C. S. Lewis once remarked, “No one knows how bad he is until he has truly tried to be good.”
- The most basic level is the aesthetic stage, in which life is lived selfishly for the pleasure it affords. Life so lived ultimately issues in boredom and ennui.
- The next higher plane is the ethical stage, in which one lives according to strict moral standards. But this life results ultimately in despair because one cannot live up to the standard of the moral good.
- Only on the highest plane, the religious stage, is authentic existence truly to be found. Kierkegaard rightly saw that it is the failure of the ethical life that propels one to the religious plane.”
Does government without God lead to despair? Are people becoming desperate?
There are signs that individuals are acting out across America and around the world. The headlines are filled with efforts by politicians trying to impose strict ethical standards on people who live their lives based upon selfish pleasures. Is government hindering, and in some cases blocking, citizens from moving beyond the aesthetic and ethical stages to the religious plane?
After debating the existence of God with Louise Anthony, Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Craig wrote, “Anthony confessed that one of the drawbacks of the atheism she had come to embrace is that under atheism there is no redemption. Think of that! One’s sin and guilt are truly indelible. Nothing can undo what has been done and restore your innocence. But the Christian message is a message of redemption.”
Are there some in our government who believe that those who cling to their religion as somehow less worthy?
Craig writes, “Today so many people think of right and wrong, not as matters of fact, but as matters of taste.”
Craig quotes American Philosopher Richard Taylor, author of Ethics, Faith, and Reason , who wrote, “The idea of . . . moral obligation is clear enough, provided that reference to some lawmaker higher . . . than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can . . . be understood as those that are imposed by God. . . . But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of a moral obligation . . . still make sense?“
Taylor goes on to say:
“The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, without noticing that in casting God aside they have also abolished the meaningfulness of right and wrong as well.“
This is the basis of the great debate taking place in America, Europe, the Middle East and across the globe. Are we seeing the failure of the ethical life? What is the next stage: the aesthetic or religious? Do we evolve or devolve?