Tag Archives: morality

Morality in a Bottle

“My dear young friend,” said Mustapha Mond, “civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency. In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have got to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended – there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense. But there aren’t any wars nowadays. The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much. There’s no such thing as a divided allegiance; you’re so conditioned that you can’t help doing what you ought to do. And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed free play, that there really aren’t any temptations to resist. And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half of your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.”

– Huxley, Brave New World

Dodging the Discussion

“We are fond of talking about ‘liberty’; but the way we end up actually talking of it is an attempt to avoid discussing what is ‘good.’ We are fond of talking about ‘progress’; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about ‘education’; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.

The modern man says, ‘Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace unadulterated liberty.’ This is, logically rendered, ‘Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.’

He says, ‘Away with your old moral standard; I am for progress.’ This, logically stated, means, ‘Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.’

He says, ‘Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.’ This, clearly expressed, means, ‘We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.”

– G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

Even Racists Taste Good in Casserole

“Of course, the nonexistence of God is nothing more than a nonsense option. The categories of good and evil themselves require some sort of transcendent standard. What makes things good? What makes things evil? Atheists have, by and large, given up on the idea of an absolute standard of morality. After all, spiritual emptiness and the non-existence of anything outside of the simple material universe is no way to come up with an ethical system. Morality is a cultural preference (which cannot be said to be right or wrong) and fundamentally relative. It takes on (to be generous) the same authority as Wisconsin speed limits on a Nevada highway at night.

People are raped in this world, and rape is evil. Because evil exists, there must be no God. Because there is no God – no authoritative standard over creation – the badness of rape downgrades to a mere matter of societal taste. Ethnic cuisine, ethnic ethics. In God’s absence rape is no longer fundamentally evil. In our country, you’ll get confined to a cell (if caught and convicted). But that just means we enforce our taste, not that our taste has any real authority over anyone else. In other societies, girls have been passed around and traded like baseball cards. Is that right? Is that wrong? Neither. You like exploitation; I like apple pie. The two discussions exist on the same plane. There’s no such thing as moral or immoral. In our country, we eat gyros. In this one, we eat pizza. And we’ll give you a ticket for jaywalking.

Stunning. Such wisdom is like a kiss on the lips.

To quote one contemporary prophet: ‘You and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do like they do on the Discovery Channel.’

I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve enjoyed the Discovery Channel. But in that world, if I want to reproduce with you (or tear you limb from limb), I just need to be bigger and stronger than you are. You look pretty small and a little sickly. Shall I feed you to my young? Why not? Cannibalism might not be condoned in your culture, but it has been a long and storied tradition in mine. Are you saying your culture is superior, that it is somehow right while mine is wrong? You’re being a racist, but luckily you’re still small, and even racists taste good in casserole.”

~ N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl (pp. 72-73)