Old utopians may die, but utopianism never does fade away. While speaking at a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Warsaw on Monday, Nobel Laureate and former Polish president Lech Walesa added Modern-day Moses of Magog to his résumé, advocating a “secular Ten Commandments” as a basis for universal values. Said Walesa, “We need to agree on common values for all religions as soon as possible, a kind of secular Ten Commandments on which we will build the world of tomorrow,” reports France 24.
Ah, “build the world of tomorrow.” Somehow that reminds me of WWI being “the war to end all wars” or, to cite intended fiction, the paternalistic android in an old Star Trek episode that summed up his purpose in dominating man by saying, “And you will be happy … and controlled.” Captain Kirk was not amused.
And nor should we be with Walesa. Oh, I’m sure he means well. After all, one can see how a good person living in an ever-shrinking world — with weapons of mass destruction deliverable in minutes — would seek a unity that prevents conflict. But some cures are worse than the disease.
First, what would “common values” be? Christians, Muslims, and atheists (as a group) simply don’t agree on certain basic matters. And since life isn’t as simple as just singing Kumbaya and living happily ever after, we have to wonder how these “common values” would be adopted by the common man and, in particular, even common religionists. History has shown that even the best evangelistic sales pitches fail to convince large swaths of humanity. So would the common-values commissars be left with the Muslim jihadist tactic of conversion by the sword? Achieving universality that way could take a mighty big government.
If by “common values” Walesa means the things most people happen to agree upon at the moment, he misunderstands the very nature and purpose of religion and, in fact, of the pursuit of morality. Sincere people of faith don’t choose their moral principles by committee. Eternal doctrines and ephemeral democratic will are not synonymous.
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