Weird Purity Culture Kills

Weird Purity Culture Kills September 9, 2020

Purity is beautiful.

As the ancients understood purity, a way of living tested over thousands of years, in hundreds of circumstances, purity helped. All God’s children should live in purity culture: joyful, wise, virtuous. After all God is good, full of truth, and beautiful.  If we love God, we will love His attributes! A sensible soul seeking God will separate from evil, falsity, and ugliness. We will purify our hearts, so as to see beauty in everything from stars to numbers. A genuine purity is for beauty and would hesitate if any formula to find beauty led to tyranny.

How could something as noble as purity be used by a tyrant? The tyrant wants power, not beauty.  Change “purity” from being set apart for God, the good, truth, and beauty, to not doing something and tyranny looms.


Looking for beauty entails learning. Beauty creates love and love drives toward the beloved. We wish to become like what we love or at least to be fit for the beloved! A difficulty arises, because how to find the beloved is different than loving the beloved. We can love rightly, but pursue badly. Imagine, this is hard to do, even such an innocent ideas as  purity becoming a trap for control! No good can be bad (by definition). A bad can be thought to be good by appropriating the old language of virtue.

Purity is setting self aside for beauty. Imagine instead setting self aside for the absence of ugliness. A person can have no ugliness, not a speck, yet not have beauty. A zombie is not dead, but is not alive. A false purity culture would be the undead society: still not quite dead, but missing all the goodness and beauty of life.

Purity can be pursued badly. 

Suppose one is right in general, but ends up doing something terrible in particular. Something has gone wrong! Is there an example of a false purity culture?

There is: ancient Athens. The Athenians, relative to the times, proclaimed democracy (at times), liberty (for some), and justice (for a few). They were the best of a not-so-great bad lot. That’s about as good as any society can be in any particular time, but Athens was not the best. Athens killed her best man. Officially Athens had the right slogans, the proper ideas, but Athens ended up murdering Socrates. When “principles” demand you execute the father of philosophy, you should either question your principles or your reasoning about how to apply your principles.

Athens got irritated with Socrates for exposing her vices, her hypocrisy, and her compromises. She voted to condemn Socrates, hoping he would skip town. Socrates had too much integrity to leave. Athens waited, dithered, delayed to keep from imposing what she wished to do, but knew was wrong to do. Athens wanted Socrates gone, but wished Socrates would just skip town. Socrates refused. He would not bend, he would not bow, he ended up dead.

Athens gave Socrates all the time he needed to escape:

They have a law to keep the city pure while it lasts, and no execution may take place once the mission has begun until the ship has made its journey to Delos and returned to Athens, and this can sometimes take a [c] long time if the winds delay it. The mission begins when the priest of Apollo crowns the prow of the ship, and this happened, as I say, the day before Socrates’ trial. That is why Socrates was in prison a long time between his trial and his execution.*

Rituals tried to provide purity. Rituals cannot provide purity. Instead, the delay for the trip to Delos only revealed the confusion of the City. They officially wanted Socrates dead, but unofficially, wanted Socrates alive. Socrates need only accept the system, the scam of the official religion the elite no longer believed. They hoped he would play by those rules. Socrates would not.


Socrates did not wish to seem pure, but to be pure.

The City did rituals to seem pure, but is not pure.

God help us.


Plato. Phaedrus. 57. Plato: Complete Works . Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Browse Our Archives