The trial several years ago of Mark Steyn by the British Columbia Human Rights Commission brought up the issue of the standards by which we judge good and evil. To wit,,
Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man?
Drawing 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 now 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.