Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It (Part 1 of 7)

by | Sep 15, 2005

If you want to live your life to the fullest, if you want to achieve the greatest happiness possible, this book is for you. It is about the essential means to that end: a proper code of values–a proper morality. Contrary to popular myth, morality does not come from God; it is not a matter […]

If you want to live your life to the fullest, if you want to achieve the greatest happiness possible, this book is for you. It is about the essential means to that end: a proper code of values–a proper morality.

Contrary to popular myth, morality does not come from God; it is not a matter of divine revelation. Nor is it a matter of social convention or personal opinion. Being moral does not consist in obeying commandments, or in doing whatever is culturally accepted, or in doing whatever one wants to do. The rabbis, the priests, the relativists, and the subjectivists are wrong. Morality is not a matter of faith or conformity or feelings.

True morality is a matter of the factual requirements of human life and happiness. It is a matter of reason, logic, and the law of cause and effect. As such, it is an indispensable guide to living well and loving life. This is demonstrated in the pages ahead.

— Craig Biddle

Adapted from Chapter 1 of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It by Craig Biddle.

“If there is no God, anything goes.” This popular claim is an eloquent distillation of a deep-rooted false alternative wreaking havoc on human life and happiness. The adage compresses into a few words the age-old debate over whether morality is a matter of “divine commandments” or “human sentiments.” Whatever their disagreements, both sides of this argument accept the idea that your basic moral choice is to be guided either by faith or by feelings. In other words, both sides agree that your choice is: religion or subjectivism. But if you want to live and enjoy life, neither of these will do. Neither religion nor subjectivism provides proper guidance for human action; each calls for human sacrifice and leads to human suffering–both physical and spiritual. To see why, we will look first at the theoretical essence of each of these doctrines; then we will turn to the practical consequences–historical and personal–of accepting them.

Let us begin with religion.

Religion holds that there is a God who demands your faith and obedience. He is said to be an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being who is the creator of the universe, the source of all truth, and the maker of moral law. Religion’s basic moral tenet is: Don’t place your self, your personal values, your own interests, your will, above those of God. Rather, you should live to glorify Him, to obey His commands, to fulfill His higher purpose. To do otherwise–to act on behalf of your own selfish concerns as if your life were an end in itself–is to “sin.” As the religious scholar Reverend John Stott declares: “God’s order is that we put him first, others next, self last. Sin is the reversal of the order.”[1]

According to religion, being moral consists not in pursuing your own interests, but in self-sacrificially serving God. Theologian and rabbi Abraham Heschel expresses this tenet as follows: “The essence and greatness of man do not lie in his ability to please his ego, to satisfy his needs, but rather in his ability to stand above his ego, to ignore his own needs; to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of the holy.”[2]

Now, you might argue that to ignore your own needs and sacrifice your own interests is contrary to the requirements of your life and happiness. But according to religion, that is no ground for complaint, because, as theologian Walter Kaiser puts it: “God has the right to require human sacrifice.”[3]

Disturbed by such an assertion, you might ask: What about God’s love for man? If God loves us, why would he call for us to sacrifice? To which Dr. Stott answers: “Self-sacrifice is what the Bible means by

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Craig Biddle is the editor and publisher of The Objective Standard and the author of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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