Oct 16, 2015
As Robert Hugh Benson's apocalyptic novel Lord of the World moves toward its shocking conclusion, a naïve young woman who has placed simple-minded faith in the utter goodness of the Antichrist figure at the center of the story awakens to the fact that her hero has artfully constructed a regime of violence, oppression and thought control.
Profoundly disillusioned, she turns to one of the new state-run euthanasia 'homes' for help in ending her life. As she ponders what has happened and what lies ahead, she thinks of the humanist belief system that has brought here: "There seemed no way out of it. The Humanity-Religion was the only one. Man was God, or at least His highest manifestation; and He was a God with which she did not wish to have anything more to do."
It's easy to see why Benson's century-old tale is one of Pope Francis's favorite books. Driven by a compelling narrative, the story depicts the frightening reality of a dystopian society without religion that in many respects resembles Western secular society now.
I thought of Lord of the World while absorbing the news from California that Gov. Jerry Brown-who the media obsessively kept reminding us is a "lifelong Catholic"-had signed into law a bill making his state the fifth in the U.S. where assisted suicide is legal. The others are Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. Proponents of assisted suicide were quoted as saying they would turn next to New Jersey and Massachusetts.