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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/829

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THE MORALITY OF HAPPINESS.

now, that hereafter we may avoid much greater pains or enjoy much greater pleasures than here and now we could possibly experience.

Yet underlying this doctrine of greater and longer-lasting happiness as the result of temporary suffering or privation, there has been and is in many so-called religions the doctrine that pain and suffering are pleasing to the gods of inferior creeds and even to the Supreme Power of higher beliefs. The offerings made systematically by some races to their deities imply obviously the belief that the gods are pleased when men deprive themselves of something more or less valued. Sacrifices involving slaughter, whether of domestic animals or of human beings, mean more, for they imply that suffering and death are essentially pleasing to Deity. Even when such gross ideas are removed and religion has been purified, the symbolization of sacrifice in most cases takes the place of sacrifice itself. The conception may and often does remain as an actually vital part of religious doctrine that pleasure is offensive to the Supreme Power and pain pleasing.

If this conception is really recognized, and any men definitely hold that to enjoy or to give pleasure is sinful, because displeasing to God, while the suffering or infliction of pain is commendable, then for them—but for them only—the doctrine is not established that conduct is good or bad according as its total effects are pleasurable or painful. But if there are such men, then they are mentally and morally the direct descendants of the savage of most brutal type, who, because he himself delights to inflict pain, deems his gods to be of kindred nature and immolates victims to them (or, if necessary to gain his ends, shows the reality of his belief by self-torture) to obtain their assistance against his enemies.

If there are such men among us still, then, as Mr. Herbert Spencer says, "we can only recognize the fact that devil-worshipers are not yet extinct." The generality of our conclusions is no more affected by such exceptions as these than it is by the ideas which prevail in Bedlam or Earlswood.

But on the one hand the doctrine thus reached may be passed over as a truism (which it ought to be and indeed is, though, like many truisms, unrecognized); and on the other it may be scouted as Epicurean (which is unmeaning nonsense, however) and as mere pig-philosophy. For it sets happiness as the aim of conduct, and, whether self-happiness or the happiness of others is in question, many find in the mere idea of pleasure as a motive for conduct something unworthy—thereby unconsciously adopting the religious doctrine which has been justly compared with devil-worship.

This expression—Pig-philosophy—has indeed been applied to the doctrine we are considering, by a philosopher who, with Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Matthew Arnold, may be regarded as chief among the wonders of our age—and standing proof of the charm which the British race finds in Constant Grunt, Continual Growl, and Chronic Groan.