Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“To thine own self be true.” —William Shakespeare, Hamlet
WHILE THERE ARE SOME IN OUR CULTURE who will deny the soul, there are others who will at least admit that human beings have a “higher self.” This self, they insist, is not identical with the soul, nor does it follow the dictates of traditional morality or an external moral code. Rather, this is a self that forges a morality all its own. This morality, however, is no less binding for its adherents than traditional morality is for religious believers. What we have here is not a denial of morality, as many religious people suspect. Nor do we have a slide from morality. Rather, we have before us a new morality that may be called liberal morality or secular morality.
This secular morality has already overtaken much of Europe, Canada, and Australia, and it has made impressive headway in the United States. It is now being exported to other cultures, where it is gaining recruits—especially among young people. While traditional morality held sway in the past, secular morality has staked its claim as the ethic of the future. The “culture wars” in America, involving issues like abortion, divorce, and homosexual marriage, can be largely understood as a clash between traditional morality and secular morality.
Traditional morality is based on the idea that there is a moral order in the universe that is external to us and makes claims on us. In ancient times this moral order was believed inherent in nature itself. Shakespeare conveys this in Macbeth: on the Tuesday beforeDuncan’s murder his horses turn wild in the night, “contending against obedience” and almost seeking to “make war with mankind:’ The night of the murder is disturbed by “lamenting heard in the air, strange screams of death,” and the sky remains dark long after the day should have begun. Similarly in Julius Caesar, the night preceding Caesar’s death is convulsed by reports of frightful horrors of nature. In the Shakespearean universe, the physical order itself is disrupted prior to some terrible moral crime.
Today we no longer make a direct link between the natural world and the moral realm. We don’t see the order in the cosmos as related to the order in the soul. Such a link lives only in fairy tales, where good and evil come embodied in witches, spying ravens, poisoned apples, fairy godmothers, and princes named “Charming.” The great scientific habit of mind has made it impossible for us to take such ideas seriously as descriptions of the real world. But the idea of an eternal moral order has persisted. It remains a powerful idea in Western culture, and it is the predominant code of morality for the rest of the world.
Traditional morality is objective morality. It is based on the idea that certain things are right or wrong no matter who says differently. In various religions, traditional morality is contained in some form of a written code. The best example is the Ten Commandments, the most famous list of dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts) in history. God is usually considered the author of traditional morality. In living up to His edicts, we are presenting ourselves to Him for His favor. This is important because everyone knows that good people sometimes come to grief while bad people flourish. God’s role in traditional morality is to guarantee that, in the next life, these injustices will be corrected and everyone will get his “just deserts.”