Saturday, January 10, 2009

We Have No Right to Happiness

I recall a discussion I had two years ago with a good friend of mine from high school. Since I come from a conservative evangelical background and he from a more liberal and atheist family we would disagree on almost every subject that would surface in our discussions.  One particular day we discussed the prospect of sexual relations before marriage.  I, of course, argued the biblical perspective that marriage is a sacred thing to be kept between a husband and wife.  I said the bible states that we should not commit adultery in the Ten Commandments and that fornication is mentioned to be wrong in a myriad of places.   This being an oversimplification of what I actually said.  He responded by asking why we can’t act upon impulses instilled naturally to us as long as they are not damaging to others.  I returned his statement with a twofold argument.  First, I argued that a sexual relationship does hurt others when outside of marriage because it causes two people to open each other up in ways not meant to happen without a special commitment required in marriage.  Second, I said that just because the impulses are natural doesn’t necessarily mean they are good because we are fallen creatures with evil desires.  Now since these both relied on the Bible in their reasoning I felt that I had failed in my argument.  My friend did not believe that the Bible was a book that could be taken seriously in an argument on ethics, as it was just a bunch of spiritual nonsense.

            Lewis’s logic, however, seems to make as much sense from a biblical perspective as it does from any other.  He argues that we have a Natural Law allowing us to have happiness given that it does not cause harm to others.  He focuses on the aspect that the absolute right to sexual happiness is not only damaging to individual people but also to society as a whole.  He writes that certain natural impulses such as murder, rape, robbery, treason, and fraud are obviously damaging to society and thus must be illegalized. In this way, certain people must be limited in their right to happiness.  He goes further by comparing the argument that humans have an absolute right to happiness when it comes to multiple sexual partners or marriages to stealing fruit.  He writes:  “It’s like having a morality in which stealing fruit is considered wrong – unless you steal nectarines.”  As a society we obviously cannot allow certain peoples impulses to be fulfilled for the sake of their happiness because often those impulses are incredibly damaging.   By allowing absolute sexual freedom we are creating an exception to an important rule which preserves society.  Lewis argues that creating exceptions such as these will lead to an eventual breakdown in society.  I failed in reasoning this to my friend two years ago, but Lewis effectively and logically argued the dangers of an absolute right to happiness.


  1. Dear Paul,

    You say that you failed with your friend in the argument, maybe… Only God knows what went through his mind and heart, what it did to your friend is His work... However, I can assure you that there is no failure in trying to convince somebody of what is right. Since in the process, the Holy Spirit also works in our hearts to strengthen our resolves to do what is right. Furthermore, I have seen in numerous occasions where an argument was defended and a phrase, sometimes not correlated at all to the argument (or only indirectly), was the one needed for the evening; it fell as a seed into soaked, fertile ground, it took root and brought forth much fruit towards righteousness.
    Be encouraged!
    Adriana & Paulo

  2. Although I do disagree with you, I have to agree that you did not fail in doing what you think is right. If I was this friend (do I know them? I probably do), I'd agree that you have to use something other than a Bible (which is why I agree that this wasn't the best of arguments), I do understand its importance in your life and the lives of many other people all over the world. And if one book can have such a profound impact on such a huge number of people, it's at least worth considering when it comes to morality. Now whether it's the final authority is a matter that we disagree on (obviously). :)