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More adventurous than the average bear

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

GK Chesterton on False Demons (and Smoking)

"He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld


"A fairly large majority consume it so that one may roughly form the opinion that they would be better in health if they smoked less, just as one forms the opinion that they would be better if they took a shade more exercise or ate a shade less meat. A mere dot on the map of this minority is a very small minority of people who are so constituted that they should not smoke at all; and a smaller dot marking a yet tinier minority who actually induce illness by smoking. Those are about the proportions of peril in the thing. It is about as dangerous as sitting in a draught. It is about as questionable as eating pork. If a policeman can take away my cigarette, there cannot be the slightest rational objection, on a warm day, to his taking away my overcoat. In wet weather he might change my boots for me violently in the street, or suddenly garrott me with a muffler. The thing is a typical mild human indulgence, enjoyed by most people and over-enjoyed by a few people, a thing like scent or sweetmeats. Realize that the reality which we all know it to be, and then measure that mad abyss of disproportion, on the other side of which are the eight States holding up their streets with policemen and treating every man who is carrying a cigarette as if he were carrying a bomb. Thus all our cranks of culture are leading us back (or onward) into barbarism. For the essence of barbarism is idolatry; that is the worship of something other than the best reason and justice of the Universe. Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice. The Moslems say, 'There is no God but God.' The English Moslems, the abstainers, have to learn to remember also that there is no Satan but Satan"

--- GK Chesterton
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