Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Moral Pills

I was reading some thoughts about a morality pill. I guess in a culture that has a pill for every ill why not take one for immorality? But immorality is not like a disease. It is a lack of virtue. The 4 cardinal virtues are justice, wisdom, courage, and self control. Can a pill give you those? Then you have the 3 theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. They can only be a gift of God. So good luck putting that in a pill.

The trouble is people think about morality as a series of "thou shalt not" commands. Those are important. They are like land mines. We need to know where they are because they can hurt us. But the goal of a soldier is not just to avoid land mines. His goal is to win the battle. That means initiating action and not just avoiding something. Morality is like that. We need to be initiators. They say the greatest sins we commit are the sins of omission. The pill model completely breaks down on those.

In fact, a pill gives you what atheists claim is wrong with religion. That is it turns you into a unthinking robot that just does whatever he is told. That is not my experience of religion but you hear that a lot. Atheists call themselves free thinkers. So why take a pill to control your thoughts? What we need is access to the goodness that is higher than us but still complete freedom to choose good. We don't want good forced upon us. That would be beneath our dignity as human persons. This is precisely what Jesus gives you. He gives you the grace to do good and avoid evil but leaves your mind free and your actions free. You have to choose it every day. Either the road that leads to the cross and to the resurrection and to glory or the wide road that pursues the pleasures of the flesh and leads to destruction. But we have to choose. No pills. Just the truth of the gospel to help you decide.

The other assumption I felt coming from this analysis was that morality is something you want for others but not really for yourself. You are willing to be moral because if you were not then others would not be moral back. So it is a back scratching thing. Again, that is not what Christian morality is about. If it is then Jesus did it wrong. He ended up crucified. He did good not because He could benefit from some societal goodness He had contributed to. He did good because goodness is an end in itself. God is the ground of all goodness so to pursue good is to pursue God.

Ultimate goodness is relationship with God. Again, not something you find in a pill. The Eucharist might be thought of as such a pill but even that does not fit. Jesus is present in the Eucharist but we are still free. We need to partake while free from mortal sin. We need to cooperate with that grace every step of the way.

That is the problem for everyone trying offer humanity some form of salvation. How do you preserve free choice? Communism is a good example. Their planned society could tackle any question except the question of whether or not a planned society was a good idea. It had to impose itself on people in order to work. But people resist. No matter how good an idea it seems to be there will be some who don't like it. The pill would have this issue. What do you do with the anti-pill people? Do you force them?

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