One of the most eccentric features of Erewhonian life is the interpretation of crime and punishment. Illness is treated as a crime. Sentences of varying degrees of severity are pronounced according to the nature and seriousness of the disease. There are no physicians in the country. Those actions which Europeans consider criminal — theft, fraud, embezzlement — are regarded as weaknesses of character deserving sympathy and help, help which is provided through the ministrations of "straighteners."
The first lesson West learns is that all industry and all institutions are under the control of the national government, a system which, he is informed, has proved to be far more effective than the earlier one of free, private enterprise because of the elimination of wasteful competition. These enormous nationwide political and industrial institutions are structured on the plan of a military organization.
There is a kind of state religion in Utopia which includes high priests and public worship. "They invoke God by no other name than Mythras, a name they all apply to the one divine nature, whatever it may be. No prayers are devised which everyone cannot say without offending his own denomination." (126) "When the priest [...] comes out of the sacristy, everyone immediately prostrates himself on the ground out of reverence; on all sides the silence is so profound that the spectacle itself inspires a certain fear, as if in the presence of some divinity." (128) Priests are held in such high esteem that "even if they commit a crime they are not subject to a public tribunal but are left to God and their own consciences. [...] For it is unlikely that someone who is the cream of the crop and is elevated to a position of such dignity only because of his virtue should degenerate into corruption and vice." (124)
Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.