We want to raise the level of our personal lives, bringing conscience into harmony with the way we live. Christianity gives us a reason to follow this interior guide; it is not simply our innermost desire but the voice of God speaking through us. We want to be good because virtue is God’s stamp in our hearts, and one way we relate to Him is by following His ways. As Thomas More said, in the final analysis we are good not because we have to be but because we want to be. Seemingly incorrigible criminals, alcoholics, and drug addicts have reformed their lives by becoming Christians. Earlier in this book I quoted Steven Weinberg’s claim that “for good people to do bad things—that takes religion.” Actually, the exact opposite is true: for bad people to do good things—that takes religion.
Ultimately we are called not only to happiness and goodness but also to holiness. Christ says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God:’ What counts for God is not only our external conduct but also our inward disposition. Holiness does not mean merely performing the obligatory rituals on the out- side; it means staying pure on the inside. Yet holiness is not something we do for God. It issomething we do with God. We couldn’t do it without Him. In order for us to be more like Christ, we need Christ within us. In the words of that disheveled prophet John the Baptist, standing waist-deep in the river, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Paul says the same thing in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” This is Christ’s countercultural challenge to us. In a society based on self-fulfillment and self- esteem, on looking after yourself and advancing yourself, Christ calls us to a heroic task of self-emptying. He must increase and we must decrease. This we do by allowing his empire an ever greater domain in our hearts. Goodness and happiness flow from this.