Thursday, September 09, 2010


A pitfall common to all people of faith, but recognized by far too few...
Herein lies the most obvious moral danger of religious faith. In taking themselves to be guided by divinely ordained commandments, theists may be tempted to relax the rigor with which they scrutinize their actions, and are thus capable of the most unspeakable atrocities. That is, secure in the faith that God wills a certain course of action, they may be prepared to disregard any suggestion (even from their own consciences) that this may not in fact be the morally correct thing to do. … Unfortunately, it is also often a tenet of faith that to question God is itself an immoral act, and so it can become especially difficult to correct a moral error once it has been made on these grounds. This is because the difference between questioning a command of God and questioning one’s own understanding of that command is a subtle one, not at all easily recognized, and harder yet when any doubt is seen as weakness of faith and therefore sinful in itself.

…This pride is uniquely difficult to identify, for it is well cloaked in the garb of pious humility. What makes it so elusive is that it appears as a faith in God, when in reality it is a misplaced faith in one’s own judgment. It may well be that God is just and perfect and incapable of error, but we most certainly are none of these things, and to act with the firm belief that one is in perfect harmony with God’s perfectly just wishes is to lose sight of that truth. Indeed, the person who acts in this way is guilty of the greatest pride, for she puts her moral judgment on a level with God’s. She claims to know with absolute certainty that which can be known only to God. The faith here, then, is not in God at all, but in the individual’s own reliability in knowing God, and if we understand idolatry as the sin of ascribing divine significance to a human artifact, the pride involved is idolatrous when the individual believes her knowledge to be perfect in this regard.

-Tom Cantine, via Patrick Fitzgerald

1 comment:

Russ Manley said...

Brilliant, very well said.

The people who are most certain of their own holiness would make the most fierce of Inquisitors, and would put anyone through all the tortures of hell to prove how righteous they are, how perfectly they understand the mind and will of God.

Though this is also seen among atheists, too - the first to man the barricades are also the first to demand, um, "re-education centers" to "correct" the errors of their fellow human beings.

And other, less strident people, go along with all the above, not daring to admit they are less certain of Universal Truth than those who claim to have a hotline to Heaven.

Sad, sad, sad.