Friday, May 7, 2010


When I was growing up headlines told us that we could not legislate morality in the good ol’ USA. The 1960’s and 70’s brought us free sex and magazines that detailed multiple ways to indulge. The human body was extolled and its abilities to be pleasured were explored. Laws designed to encourage morality ceased to exist.

In the intervening forty-something years, we’ve learned that morality can be legislated, or at least taxed. Over- (and sometimes just) indulgence has been legislated from federal government down to the township level.

Smoking was determined to be bad for one’s body. Smoking is either outlawed or excessively taxed. Alcohol causes lack of control, property and personal damages. Outlawing didn’t work the first time around, so taxation is used. Prostitution has multiple damaging results, outlawed in some places, participants are till required to obtain physical exams and in some places certified and taxed.

A case in point, from
MSNBC. Unable to reach into homes and control input, legislation reaches our children through schools. Twenty-seven percent. Do we need 100% of our young people between 17 and 24 serving in our military? What were the percentages ten, fifteen, twenty years ago?

Or, is this just for our own good, legislating morality. Aren’t there many other ‘for our own good’ things besides gluttony? Would the list include the other ‘deadly’ sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, and envy.

Greed is being addressed in the new financial legislation. So, in some instances the USA will legislate morality. Personal pleasures versus the pain of consequences.

This is not new. In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), Jeremy Bentham states: "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do."

So, “if it feels good, do it” and that is the root of hedonism. Solomon wrote about indulgence.

I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. [Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 KJV]

James wrote against it.

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. [James 4:1-2 KJV]

And gave an alternative.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. [James 4:7-8 KJV]

Quite similar to Solomon’s conclusion.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. [Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV]

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