Happiness: A prereq credential for judging religion

Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is growing on me after digesting it several times in the past few years.

Some sections of it are just OK but a few of the chapters are absolutely marvelous. I’m beginning to think the section titled “The Paradoxes of Christianity” is possibly the best thing I’ve EVER read anywhere.

This excerpt isn’t even close to the best stuff in there. It just happens to be what I’ve thinking about today.

I rolled on my tongue with a terrible joy, as did all young men of that time, the taunts which Swinburne hurled at the dreariness of the creed —

“Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean, the world has grown gray with Thy breath.”

But when I read the same poet’s accounts of paganism (as in “Atalanta”), I gathered that the world was, if possible, more gray before the Galilean breathed on it than afterwards. The poet maintained, indeed, in the abstract, that life itself was pitch dark. And yet, somehow, Christianity had darkened it. The very man who denounced Christianity for pessimism was himself a pessimist. I thought there must be something wrong. And it did for one wild moment cross my mind that, perhaps, those might not be the very best judges of the relation of religion to happiness who, by their own account, had neither one nor the other.

-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, The Paradoxes of Christianity