Friday, January 27, 2017

"In free competition, how can a faith based upon self-restraint and patience compete with one that pardons, unconditionally and in advance, all the self-indulgences you can think of, and some you cannot?"

Okay, let's get through the article at First Things entitled The Fantasy of Addiction by Peter Hitchens. He writes, ...
Actions once punished or scorned are sympathetically treated as if they arose from diseases rather than choices. Persons repeatedly caught in possession of illegal drugs (a crime that in theory attracts a prison sentence of several years) are not punished according to law, but supplied by the authorities with clean needles, put into the care of doctors, and, in some jurisdictions, given free substitute drugs at the expense of the taxpayer.

...Supposed “addicts” can and do give up their supposed addictions. It is not only smokers who do this. I also know several formerly very heavy drinkers who have done it, generally because of fears for their health or their professional standing. Even heroin abusers, and gamblers, can and do just stop. Reason has overcome desire. In which case the whole idea of “addiction,” as a power greater than will, is overthrown.

...Scan the drug abuser’s brain as you will, you will not be able to demonstrate that any part of it has forced him to take his drug of choice, or is stopping him from giving it up. Recently the psychologist and former “addict” Marc Lewis attacked this scientistic determinism in a book The Biology of Desire. Yes, the brain of the drug user changes physically and observably (so, it might be noted, does the brain of the London taxi-driver who must learn by heart the streets of London before being given his license). But this is the sign of an organ adapting to conditions, not a disease. The same brain can go on to adapt to a life without the drug involved, or a life without taxi-driving.

...The belief is implanted in the modern mind, taught to the young not by explanation, experiment, and example but by being repeatedly and universally assumed. First of all, it is conventional wisdom, built into thousands of sentences, newspaper articles, TV and radio programs, sermons, speeches, and private conversations. Secondly, it is what we desire. Which of us, indulging in some pleasure, is not secretly relieved to find that others are weaker than we are, have nastier and more selfish pleasures, and that these things are generally excused because of a vast, universal thing that we cannot control or influence? Indulgence, like misery, seeks company for reassurance. Unlike misery, it generally finds that company. Beliefs spread in this way cannot really be challenged. Jonathan Swift rightly observed that you cannot reason a man out of a position he was not reasoned into in the first place.

...It was the triumph of the Christian religion that for many centuries it managed to become the unreasoning assumption of almost all, built into every spoken and written word, every song, and every building. It was the disaster of the Christian religion that it assumed this triumph would last forever and outlast everything, and so it was ill equipped to resist the challenge of a rival when it came, in this, the century of the self. The Christian religion had no idea that a new power, which I call selfism, would arise. And, having arisen, selfism has easily shouldered its rival aside. In free competition, how can a faith based upon self-restraint and patience compete with one that pardons, unconditionally and in advance, all the self-indulgences you can think of, and some you cannot? That is what the “addiction” argument is most fundamentally about, and why it is especially distressing to hear Christian voices accepting and promoting it, as if it were merciful to call a man a slave, and treat him as if he had no power to resist. The mass abandonment of cigarettes by a generation of educated people demonstrates that, given responsibility for their actions and blamed for their outcomes, huge numbers of people will give up a bad habit even if it is difficult. Where we have adopted the opposite attitude, and assured abusers that they are not answerable for their actions, we have seen other bad habits grow or remain as common as before. Heroin abuse has not been defeated, the abuse of prescription drugs grows all the time, and heavy drinking is a sad and spreading problem in Britain.

Most of the people who read what I have written here, if they even get to the end, will be angry with me for expressing their own secret doubts, one of the cruelest things you can do to any fellow creature. For we all prefer the easy, comforting falsehood to the awkward truth. But at the same time, we all know exactly what we are doing, and seek with ever-greater zeal to conceal it from ourselves. Has it not been so since the beginning? And has not the greatest danger always been that those charged with the duty of preaching the steep and rugged pathway persuade themselves that weakness is compassion, and that sin can be cured at a clinic, or soothed with a pill? And so falsehood flourishes in great power, like the green bay tree.
Read more here.

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