DLS MoM I
From Dorothy L, Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, “I. The ‘Laws’ of Nature and Opinion”
The moral code depends for its validity upon a consensus of human opinion about what man’s nature really is, and what it ought to be, when freed from . . . self-contradiction and enabled to run true to itself. If there is no agreement about these things, then it is useless to talk of enforcing the moral code. It is idle to complain that a society is infringing a moral code intended to make people behave like St. Francis of Assisi if the society retorts that it does not wish to behave like St. Francis, and considers it more natural and right to behave like the Emperor Caligula. When there is a genuine conflict of opinion, it is necessary to go behind the moral code and appeal to the natural law—to prove, that is, at the bar of experience, that St. Francis does in fact enjoy a freer truth to essential human nature than Caligula, and that a society of Caligulas is more likely to end in catastrophe than a society of Franciscans. . . .
The God of the Christians is too often looked upon as an old gentleman of irritable nerves who beats people for whistling. This is the result of a confusion between arbitrary “law” and the “laws” which are statements of fact. Breach of the first is “punished” by edict; but breach of the second, by judgment. . . .
We may hear a saying . . . a thousand times, and find in it nothing but mystification and unreason; the thousand-and-first time, it falls into our recollection pat upon some vital experience, and we suddenly know it to be a statement of inexorable fact. . . . The cursing of the barren fig-tree looks like an outburst of irrational bad temper, “for it was not yet the time of figs” till some desperate crisis confronts us with the challenge of that acted parable and we know that we must perform impossibilities or perish. . . .
The necessary condition for assessing the value of creeds is that we should fully understand that they claim to be, not idealistic fancies, not arbitrary codes, not abstractions irrelevant to human life and thought, but statements of fact about the universe as we know it. . . .