Church of Euthanasia

The One Commandment:
"Thou shalt not procreate"

The Four Pillars:
suicide · abortion
cannibalism · sodomy

Human Population:

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The Church of Euthanasia

e-sermon #12

Today's sermon will be delivered by the immortal Jacques Ellul, grandfather of the Situationists and author of The Technological Society. According to Ellul, "what characterizes technical action within a particular activity is the search for greater efficiency." Technique, as Ellul defines it, is truly the great weakness of the tool-wielding apes. In the words of Robert Merton, ours is "a civilization committed to the quest for continually improved means to carelessly examined ends. Indeed technique transforms ends into means...The Technical Man is fascinated by results, by the immediate consequences of setting standardized devices into motion." The glittering Spectacle feeds on this passive quality of fascination; in the Age of Absorption, we de-evolve into mere automatons, eyeballs with fingers. When every individual agrees that a single most efficient technique exists for every objective, and that these techniques can and should be arrived at, all is lost. How can we defeat the overwhelming logic of efficiency? Surely not with technique; we become what we resist. Only individual transformation can stem the tide; the spread of enlightenment becomes our greatest responsibility. John Wilkinson said of Ellul that "To him, to bear witness to the fact of the technological society is the most revolutionary of all acts." We share Ellul's profound conviction, as well as his hope, that humans may yet prove stronger than the powers they invoke. Dear brethren, I give you, Jacques Ellul:

The term technique, as I use it, does not mean machines, technology, or this or that procedure for attaining an end. In our technological society, technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.

It is said (and everyone agrees) that the machine has created an inhuman atmosphere. The machine, so characteristic of the nineteenth century, made an abrupt entrance into a society which, from the political, institutional, and human points of view, was not made to receive it; and man has had to put up with it as best he can. Men now live in conditions that are less than human. Consider the concentration of our great cities, the slums, the lack of space, of air, time, the gloomy streets and sallow lights that confuse night and day. Think of our dehumanized factories, our unsatisfied senses...our estrangement from nature. Life in such an environment has no meaning. Consider our public transportation, in which man is less important than a parcel; our hospitals, in which he is only a number. Yet we call this progress...

It must be emphasized that, at present, technique is applied outside industrial life. The growth of its power today has no relation to the growing use of the machine. The balance seems rather to have shifted to the other side. It is the machine which is now entirely dependent on technique, and the machine represents only a small part of technique. If we were to characterize the relations between technique and the machine today, we could say not only that the machine is the result of a certain technique, but also that its social and economic applications are made possible by other technical advances. The machine is now not even the most important aspect of technique (though it is perhaps the most Spectacular); technique has taken over all of man's activities, not just his productive activity.

From another point of view, however, the machine is deeply symptomatic: it represents the ideal toward which technique strives. The machine is solely, exclusively, technique; it is pure technique, one might say. For wherever a technical factor exists, it results, almost inevitably, in mechanization: technique transforms everything it touches into a machine.

It is an illusion--unfortunately very widespread--to think that because we have broken through the prohibitions, taboos, and rites that bound primitive man, we have become free. We are conditioned by something new: technological civilization. I make no reference to a past period of history in which men were allegedly free, happy, and independent. The determinisms of the past no longer concern us; they are finished and done with. If I do refer to the past, it is only to emphasize that present determinants did not exist in the past, and men did not have to grapple with them.

In my conception, freedom is not an immutable fact graven in nature and on the heart of man. It is not inherent in man or in society, and it is meaningless to write it into law. The mathematical, physical, biological, sociological, and psychological sciences reveal nothing but necessities and determinisms on all sides. As a matter of fact, reality is itself a combination of determinisms, and freedom consists in overcoming and transcending these determinisms. Freedom is completely without meaning unless it is related to necessity...We must not think of the problem in terms of a choice between being determined and being free. We must look at it dialectically, and say that man is indeed determined, but that it is open to him to overcome necessity, and that this act is freedom. Freedom is not static but dynamic; not a vested interest, but a prize continually to be won. The moment man stops and resigns himself, he becomes subject to determinism. He is most enslaved when he thinks he is comfortably settled in freedom.

In the modern world, the most dangerous form of determinism is the technological phenomenon. It is not a question of getting rid of it, but, by an act of freedom, of transcending it. How is this to be done? I do not yet know. That is why [I] appeal to the individual's sense of responsibility. The first step in the quest, the first act of freedom, is to become aware of the necessity. The very fact that man can see, measure, and analyze the determinisms that press on him means that he can face them and, by so doing, act as a free man. If man were to say: "These are not necessities; I am free because of technique, or despite technique," this would prove that he is totally determined. However, by grasping the real nature of the technological phenomenon, and the extent to which it is robbing him of freedom, he confronts the blind mechanisms as a conscious being.

If man--if each one of us--abdicates his responsibilities with regard to values; if each of us limits himself to leading a trivial existence in a technological civilization, with greater adaptation and increasing success as his sole objectives; if we do not even consider making a stand against these determinants, then everything will happen as I have described it, and the determinants will be transformed into inevitabilities...

[My] purpose is to awareness of technological necessity and what it means. It is a call to the sleeper to awake.

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