Chapter 1: Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy
In his first essay, Chesterton describes his understanding of the words Orthodox and Heretic as they apply to, and have changed in, the modern period. Chesterton argues that in modernity, "The word 'orthodoxy' not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong". He continues to write that society no longer tolerates a man’s life philosophy or religion, yet is increasingly absorbed in "art for art’s sake". Chesterton identifies this trend to replace ideological substance with vagueness and criticizes popular writers, public figures, politicians, and the like for proclaiming a gospel of silence when moral and philosophical direction is needed.
"A hundred years ago our affairs for good or evil were wielded triumphantly by rhetoricians. Now our affairs are hopelessly muddled by strong, silent men".
"I do not say that there are no stronger men than these; but will any one say that there are any men stronger than those men of old who were dominated by their philosophy and steeped in their religion? Whether bondage be better than freedom may be discussed. But that their bondage came to more than our freedom it will be difficult for any one to deny".
"Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion".
"In the fifteenth century men cross-examined and tormented a man because he preached some immoral attitude; in the nineteenth century we feted and flattered Oscar Wilde because he preached such an attitude, and then broke his heart in penal servitude because he carried it out. It may be a question which of the two methods was the more cruel; there can be no kind of question which was the more ludicrous. The age of the Inquisition has not at least the disgrace of having produced a society which made an idol of the very same man for preaching the very same things which it made him a convict for practising".