The Fantasy of Addiction

Peter Hitchens, writing on the “Fantasy of Addiction” in the February issue of First Things:

But it makes little difference. 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 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.



from Kevin DeYoung Posts – The Gospel Coalition http://ift.tt/2CVXdiW
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