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. Wonderfully written. I once got into quite a heated “discussion” with a atheist who insisted that there was no God. I told her if she really believed there was no God, then she had no moral boundaries. She insisted that moral boundaries could exist for an atheist. I asked her how that oculd be. When you have no true definition of good and evil, right and wrong. When each person is then making up his own mind what is “good” and what is “evil”. “what feels “good” is given the stamp of being okay. In the world today we live in a society full of selfish, ego-centered, hateful idiots. What is “right” and what is “wrong”? How can you tell the difference if each person has their own moral boundary? And WHOM decides which behavior crosses this crazy invisible moral line?

    I am reminded of a clipping my girlfriend gave me last week. It made me laugh and I copied it down and stuck it in my purse.

    The belief that there was nothing and then nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.

    Makes perfect sense.”

    I feel it takes more faith to believe there is NO God, than to simply open your heart, eyes and mind and know there IS.

  2. Okay, you have to flaws here. The first is that moraliity relies on God- a path that leads to Vox Day. It isn’t pretty. In addition it ignores that many atheists point out that religion is false first. And you don’t bother to rebut either.

    As for “atheism rewuiring more faith”… I find that funny on three levels

    1) Christians believe faith is good- so obviously atheists are the more virtuous?

    2) None of those are required to be an atheist

    3) All of those are based on reality (admitadly the blurb distorts it)- you know- evidence, logic and the like. If you don’t like it, blame the universe- not me. I’m just the messanger.

  3. All aethists I have ever met completely mock faith, so I find it amusing that it requires MORE of it actually to believe the entire world exploded from nothing. When scientists can create ANYTHING from nothing, then give me a call. :o)

    What do you base your morality on if you are an atheist? Honestly, fill me in on HOW one comes to the conclusions of what is right and wrong as an atheist? If there is no God, then there is no value to your life, no eternal consequences for your actions, no real reason to be here in the first place because apparently we are all some kind of weird by-product of an explosion of NOTHING a bazillion years ago….I’d love to know how one decides what is good and what is evil then? And who decides who of all the atheists is the one with the true moral line…cause the line is going to be all over the place.

    The simple truth is…reality, logic and evidence points to a higher power. In the last days, the Bible says they will call evil good, and good evil. Welcome to the last days.

    Please tell me by what standard you are the messenger for the universe also? I would love to know where one gets the credentials for that.

  4. You know, abortion exists because there is no value for human life. It is a woman’s “right” to end a pregnancy and not against certain people’s “morals” to do so. For some reason a baby is only a real person when it is wanted and OUTSIDE a woman’s body. The news crews are all over a story of a woman giving birth and throwing her newborn in the dumpster about what a horrible murderer she is, but that same woman could freely walk into a abortion clinic and end the life of that same baby legally, “morally” and without a consequence of being a “bad” mother.

    This is what I mean by the lines of morality being invisible when you say there is no God in which to base your morals or right and wrong on.

  5. No, Vox Day’s position is the only logically consistant one if you base morality off of God. See the Euthyphro dilemma by Plato- he proves that you either go in Vox’s direction or you admit morality is independant of God.

  6. If one believes there is no God, then THAT is a frightening world to live in.

    By the way…when I mentioned above it being your opinion, I was referring to what you insinuated about anyone basing morality on God and it not being “pretty”. Personally I think it is just the opposite. When you try to base morality on your own judgements of right and wrong…that is when the path gets pretty…pretty ugly that is.

    God’s love, mercy and forgiveness are BEAUTIFUL. We don’t deserve ANY of it…we are all a bunch of pathetic sinners, yet He loves us when we are unlovable, shows endless mercy to us when we don’t deserve it, and forgives us if we just ask to be forgiven when we fail.


  7. I believe there is no God- I’m a strong atheist. It ain’t scary.

    You didn’t read the link, did you? Vox Day defends genocide using divine ethics- your ethics. And there are no flaws in his logic- just his premises… premises you share.

    I took a look… you do realize it is all nonsense? The whole argument boils down to “there is three of them”… that is nice- how does that answer the dilemia? Oh, wait- it doesn’t.

    So is the Emperor’s love, mercy and justice. We all are nothing compared to Him. It doesn’t make them any more real though- it is still make believe.

  8. The problem is, you have ZERO knowledge of Christianity. You are fluent in man’s knowledge, and not in any knowledge of the divine apparently.

    The “3”, are the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit…the Trinity…which is ultimately ONE and the same.

    Have you ever read the Bible…cover to cover? You read Plato, and Euthyphro and other men’s “knowledge”…so have you ever picked up the good book itself and given it once ounce of a chance?

    There is a lot of truth to the old hymn Amazing Grace. If you don’t know the verses (and since you are a devout atheist you probably don’t) one of the verses says “I once was blind, but now I see”. NOTHING that I or any other Christian says can make you “see” what a we understand as the truth. Your heart has to be open for God to come in a SHOW you the truth for you to truly “see”. It is so blatantly obvious, that once you are saved, and the Lord lives within your heart, you will SEE and understand on a level that you could never even fathom right now.

    My biggest fear when talking to a atheist, is simply that I fear for your eternal soul. I can argue this on your side too…let’s say you are right, and there is no God. Then I still lived a good and wholesome life, and I guess I will just turn to dust and the world will go on. But if a Christian is right, and there is a God, and there IS a heaven and a hell…then where are you? The Bible says He will turn away those at heaven’s gates saying “I never knew you”.

    The only thing I can do is pray for your eyes to open and “see” someday.

    The only nonsense here, is what you have written. If you continue to be blind to your way of thinking on this, someday when you stand before God it won’t be nonsense to you anymore….but then it is also too late.


  9. PS…man right now defends murder of millions and millions of innocent babies under the curtain of a “woman’s right”. We also kill those who aren’t perfect (sick, “vegetable” and the like). Where are YOU in this reality? You want to argue about a theoretical genocide, and the reality is you and others JUSTIFY murder each and every day.

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