Arthur C. Clarke on How To Destroy Marriage

In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End the aliens invade, and they mean us nothing but good. A space race between the US and USSR is about to lead to war in space when giant alien space ships settle over all of Earth’s principle cities, and an alien race, who refuse to show themselves and communicate only through the head of the UN, announce that they are taking over responsibility for enforcing peace on the planet. These aliens (called the Overlords) generally take a hands-off approach to humanity, saying they will reveal themselves in 50 years when humans are ready to see them, but in the mean time they provide two inventions: a 100% effective oral contraceptive, and a 100% accurate paternity test.

The result is that over the next 50 years, while peace and prosperity reigns due to the guiding hand of the Overlords, marriage, traditional morality and organized religion all vanish.

Of course, Clarke actually thought this was a good thing, and the rest of the novel is about humanity moving onto the next stage of evolutionary development: as a non-material group mind. But in a sense, that’s the really interesting thing, that as someone who saw traditional marriage, morality and religion as a problem back in 1953, Clarke say the two inventions most likely to get rid of all three as being completely reliable contraception and paternity testing.

Coming at things from a Catholic point of view, G.E.M. Anscombe saw the same trends, now well advanced, in relation to contraception, morality and marriage in her 1972 essay “Contraception and Chastity”. Some key bits:

I will first ask you to contemplate a familiar point: the fantastic change that has come about in people’s situation in respect of having children because of the invention of efficient contraceptives. You see, what can’t be otherwise we accept; and so we accept death and its unhappiness. But possibility destroys mere acceptance. And so it is with the possibility of having intercourse and preventing conception. This power is now placed in a woman’s hands; she needn’t have children when she doesn’t want to and she can still have her man! This can make the former state of things look intolerable, so that one wonders why they were so pleased about weddings in former times and why the wedding day was supposed to be such a fine day for the bride.

There always used to be a colossal strain in ancient times; between heathen morality and Christian morality, and one of the things pagan converts had to be told about the way they were entering on was that they must abstain from fornication….

Christianity was at odds with the heathen world, not only about fornication, infanticide and idolatry; but also about marriage…. But the quarrel is far greater between Christianity and the present-day heathen, post Christian, morality that has sprung up as a result of contraception. In one word: Christianity taught that men ought to be as chaste as pagans thought honest women ought to be; the contraceptive morality teaches that women need to be as little chaste as pagans thought men need be.

And if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contraceptive intercourse, and if it could become general practice everywhere when there is intercourse but ought to be no begetting, then it’s very difficult to see the objection to this morality, for the ground of objection to fornication and adultery was that sexual intercourse is only right in the sort of set-up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them. If you can turn intercourse into something other than the reproductive type of act (I don’t mean of course that every act is reproductive any more than every acorn leads to an oak-tree but it’s the reproductive type of act) then why, if you can change it, should it be restricted to the married?

Today, we can see pretty clearly that both Clarke and Anscombe were right.

12 Responses to Arthur C. Clarke on How To Destroy Marriage

  • “Today, we can see pretty clearly that both Clarke and Anscombe were right.”

    Short term for part of the population. I rather think long term that demographics will hold ultimate victory for those who believe in marriage and cherish kids.

  • “I rather think long term that demographics will hold ultimate victory for those who believe in marriage and cherish kids.”

    Contraceptive, abortive liberals won’t breed. I am not saying that that is a good thing, but perversion brings with it its own inevitable consequences of decay and death – and perhaps it is a perverse justice that those who believe in Darwin’s selection and survival of the fittest will have selected themselves to not survive. God’s justice works in even perverse circumstances, as the Israelites deported by the Assyrians and the Judahites deported by the Babylonians found out to their dismay.

  • DC,
    Thanks for posting this. I am embarrasssed to say that I have been unfamiliar with Anscombe. I am now eager to read more of her work — at least the stuff I can get through.

  • If anyone says that the Catholic faith holds women back, all you need to do is point out Anscombe.

    Contraceptive, abortive liberals won’t breed.

    They don’t necessarily have to. As long as they control the culture, they can continue to spread their errors through the offspring of others. Simply outproducing them is not necessarily going to change things. It helps, certainly, but it is not a foregone conclusion that those who simply breed more, in this context, will ultimately win.

  • I read “Childhood’s End” when I was a teenager and I was horrified by the ending then. I hated that book. Who wants to be part of the “collective unconscious”? Even as a 15 year old, I thought the idea that we would lose the distinctive parts of ourselves and of our individuality gave me the creeps.

  • “but it is not a foregone conclusion that those who simply breed more, in this context, will ultimately win.”

    Their control of the culture is tenuous c matt. Public schools are visibly failing, few people listen to the news on television, college education is priced out of existence. As the old Soviet Union demonstrated, ideology can only triumph over reality so long.
    Walter Russell Mead at Via Meadia has been writing some prescient columns on the failing blue state social model:

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/category/blue-social-model/

    Times are changing the way they usually change: from necessity.

  • Clarke’s own marriage was failing following the publication of Childhood’s End.

    “Arthur’s views on marriage at that time were, I think, very vague,” says Mayfield. “It was almost like a hobby that he really didn’t want to get into. He wanted it to be a pastime, but it mustn’t in any way interfere with his work. I wanted a marriage. It was very difficult for me to try and adjust. Finally 1 could not cope with it.”

    The split between Arthur and Marilyn came as the Christmas season approached in 1953. A discussion about religion provoked the rift.

    “I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church” says Mayfield.

    “God, country, all that was important in my upbringing. We were talking, and he told me he didn’t believe in God and he didn’t believe in Christmas. Now, that shakes your basic structure, especially if you believe and you think that everybody else does. And at that age you tend to know it all. Now that I think of it, he may have been as profoundly shocked as I was. He may have considered my belief as much a taboo as I considered his not believing. But I couldn’t accept it then, and I kept waiting for God to strike him dead. I was just shocked. I couldn’t come to terms with it, so I left him.” …”The marriage was incompatible from the beginning,” says Clarke. “It was sufficient proof that I wasn’t the marrying type, although I think everybody should marry once. We just each married the wrong person, you see.”

    The experience, he admits, was enough to scare him away from every marrying again. “While we were together for only a few months before separating, we were legally married for some ten years.” The marriage, in fact, was not legally dissolved until December 1964.’

    Clarke moved to Ceylon and became a homosexual, although he downplayed that aspect of his life, as such liasons were frowned upon, to say the least, in Ceylon. Like most authors who attack traditional morality, Clarke practiced what he preached.

  • I am a relatively new Catholic. Most of the Catholics I know had pre-marital sex.
    They used, as they do now within their marriages, the natural approach to contraception; abstenance during cerrtain times of the womans cycle. However, just about everyone I know has sex, makes love for enjoyment and to share love. I presume, like most Catholics, there are people in the world that plan their families and have children when they are ready, again using the natural method. The problem is that too many don’t plan, don’t use ANY form of contraception and as a result either have abortions or unwanted children…both a travesty. So as we fight for Catholic rights (HHS, no abortions, etc.) we MUST also fight for improving the way we raise our children as a society and to ensure that we are caring for the unwanted children that are born into this world…they, btw perpetuate the same problem that worsens with generation.

  • So as we fight for Catholic rights (HHS, no abortions, etc.) we MUST also fight for improving the way we raise our children as a society and to ensure that we are caring for the unwanted children that are born into this world…they, btw perpetuate the same problem that worsens with generation.

    Which, very unfairly, assumes that this isn’t already the case.

    Heaven knows there’s a lot more “help those in need” (especially children) type works in every Parish I’ve ever been in than there are “fight abortion” drives, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard opposing contraception mentioned in a church.

  • “Clarke moved to Ceylon and became a homosexual…”

    I never knew that.

    “I read ‘Childhood’s End’ when I was a teenager and I was horrified by the ending then. I hated that book. Who wants to be part of the ‘collective unconscious’? Even as a 15 year old, I thought the idea that we would lose the distinctive parts of ourselves and of our individuality gave me the creeps.”

    I read most of Clarke’s works when I was younger. At the time I loved his writings. What horrifies me more now than what horrifies Maggie McT is how deluded I was about his cosmic consciousness idea – one that I thought he had borrowed from Olaf Stapledon. And yes, in my younger years I liked Olaf Stapledon as well: Last and First Men, Last Men in London, Odd John, Star Maker and Sirius I had read and re-read over and over by the time I was twelve. Neither of my parents had the educational background to understand these novels; they had no idea the philosophy behind Stapledon or the influence he had on Clarke, or what Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, etc., were all about. This is in part how the sickening philosophy of liberalism wormed its way in – as popular reading for youngsters.

  • Marriage saved Clarke from the degradation of homosexual behavior for a decade. How man’s separation from God has caused man to lose sight of his destiny. Children, in Israel, were a blessing and childlessness was seen as a curse. Children, our constitutional posterity, are we, the people, living out our lives on earth while being joined into the communion of saints in heaven. Can you read “collective unconscious” as subconscious, one of Freud’s discoveries?
    “You see, what can’t be otherwise we accept; and so we accept death and its unhappiness.” We accept death and have fallen in love with death through despair. Judas who betrayed Christ, fell into death through despair, but Judas had a choice, to freely embrace hope, or reject all hope. So, the heresy of predestination is a heresy. Children are our hope and our future.
    Love is the only virtue missing from Clarke’s definition of marriage. Marriage is, in the words of Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report, to cherish one another. When you would die and go to hell for the one you love and he would die and go to hell for you, you know that you are loved. Chastity happens, children happen, the joy of heaven happens when love happens. (Friendship and love are gifts from God) All the mechanics of contraception and paternity tests are not part of love. If someone does not love you enough to want more of you, it is not love. The Overlords did not want more of us and are aptly named.

  • I think I may have read one of his books, but I can’t remember which one. I was a fan of Azimov (sp?) and I liked Heinlien but felt uncomfotable about Stranger in a Strange Land – I didn’t know why (now I know)… I am glad I never read this book now that I know the concept. But what I am truely thinking of is that I grew up in the 70′s is that I grew up with the watered down version of Catacism. I had no depth in my religious education. I embraced the culture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. In Sci-fi books – I became a geek and saw how science was greater than any religion. I searched for meaning in everything but where the Truth actually was… In my devout mother I saw a righteous woman in a Church that only wanted her minimal money and didn’t care about her. She died young and God died to me with her… I wish someone would have given me C.S. Lewis to read back then but alas I accept my path and thank you Lord for bringing me home!

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