Dr. Moreau & Why Christianity is Different
I’ve been asked, “What makes Christianity different than any other religion?”
Answer: it addresses a fundamental problem of human nature in a way superior to all other religions.
The problem in question is ontological — can we overcome our natural inclinations through sheer willpower alone? Can we train away our very selves? Or, put another way, can nurture overcome our nature?
It would seem that science fiction writer H.G. Wells would say no. He confronts the question of conditioning overcoming nature in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Here, the marooned biologist Edward Prendick encounters a strange world of hybridized animals, created by Moreau through vivisection. The animals are cut apart and sewn back together in roughly humanoid shapes. Some are single animals, others combine parts from several animals. The animals are given artificial hormones to stimulate cerebral development.
Moreau trains these animals to act human. They band together in a loose society that worships Moreau as a god. Moreau has a grayish blind humanoid creature called the Sayer of the Law that recites Moreau’s commandments: Do not walk on all fours, do not suck the drink, do not stalk your brothers, and so on.
In other words, fight all of your natural inclinations and act like a human.
But that’s all these Beast Men (as Prendick calls them) do — they act human. They are not human. Moreau is careful to explain that these aren’t human-animal hybrids; they are 100% animal. Moreau knew that conditioning wasn’t enough to overcome the essential bestial nature of his creations, so he devised a divine law and set up a cleric to instruct people in it.
This is the Karl Marx function of religion, the “opiate of the masses.”
The problem is that you can dress an animal like a human (as many dog owners do with small dogs) or you can train an animal to act human, but you can’t remove or bypass the component of its nature that differentiates it from humans. Put another way, you can’t give it the soul that makes humans the Bearers of God’s Image.
Now, isn’t this what religion does for us? Vice comes more naturally than virtue. It’s easier to sleep around or indulge in porn than to save yourself for marriage. It’s easier to abort the inconvenient baby than to think he or she would grow up with strangers, plus it saves you nine months of pain and a harrowing 36+ hours of labor.
That isn’t to say that we are all evil, all the time. Or even that individuals don’t do the right things in spite of instinct some of the time. But the fact is that our instincts remain and religion has us fight those instincts for an intangible reward, or to avoid torment.
When a Beast Man breaks Moreau’s Law, Moreau publicly kills the offender and parades the remains about, telling everyone that this is the penalty for breaking the Law. The animals universally fear the operating room on the island, which Moreau designates his “House of Pain.” He will sometimes threaten particularly egregious lawbreakers with another trip to the House of Pain.
Isn’t there a set of rules in Christianity that we must follow in order to earn God’s favor and avoid hell? How is Christianity different than Moreau’s “divine” control over his creations?
Christianity promises something that other religions have no solutions for; that Moreau didn’t even consider a problem:
But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:11-17)
That’s right: We no longer have our old natures. We have a new nature, one that is molded after Christ and that comes directly from God. Christianity, therefore, isn’t about memorizing this rule or that, or about suppressing our nature to act outwardly better with no discernible inward change (a hypocrite). In Christianity, God’s own Spirit indwells us and empowers us; we become a new creation and our essential nature is now one that is pleasing to God.
At the end of The Island of Dr. Moreau, Moreau is killed during an insurrection of the island’s inhabitants and the House of Pain destroyed. Predictably, with no god and no hell, the Beast Men revert back to their animal natures quickly.
This would be true of other religions — remove the structure of authority and the people revert back to their old natures. This is largely happening right now in the United States as the Church loses her influence in public policy, and this has already happened in much of Europe.
Those who have sincerely found God in the person of Jesus Christ, however, don’t revert back to their sin natures. Indeed, they won’t; for God has forever altered their being into one more like Christ:
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 Jn 1:6-2:6)
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 Jn 5:18)