The Culture War rages all around us. One side in this war supports abortion and promotes homosexual marriage. They would lower the age of consent and make divorce as easy as changing your clothes. In fact, they have already succeeded in advancing their agenda in Europe and America. Once homosexual marriage is fully legitimized, pedophilia and euthanasia will be next. One might ask what underlying philosophy supports this agenda. Benjamin Wiker offers us the answer in his book, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists, published in 2002 by InterVarsity Press.
Wiker argues that Epicureanism is the philosophy behind modern nihilism, atheism and licentiousness. Unlike Christians, Epicurus did not believe in higher things. Though he did not deny the gods, he conceived of a universe that did not require gods, where human life was an accident of atomic combination. According to Epicurus, pleasure and sin do not exist; there are no rewards or punishments in the next life; death is nothing, and the meaning of life is a matter of pleasure, and the greatest pleasure is the avoidance of pain.
Ancient Roman statesmen, like Cicero, saw the danger in the philosophy of Epicurus. If the object of life was the avoidance of pain, what would become of heroism and the proud life of the Roman soldier? What would become of civic courage among senators? What would become of social order itself? If each man sought to avoid pain, none would fight for his country. None would speak truth to power. Nothing noble would be possible. In fact, ancient Greece was ruined by Epicurean thinking in the second century B.C. According to the ancient historian Polybius, the Greeks stopped having children and began living for themselves. The wisest Romans, seeing the dangers of Epicurus firsthand, turned to stoicism. But stoicism was a temporary stopgap.
As Wiker points out, Christianity has been the most effective opponent of Epicureanism since the fourth century. In fact, Christianity defeated Epicurean ideas for nine centuries. But during the Renaissance Epicureanism was revived, and has been gaining ground ever since. First the Epicureans attacked and defeated Aristotle, who had written proofs of the existence of an unmoved mover (creator) and about the built-in purpose of man and nature. Once Aristotle’s metaphysics had been ridiculed and set aside, Newtonian materialism came along and gradually began displacing Christianity itself.
“When modernity embraced Epicurean materialism,” wrote Wiker, “it not only became anti-Aristotelian philosophically” but embraced a degraded humanity as “mere epiphenomena of matter in motion.” This prepared mankind for Darwinism, the greatest indignity of all, where man is merely an accidental animal without a creator or purpose. The only sensible way to live, therefore, is for pleasure – or the greatest pleasure (which Epicurus said was the avoidance of pain). Given all this, it is no coincidence that America is overrun by sensualists, atheists and civic cowards, who see nothing wrong with abortion, infanticide, or homosexuality.
Wiker’s book is important for Christians, especially for understanding the root beliefs that have created the social demoralization we see today. Moral Darwinism can be purchased on Amazon.com and is 321 pages.