The Spice of Immorality

Posted: December 10, 2007 in Ethics, Religion

Something to consider from John Gray’s book Straw Dogs:

A sense of guilt may add spice to otherwise unremarkable vices. There are undoubtedly those who have converted to Christianity because they seek an excitement that mere pleasure can no longer supply. Think of Graham Greene, who used the sense of sin he acquired through converting to Catholicism as an aphrodisiac. Morality has hardly made us better people; but it has certainly enriched our vices.

Post-Christians deny themselves the pleasures of guilt. They blush at using a queasy conscience to flavour their stale pleasures. As a result, they are notably lacking in joie de vivre. Among those who have once been Christians, pleasure can be intense only if it is mixed with the sensation of acting immorally.

I guess “post-Christians” are those who used to be believers. I don’t know if I am one of those, since my childhood Catholicism wasn’t at all a choice for me. Either post-Christian, non-Christian, or nonbeliever, I think Gray may be onto something above. I’m reminded of the familiarity I felt watching the movie The Breakfast Club when, sneaking through the school corridors, the bad boy said to all the others serving detention, “It’s good to be bad.” The thrill of getting away with something does indeed beat out the pious rectitude of refraining. That’s why all those ways we circumvented our parents’ controls those (often many) years ago in adolescence were so sweet. That, and the hormones.

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Comments
  1. grasshopperkm says:

    In one state of mind, opposites eventually converge.

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