not believe that easy assumption. To the secularist – to Pete – the way out of this condition lies in the general lowering of the standards of equality to a level by which all will concede to, versus the personal risk of further aggression and alienation from those in secular power. As secular man ventured out with good intent he consistently found that “power” addicts and corrupts, and so he tries this new course that he believes will negate the urge for power through a unified distribution of a limited source of equality. In other words, some eat steak while others eat hamburger, becomes we all eat hamburger. No one gets steak; unless, of course, you are a politician, a celebrity, or an athlete. Everyone else gets to live in a virtual steak world of twitter and YouTube; pretending to be more equal than that which has been dispensed to them. Despite the constant dramas played out in our public society of this very truth, we plow ahead anyways with this global plan; trying to keep a straight line with a bent blade and ignoring the rocky and infertile soil.
Sorry, but it appears I will be going further down the rabbit hole in my next post, but I do hope to provide some illumination to this otherwise dismal and dark landscape as I let God’s light enter into my argument in the future. I’d just like to know the bottom first.
PART 4 – To come.
God Bless and Buen Camino – Reese