Late Friday night after announcing our pause in publishing due to the founding of The Georgetown Review we received the following essay from a sophomore and first-time contributor. He chose to give it to us because TGA, in his words, “is not afraid to publish harsh, if controversial viewpoints—it respects freedom grounded in reason and wit.”
The author takes aim at those who deny there exists a divinely-inspired natural law and for whom ethics are situational. They’re the sorts who think if something can be done or simply feels worth doing because it is convenient or gives them pleasure, then nothing should be prohibited.
Examples include individuals like those in H*yas for Choice who say government shouldn’t legislate morality and regulate abortion so that a woman may for any reason end the pregnancy up until a second before the child would be naturally born, and should be able to snuff out the baby’s life via barbaric procedures like partial-birth abortion which involves delivering everything except the infant’s head and then cutting an opening into the back of the skull and vacuuming out the brain.
These same two-faced people then turn around and say both the government and religious institutions like Georgetown have a moral responsibility to pay for abortions or sex changes, and that Catholic doctors must perform such procedures despite them being against Catholic doctrine or long-standing and deeply-held religious beliefs.
Secularists claim to be against legislating morality, but only if the legislation in question is sponsored or supported by religious folks. Such secular individuals are happy to legislate their own moral views for how others should live and have no qualms about imposing their secular vision on others or punishing through various legal means any who refuse to comply with their secular laws, which not being rooted in universal moral maxims transcending time and place, are forever subject to change whenever a big enough group has the power to change them. Power, and the ability to enforce their will on others, is everything to these people. Concepts such as liberty, freedom of religion or conscience, and universal human rights mean nothing to them.
We invite you to read the essay twice and contribute your thoughts in the comments.
Dear Georgetown Secularists,
It’s all bull****. I suppose that statement shouldn’t shock you. That is what your philosophy entails. Thanks to you, the haunting shadow of tradition no longer glares over our shoulder. On the contrary, as Halloween comes upon us, the specter of yesterday is in the process of being laid to rest. Henry Ford couldn’t be more proud.
Why am I writing this now? I suppose I could appeal to the Kukla controversy. I could relate a sorrowful tale of hearing fellow students and professors disdain religion in an age of science and scorn those who have faith in something greater than themselves. But that would be blasé, rather par for the course, if I do say so myself. Besides, this letter was bound to be written sooner or later.
Let’s be honest: history is meaningless to you. For that matter, so are all the humanities. Sure, knowledge of the past is useful insofar as it informs our understanding of the natural world. But science is king. Science is god. Science, to paraphrase Mary Midgley, is salvation. We are free to look ahead, to pursue an orgy of pleasures once prohibited in the so-called "Dark Ages." Perhaps one day we will find the means to everlasting life. (Who would have thought science would devolve full circle back into alchemy?) There is nothing to restrain us besides our residual inclination to look over our shoulder.
Of course, I’m being a bit dramatic. I don’t expect, in Huxley-an fashion, that we will soon devolve into rampant sexual licentiousness. Though I suppose this question comes to mind: why not? What is to stop us from doing whatever we please? Obviously, this is nothing more than the old trope: If God is dead, all is permitted. But its triteness does not diminish its truth.
Some might retort with appeals to utilitarianism. Some might retreat with Sisyphean appeals to doing the best we can with the time we have. (How heroic of you, fighting a long defeat…St. Stephen could not have made a better martyr). But let me put it in plain language: it’s all bull****. That is the prime implication of your secularism, the brutal principle hidden beneath your moralizing and philosophizing. There is ultimately nothing to justify your empty rhetoric and pleas for basic decency. There is no Reason (or Logos as Christian folk call It) underlying your moral indignation.
Let’s put aside abstractions for a moment. Why should I care about inner city poverty? Why should I care about treating someone with kindness? Because it is the right thing to do? Because poverty is suffering and suffering is bad? Because equality and whatnot?
What is this “right” you might speak of? Why does suffering create a moral obligation on my end? Why care about the other? Why not retreat into animalistic self-concern and live off instinctive drives? Why equality? Why justice? Why fairness?
These become mere words on a page, vacuous connections of symbols and syllables devoid of meaning. Unless you would like to trust in basic human goodness, a rather pitiful assumption, you have robbed morality of its teeth. In its place, you look to false idols, several hundred years of a philosophical and ethical waste-bin that could not replace the simple, timeless elegance of God.
(Yes, someone who is nonreligious can be a “good” person, but their “goodness” is built on a flimsy foundation.)
But the greater irony is the arrogance to think that you have somehow superseded the primitivism of yesteryear. In fact, you have merely adjusted the content of the debate. There is, in the higher spheres of skepticism, an almost gnostic element. Those who enter these prestigious ivory tower circles wallow in their special knowledge of reality above the dim masses below. The golden calf is now the hand of man, and this new mystery religion derives orgasmic joy from the pleasures derived from the hand’s creations.
There is, it seems, a prevailing notion that accepting the ultimate truth of bull**** makes someone brave, willing to swallow the red pill and embrace their ultimate meaninglessness. Yet it is too easy to give up God, especially in our age. Of course, it might take an emotional toll, but intellectually, it often takes so much effort to summon the reason and faith necessary for holding to God in modernity that giving Him up appears to be a simpler course of action. Besides, giving up God seems more fun: all that matters is my truth and there is nothing to prohibit my passions.
To further extend this analogy, allow me to rewrite the allegory of the Fall of Man in a modern form: the Matrix. At one time, we had no need of the red pill, for we knew God, and there was nothing to get in the way of that relationship, neither sin nor distraction. Progressively (perhaps I should put that word in quotes), we lost sight of God, for we desired to “be as gods.” Suddenly, our awareness of God was reborn at the hinge of history (note: I am not speaking about Christ alone). We were given the opportunity to leave the old, fatalistic, pagan reality for a new birth of freedom in the Reality of God. We had to risk reorienting ourselves to a new way of being. Over time, we have once again lost sight of Him, as is man’s custom, and so we seek to replace or forsake Him again.
Faith requires moral responsibility; it demands turning to God and surrendering the great god of modern liberalism: the self. It means we must face up to a Reality where actions ultimately matter, where we are free to act virtuously, and where there is Right and Wrong. It is not easy to give up the cheap allure of relativism and self-exaltation. But waking up from the soporific temptation of the shadow world for the burning Truth of a Higher Reality is not supposed to be easy or even intuitively desirable on the surface.
Every era is always so clever. It thinks it has figured everything out. It thinks it sees beyond the shadows. But all too often, we fail to look right in front us. Since the dawn of our spiritual consciousness, God has withstood the relentless tides of time. Throughout history, humans die, empires fall, and once impenetrable ideas and theories waste away. Yet God remains. Our generation will falter if it fails to return to God and tradition as the only rock-solid foundation on which our moral, intellectual, and spiritual future can rest.
I don’t expect my message to be popular. And I don’t consider myself a martyr for Truth either. In the end, I could be wrong. But at the very least, you must recognize “the plain antithesis between True and False.” The crisis of modernity is the question: God or man?
I leave you with words from the inimitable GK Chesterton:
“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”