Two Sides of the Same Coin

The context of Mark Steyn’s trial by the British Columbia Human Rights Commission prompts The Belmont Club to ponder the standards by which we judge good and evil. In Nor iron bars a cage, he asks,

Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man?

He then draws upon C.S Lewis, who as an atheist struggled with this dilemma:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. … Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

C.S. Lewis found the soft underbelly of atheism, its irreconcilable logical flaw: it judges belief in God to be foolish, even evil, and life thereby accidental and meaningless — but does so by referencing a transcendent standard outside of itself against which good and evil, or meaning and meaninglessness, are measured. It judges transcendence to be non-existent by appealing to — transcendence.

Lewis’ logic is then brilliantly applied to our current multicultural “human rights” jihad, by zeroing in on the heart of human freedom, choice:

The inescapability of having to choose a standard or axioms — even provisionally — is the fracture line at the base of moral relativism and multiculturalism. … [If] it is true that no one can judge “who’s right or wrong” then who can judge the truth of that assertion itself?
It is this illusory attempt to escape from the need to believe in something — even provisionally — that explains why all attempts to enforce an equivalency among all ideas and cultures inevitably creates a fascistic kind of monoculture itself. Belief, denied the front entrance as principle, often smuggles itself in via the back door as fascism ….

The brotherhood of atheism and multiculturalism are often portrayed as the route to true human freedom, bringing the promise of deliverance from superstition and judgmentalism, thus leading to the fulfillment of true human potential. But the harsh reality is that they are two sides of the same coin, both leading down the path to totalitarianism and fascism. There are no absolutes — except the absolute hatred of those who believe in them. All things are tolerated — except those judged “intolerant” for believing and acting on moral absolutes. We see this trend everywhere, from the exclusion of religion from the public square, to the PC speech codes and suppression of “hate speech” (i.e., conservative or religious thought and opinion) on college campuses, to the Kafka-esque absurdity of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission’s show trials, protecting human rights by suppressing them.

Fortunately Lewis’ framework for making sense of a universe populated by both good and evil can shed light on our more limited problem of figuring out the relationship between freedom and anti-freedom within the framework of freedom itself. The key concept Lewis introduces is one of choice. Not the notion of choice as the fictional ability to do anything without paying a price or suffering the consequences: that is a counterfeit idea of choice composed of the shadows of multiculturalism. But of choice as inherent human ability to select between right and wrong and face the consequences…

It’s not necessary to dwell on Lewis’ idea of good and evil as a kind of broken symmetry to arrive at the counterintuitive idea that freedom is the outcome of a willingness to assume the consequences for choices. This relationship between consequence and choice is at the kernel of the commonplace expression that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Western society is free to allow every manner of expression only for so long as it is willing to pay the price of doing so …

Consider for a moment why Mark Steyn is a “free” man. It is only partly because he is a citizen of Canada but mostly due to his willingness to write without fear; or perhaps more accurately, in spite of it. Anyone who has struggled against tyranny understands this relationship intuitively. Whether you are in the Warsaw Ghetto, the French underground, or in safe house in Sampaloc district in Manila, freedom is always within your reach, if you are willing to pay the price.

Brilliant essay — as they say, read the whole thing.

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13 thoughts on “Two Sides of the Same Coin

  1. I have been praying about this debate I had on here, and I asking God for the right words here the last couple days. I just wanted to share what I read this morning, then I won’t say anymore on this subject.

    “There is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man…For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride ad foolishness. All thesee evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:15, 21-23

    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9

    Our sinfulness is part of our inherent nature. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.

    How can each sinner choose morality for himself if he has a sinful nature? He can’t.

    God Bless.

  2. Having been raised from conservative Catholic roots, I have read the bible, parts of the Quran and Parts of the Bhagavad Gita. Regardless of how you chop it up, break it down and analyze it, the bible is no more a historical work then “Jack and the Beanstock.”

    I could go on arguing all the same points over and over, the same points atheists always defend because when you deal with people of faith, faith has only given them so much ammunition before they start projecting hate speech at your questioning their logic.

    So really, no matter what a theist says, it comes from the basis of fallacy and belief in something with no verifiable existence. It’s the mentality that has been used for thousands of years; explaining what man cannot explain. The existence of ourselves is the ultimate challenge as well. Theists claim that because they don’t understand our physical explanations that are theories, based on doubt, require the same type of faith as believing a book with a cross on it, because it’s a book with a cross on it.

    I mentioned doubt; the area where science does it’s investigations, coming up with explanations based on hypothesis and fact finding. Religion dwells in the are of certainty, that what is written is what is and there is no dissent from that path, even when some of the stories run toe to toe with science. The Catholic church is a beautiful, shining example of denouncing others based on preconstructed beliefs, and writing off some of the most intelligent minds to ever grace the earth. Just reference Martin Luther for the church being wrong about internal issues, then consider the many philosophers who were denounced and discarded by the church, only to have their wisdom recognized centuries later.

    The sooner theists, from whatever faith, recognize religion for the social machinery it is, take the writings as inspiration and not ultimate truth, and think for themselves, the sooner our world will actually approach peace, and not fight over who is the most peaceful by blowing one another up.

  3. Well, Justin — for someone whose call name is “Justin of the Unjudging “, you sure do a hell of a lot of judging.

    Your ignorance of the historical and factual basis of the Christian faith is profound, and your arguments, self-perceived as novel and enlightened, are hoary and thoroughly refuted countless times for the past 2000 years, by intellectual giants who have no peer in today’s smug, shallow postmodern “intellectualism.”

    It really is in your best interest not to spout such nonsense in public — you really end up looking like a complete fool.

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