As I’ve watched the continuing decline of American culture and the rise of progressivism, I have searched for words to describe this transfer of culture. I’ve pinned the blame on selfish individualism, political correctness, secular humanism and progressivism on the left and right.
One author calls it “utilitarian hedonism.” Utilitarian meaning that life is about maximizing personal pleasure and reducing personal pain. Hedonism meaning that pleasure is the only intrinsic human good. Combined it describes a political philosophy wherein “the pursuit of happiness” is debased as the pursuit of pleasure. Don’t do or say anything that gives me discomfort – let me do what I want to do.
This guy’s on to something. He describes a new American religion. He writes that this new faith “tries to make respectable the old disparaging slogan ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.’” He writes that the “lowest common denominator” of this new faith “boils down to this: suffering is worse than being happy, and being alive is better than being dead – except if it means that you will suffer.”
He says, “It’s the only rational way to explain to your grandmother how it is that gay marriage is now legal in most places where cigarette smoking isn’t, and why states that shrug at sadistic pornography grimly insist upon seat belts.”
Inside this temple of progressive worship, those who disagree cause unnecessary pain and are justifiably demonized. The author correctly observes, “When we object to their bacchanalian sex parties and chic lesbian weddings, we don’t merely come across as people who disagree about the structure of human happiness. No, we are against human happiness. We don’t want people to live long, have fun, and die happy. We want to jump them through meaningless flaming hoops rigged up by dead white males a thousand years ago, merely because we are cruel. Or because we want to cling to cultural power. Or hold back women’s progress…We are the kind of people whose speech, by its very essence, is always hate speech – because we … want to ruin people’s lives.”
I can tell you from experience that modern progressives often view conservatives and traditional Americans in this manner. They ask us, “Why be so mean?” “Why can’t you let other people be happy?”
The answer, of course, is that killing unborn babies is mean. Secular humanism leads to totalitarianism. Selfish individualism harms the common good. The idea of doing what you want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else is intellectually immature. And things such as heroin, marijuana, pornography, prostitution and other pleasure-filled “victimless crimes” actually diminish quality of life – and all of these things that the new faith describes as happiness is not only a prescription for unhappiness, they destroy freedom (and that harms other people).
Call it what we may – utilitarian hedonism or something else. But not only do we live in a day and age when evil is called good and good evil, our times will increasingly punish anyone who disagrees with this perversion of reason.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.
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