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The Daily Logos III

“The ramifications of this remarkable heresy are too remote and various to follow.  But the central and invariable part of it is the principle of insisting on the sameness of everything, to avoid the bother of noting the characteristics of anything.  For instance, there is a true doctrine of the brotherhood of men–or, as I prefer to put it (with the motive of causing annoyance)–the equality of men.  But, properly understood, that doctrine is itself a distinction; it consists in distinguishing the human soul in spite of many disguises–like recognising a King in many ragged masquerades.  But many modern people assume that all men are brothers, on the principle that all cats are grey in the dark, and that therefore (as they argue) there is no difference between a tabby cat and a tiger.  And it may be noted that these people always break down in their idea of the brotherhood when the argument passes beyond the brotherhood itself.  They profess themselves quite unable to distinguish a man from anything else, whether from an ape or an angel.  They will never admit that we owe anything to men that we do not also owe to monkeys, or possibly to microbes.  Consequently, their concessions and amiable sentiments are somewhat lacking in substance and point.  For a man may often be highly dissatisfied by being told that nothing will be done for him, except what is already done for a microbe.  It is often discouraging to be told that there shall be no revolution for the rights of men until there is revolution for the rights of microbes; or that it is only what microbes have done that men can be called upon to do.  Nor is it necessary, of course, to take so extreme a case, for all human claims are perceptible lowered when they are leveled with any non-human claims.  The commonsense of the thing, of course, is that we owe one sort of duty to men and quite another to monkeys or other animals.  But when we say that, a third kind of duty immediately presents itself, and that is exactly the sort of intellectual duty which is specially repugnant to these intellectuals.  It is the duty of making a distinction.

“In short, to say that behind all races, and even behind all religions, there is a great human unity is one thing, and is quite true.  To say that race does not differ from race, and even more to say that religion does not differ from religion, is quite another, and is quite false.  But while this attitude is much more false than the other, it is also much more easy.  A man can merely broaden his mind instead of making up his mind.  A unity is an indefinite thing in the imagination of most people; they think of a vast vague cloud, when they do not only think of a vast vague blur.  But a difference is a definite thing; and if a man says that two things are different, he must be prepared to consider in what they differ.  In the case of races, or of the more definite and real things called nations, this will lead him into all the puzzling problems and quarrels of political history, all the curious things for which men fight and die and defy torture.  And the differences between different religions will be still more strenuous as a branch of study.  They will bring back the old worry called theology, which involves a still older worry called thought.  They will require him to examine doctrines, even in order to disagree with them.  How much easier it is to say that it is all much of a muchness, and pretty much the same in the long run!”
-G.K. Chesterton, “The Effort of Distinction,” The Illustrated London News January 6th, 1923

Not much commentary is required here; Chesterton quite aptly pins the tail on the donkey – which is to say that the universal ecumenicist who insists that all religions are equally salvific is most certainly a jackass.

Categories: General
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