Without God, All Is Permit-ted

"Bag of Riddles," from The Ryskind Sketchbook
Click to enlarge

I was thinking the other day how disappointing the ubermensch has turned out to be. "All is permitted," and the result is Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Bloomberg and the army of other perky little tyrants? Seems like a superman could have the decency to be less boring. We will re-make man in our image! Quick, control his cigarettes, his salt, his toilets, his lightbulbs... and give Cecile Richards whatever she wants in exchange for cash.

R.R. Reno almost captures my thought in the April edition of First Things (I suppose his essay, "Relativism's Moral Mission" will get posted at the link eventually). Thinking of Brothers K he writes:
When the devil tells Ivan that "everything is permitted," he was not suggesting that without God there are no rules. Instead, "everything is permitted" means that nothing is always wrong. Everything is, at least at some point and under some circumstances, permitted.
In the second sentence he goes off in a different (insightful) direction. Where I thought he was going was that without God there are no inalienable rights, thus all rights are by suffrage, parceled out by the powerful. Hence: all is permit-ted, as in the cartoon above, where the woman has been caught making a lunch without formal training and a permit.

I know, I know. Chesterton: "When you break the big rules, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small rules."

I had to have my pun.