The One Word Secularists Dare Not Utter

From our “Just When You Thought You’d Heard it All” Department come two new developments. First, at just the time when the public has become all too aware of the existence of pedophilia, what with the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church, one Judith Levine makes waves in a new book entitled Harmful to Minors by suggesting, effectively, “what’s the big deal with pedophilia?” In a newspaper interview about the book, published by University of Minnesota Press (and you thought Jesse Ventura was the worst thing to come out of Minnesota!), Ms. Levine suggests that a sexual relationship between a priest and a boy could be a positive experience—for the boy. Ms. Levine opines that the real culprit is restrictive laws governing sexual consent; we’d not have so big a problem, in other words, if we would take a cue from the Dutch (nearly always a bad idea when it comes to law!) and lower the age of consent. I could say more, but I see you reaching for the barf bag already.

Item Two comes from Peter Singer, Professor in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. Professor Singer is labeled an “ethicist”, ostensibly in the same vein in which Fidel Castro is a “liberator” or Jeffrey Dahmer specialized in “culinary arts”. Mr. Singer is most (in)famous, probably, for his stated belief that parents ought to have a period of time, measured in weeks, in which to rationally consider whether or not to euthanize a newborn child. “Clarice, this diaper thing is really a drag, and I can’t get a decent night’s sleep; let’s off the runt!”

Now the same Mr. Singer has authored an article entitled “Heavy Petting”, which appeared on a website I’d rather not mention lest anyone actually go there, in which he speaks rather favorably about the topic of bestiality. William Saletan of Slate, an online magazine, reviewed Mr. Singer’s work, and Mr. Saletan seems to struggle to find an answer to why sexual relations with animals is a moral wrong. Both Singer and Saletan make fairly feeble stabs, in the end, at arguing that we ought on balance to maintain some taboos against bestiality, but they effectively give up the farm by failing to provide us a firm basis upon which to hold to such moral standards.

You might expect me, at this point, to launch into a stinging tirade against Levine, Singer, and Saletan. Instead, allow me to suggest that their existence is quite helpful to us! Singer assists us in a couple of ways, in fact, the first being that he once again helps us to understand that an Ivy League education ought not be something to which responsible parents aspire for their children. Sure, Singer is one of the kookiest of Ivy League profs, but he is by no means alone. But beyond this, the Singers, Saletans, and Levines of this world help us to glimpse the depths of a system of ethics developed without reference to a transcendent, fixed point of moral authority; I call Him “God”. How, in other words, can anyone speak of a moral law without a moral Lawgiver? These authors help us to see that one ultimately cannot.

Indeed, there is one word that the thorough-going secularist can never utter with any believability, and that word is “should”. Why “should” anyone do or not do anything? Should Hitler not have gassed Jews? The secularist cannot say so with any convincing moral force. The secularist has no believable answers to these questions, and can appeal to nothing further, ultimately, than self-interest. Problem is, if I’m bigger than you, so much for your self-interest!

Attempts to ground moral behavior in a purely secularist base range from the merely insufficient to the laughable. Saletan points out that “conservative editorialists have doggedly denounced and ridiculed Singer’s argument (but) none of them…has explained what’s wrong with it.” He later says that one could “ask those of us who eat meat why, if it’s wrong to rape animals, it’s OK to kill them.” Adrift in a world without the supernatural, seeing mankind, as does Singer, as merely more highly-evolved animals, these are legitimate questions!

For the man, however, who lacks the faith to believe in evolutionary “explanations” for the universe and the existence of humankind, the answer is pretty simple: God says so! God the Creator has done man the great honor of creating him alone in His image, unlike animals, and thus questions of this nature are easily answered. Because God created life—and because we are ultimately answerable to Him for what we do with it—we define the word “should” from the standpoint of God’s self-revelation.

The Singers, Saletans, and Levines help us to understand that we have no basis for human society apart from an understanding of our unique position as the prime centerpiece of God’s creation. They push the limits, leading us further down the natural path which begins with jettisoning God. Their thoughts are reasonable given their presuppositions and, hold onto your hats, do not yet represent the furthest ends of the natural conclusions one would draw if naturalistic thinking is adopted to explain our existence. Secular man now accepts as commonplace assumptions which a generation ago would have been thought “kooky” (that animals have “rights”—instead of protections—being one fine example). Will we accept pedophilia and bestiality in years to come? Without being able to clearly say the word “should”, these writers and their secularist counterparts almost certainly only point us toward that “brave new world” to come—but I am pretty certain it is not a world any of us really want to live in.

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