Join (free) | Login 

     Popular! Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry
   Services MarketPlace (Free to post!)
Where Authors and Readers come together!

Signed Bookstore | Authors | eBooks | Books | Stories | Articles | Poetry | Blogs | News | Events | Reviews | Videos | Success | Gold Members | Testimonials

Featured Authors: Wynn Schiller, iWilliam Lowenkamp, iDan Ronco, iDilip Dahanukar, iAmy Sellers, iRichard Hardie, iMyra Darwish, i
  Home > Philosophy > Articles
Popular: Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry     

David Arthur Walters

· Become a Fan
  Notify me of new titles
  added by this author.

· 514 titles
· 554 Reviews
· Share with Friends!
· Save to My Library
Member Since: Sep, 2004

   My Blog
   Contact Author
   Read Reviews

Short Stories
· I Was A Frustrated Newspaper Columnist

· I Was A Crack Adding Machine Operator

· Whom God Hears

· On The Immortal Story

· The Honor System for Parolees

· Doctor Sagwell

· My Career as a Manhattan Liquor Inspector

· The Underbed

· The First Time I Ran Away From Home

· Kimberly Reagan Sanchez Immigrates

· A Meaningful Life

· Fear and Love and Doom

· Introduction To The Word God

· Boredom Can Kill

· The Great Hypocrisy of Office

· Universal Reasoning

· Spinoza's God

· Tolerance

· The Poetic Genius of William Blake

· Notes on Why Freedom

· Mother Charlotte Watches Over Us Still

· Sisyphus

· Certainly Heroes Must Exist

· What Hath God Wrought?

· Shekhinah

· Derridada

· St. Louis Arch

· Follow Your Heart

· My Cold Dutch Wife

· Antonia

         More poetry...
· Press Trial of Miami Beach Code Compliance

· Black & White Distinctions in South Beach

· Black Week Scare Lingers in Miami Beach

· Miami Beach Mayor Obscene Propaganda Organ

· Happy Hour at Hiro's South Beach

· Rename Arthur Godrey Road Jackie Mason Boulevard

· Notice of Incompetence

David Arthur Walters, click here to update your web pages on AuthorsDen.

Reflections on Religion by Noble M. Notas
By David Arthur Walters
Last edited: Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Share    Print   Save  Become a Fan
Recent articles by
David Arthur Walters

• A Meaningful Life
• Fear and Love and Doom
• Introduction To The Word God
• Boredom Can Kill
• The Great Hypocrisy of Office
• Universal Reasoning
• Spinoza's God
           >> View all 345
Thinking may lead to atheism if not gigantic leap to faith

Reflections on Religion
by Noble M. Notas[i]

">" name="_ednref1">[i]


Quotes & Notes on Jacob Christof Burckhardt's (1818-1891) famous reflections on religion: The bulleted notes do not reflect the views of the great historian.

"Religions are the expression of human nature's eternal and indestructible metaphysical need... they represent the whole super-sensual complement of man, everything he cannot give himself... they are the reflection of whole peoples... in a great "other...."

  • One might speculate whether or not the "metaphysical need" is an instinctive death wish, for only nothingness is "eternal and indestructible." Of course the priest would make at least one exception to that, and say nothing is permanent but god, to which one might respond that god is nothing; i.e. God=Nothing
  • At the core of religion we usually find an ascetic renouncing if not denouncing the dynamic life force which struggles for its persistence in this world, a world without which there would be no struggle at all, and no state except the state of that absolute death which the self-negating living death or virtual suicide of altruistic religions aims for. It is thus that humankind, knowing life on Earth is doomed to perish, strives against itself with a sort of "sour grapes" rationale. Ah, the world passes away, so let us pass into eternity – and the world keeps turning long after we are gone. Various peoples project or reflect this attitude upon a supreme being or god according to their cultural styles. Reflection attempts to elevate man by virtue of his reasoning power into an erect position over the world, which is at once his best friend and his worst enemy.
  • It is rightly said by the Brahmins that there are many paths to the supreme being including the intellectual path upon which the thinker learns self-control in order to obtain unity with the highest power. That supreme being is the ultimate Power that man wants for his eternal life. Yet the Power he worships is transcendent, hence supernatural, and he must actually die to achieve absolute bliss instead of momentary ecstasies, for absolute bliss is death.
  • Lactantius: "Although nature or some god had given man nothing more outstanding than his mind, to this divine gift and power nothing is so inimical as pleasure. When passion dominates, there is no place for temperance, and in the kingdom of pleasure virtue cannot stand. On the contrary, God has given virtue for this reason, that it might attack and conquer pleasure and encompass it within a prescribed limit as it goes out from its assigned boundaries, lest it subject man weakened by its delights, and hold him captive in its sway, and punish him with everlasting death." From The Divine Institutes of Lactanitius, translated by Sister Mary Francis McDonald, appearing in The Fathers of the Church, Catholic University of America Press: Washington
  • From such reflections follow others, for instance that reason, inasmuch as it would control its natural objects by resort to fixed, supernatural ideas, is a "killer". Humankind may someday in its creative destructiveness finally employ reason to destroy love and annihilate the human race.
  • Now if we open the ancient book of metaphysics, we discover pure science and religion were originally the same subject: a search for those causes man "cannot give himself" for he is dependent upon them. And it was deduced from Reason's natural tendency to generalize that causes multiply as they descend down the pyramid of being from the First Cause, or Causeless Cause. If the descent is reasonable then Reason is god. Natural science did not and could not abandon the logical process, but sought to ignore the elusive supreme being by resort to practical objective endeavors, manipulating relative causes to create useful effects and so forth. Modern science does not trust what it cannot effect, yet modern science, despite its relativity, still has its absolute presuppositions upon which it faithfully proceeds. On the other hand, after studying the liberal arts, natural theology climbed the pyramid towards the absolute presupposition, the supreme being. Since the pinnacle of the pyramid cannot be reached by the logical processes that metaphysicians must insist on if they are to believe they are really talking about something, there is no end except in death to the search for wisdom. Not only do skeptical scoffers say natural theologians are talking about nothing, the wisest of metaphysicians themselves say wisdom is in knowing that one knows nothing, hence the search continues....
  • The "metaphysical need" is the love of the universal. Its object is Being. That Being is self-sufficient and necessary, absolutely free of contingent, relative conditions. The "metaphysical need", then, is the will to power, to freedom from everything that would impede being from have its way eternally. Yet there is no personal identify in absolute freedom; for us, freedom is always relative, always freedom from something or the other. The fanatic who wants absolute freedom for himself and others wants death. The problem is whether or not humankind may satisfy its mutual metaphysical need for the universal without destroying the particulars of life who share in that love, namely other human beings. What is needed is a harmonious balance between universal and particular, that all persons be nourished by and bathed in the love of the highest power. Now the highest power of man in which he finds his dignity is his reasoning power; "man" is "he who thinks", from "ma", “she who measures out.” The metaphysician does not deny the existence of the supreme being, for Being is the "object" he loves: Being is the Power, the Subject of subjects. Although his pride is his reasoning faculty, he knows his power is a gift from the highest power. He may call that power Reason, the font of reasoning. The metaphysician seeks a better understanding of that Power, and his search can never end in a particular expression of love as long as life continues - for love is life – what does someone love when he loves another but his own life? The broad view is not the narrow view. The narrow view that fearfully embraces a particular blind faith to the exclusion of all others, and resents the continuing intellectual quest of the metaphysician as well as other blind faiths because, despite the profession of courage, the person is fearful for his little plot of metaphysical ground, is what is commonly known as the perspective of a "bigot."
  • The devout bigot is often an anti-intellectual who resorts to denigrating the most valuable gift of the supreme being to man, his reasoning power. The bigot finds fanatic bravery but not courage in his convictions, for courage is in knowing what to fear; the bigoted love of a particularly narrow view over that of the universal is cowardly. The anti-intellectual bigot resorts to calling the intellectuals whom he actually fears, cowards, not because of some particular, wrong use of reason, but because they would on the whole develop the gift of heaven. This sort of bigot is in his own words, a blasphemer, a satan who uses his power of reasoning to slander the word.
  • Ironically, since Reason will not settle for any particular thought - we have good reason to be skeptical of our portion of the reasoning power - a metaphysician can be a better blasphemer of the reasoning power than any bigot. He flies from the dirty details of existence into the flame to obtain his just deserts, enjoying en route the Light of Reason. He is not wholly ignorant of his fear. He may believe there is no particular thing on this Earth worth killing for. He is so civilized that he is afraid to kill his own kind, for he loves their essence. He would rather die for that essence. His idea of political protest might be self-immolation in the public square or fasting unto death, not suicide bombings; but he knows better than to call suicide bombers cowards, for that would be cowardly lying to appear to be good: suicide bombers are not courageous but they are brave. However that might be, the highest metaphysician will not kill even himself. His militant detractors say his life is therefore worthless. Then they would be wise to defend his worthlessness with their lives.

"As regards the rise of Religion... there are plenty of religions of fear. Among primitive peoples we find a cult, compounded of worship and dread of natural objects, natural powers... Then come ancestor-worship and the cult of fetishes, in which men project their feelings of dependence into a single object belong to them personally... "

"The decisive factor is most probably the feeling of dependence on a greater power.... Since the causes of fear are many... there is the strongest presumption that polytheism came first, and that the unity of the primitive awareness of God is nothing but a dream. The original feeling of dread may have been splendid for its object was infinity; the beginning of Religion, on the other hand, admitted a limitation, a reduction... experienced as a great benefit. It may be that men suddenly seemed to know where they were. Fear may then have sought a new home in the service of fetishes and demons."

  • No doubt there was much to fear, namely the world that the infant soon discovers does not really obey his command. Is not the human personality a reaction to fear? Is it not a man-made, self-defensive mask? Observe carefully: does anyone see the terror behind the smiles?
  • God has nothing to fear therefore god does not have to think - well, then, Descartes, would you have god say, "I do not think therefore I am not." Why not?
  • Maybe man is god and his religion is his organized fear of everything besides his increasingly alienated self. The more he thinks, the more he is exists independently, the more he is saved; or so he thinks while forgetting thought is social property on loan to individuals. He defines his self as an object and then must fly from that too, towards the supreme being, or, if he is an atheist, towards nothingness.
  • Whether or not primitive men feared many gods or spirits or had a single supreme being or god of gods in mind is an old controversy. If there were in fact only one god in the beginning, it seems primitive people would know it since they were closer to the creator than we are. I think humans were not at all disturbed by the regular order which they could daily deal with, but were more than alarmed by the major disruptions to that order; namely, natural calamities such as floods and draughts, terrible storms, plagues, earthquakes and such.
  • There must be big gods behind all that destructiveness or there would be nothing left. The heavenly vault over the Earth might serve well as the overarching god of gods, and the Earth might be his wife; she is somewhat fickle and fools around with the water, but she was here long before our kind and she will most likely outlast the human race. The Sun certainly was not ignored as a powerful unitary god, the christ or son of Heaven and Earth. Indeed, the natural gods behind or above the instabilities appear to be quite regular in their movements and enduring, thus more stable. But wait a minute, for heaven's sake: maybe the stable gods were not feared at all, maybe they were loved since they brought the gifts of life around on a regular basis. And how can the natural gods be feared if humankind is produced by Nature, just as the animals are generated without much power of reason and fancy talk? Maybe the gods of disasters, who are gods of miracles since they seem to interrupt the natural order, are really supernatural demons or evil gods? Could the creator-god of the Old Testament be the Devil? Oh, no! O’ my god that cannot be! For then we are creative devils too.
  • Burckhardt says the splendid subject, infinite dread, needs a definition, a focus or supernatural object for man's comfort, that he may think he controls it. Well, it seems that less is more, that a single god to dread and to propitiate would be far better than plural gods. The Greco-Roman world had upwards of 40,000 gods - was that an advancement to which we might revert? Hinduism might be a good model for a religious umbrella, but it would not be easy to persuade Hindus to give up their antipathies towards outsiders.
  • So what if primitive men were monotheists or polytheists or both? And what if some of them got along quite well without religion? For what purpose would we use this information? Are we just rummaging around in the graveyard hoping to find some justification for doing whatever we have always done? Or do we hope to find where our ancestors went rightly and wrongly so we can take advantage of their experience?

"The national religions come first... the function of their gods are to protect or terrorize their particular people of particular State. Such religions are heroic and proud in their attitude... and admit at any rate a general hope - for instance, that one day all the nations shall gather on Mount Moriah to worship Jehovah - but are for the time being subject to national restrictions... (and) do not proselytize..."

"Contrasted with these stand the world religions... They are late arrivals on the scene; their most potent vehicle is usually social, since they imply the abolition of castes and proclaim themselves the religions of the poor and the slaves, and are hence of their very nature international... It is the world religions that provoke the greatest historical crises. They know at the outset that they are world religions, and intend to be world religions..."

· This raises the question, Is Hinduism a world religion, or is it a parochial religion? This is an important question, for Hinduism is an existing example of pluralism, and pluralism is the mode extolled by relativists as the ideal mode of stable existence for our "postmodern" civilization. In fact, the stability and endurance of the Indian civilization is often attributed to Hinduism, which incorporates a broad diversity of beliefs, from the most vulgar to the most sophisticated, under its umbrella. India has had a few of its own empires, and others were superimposed, yet despite the impositions, the pluralistic infrastructure remained intact. Hinduism's theocratic caste system is thought to be a major factor responsible for the integrity of the Indian civilization.

·  Postmodern pluralists resent Western hegemony, which is grinding down all cultures with its absolute rationality, therefore they would not condemn any relative culture, for each culture, no matter how repugnant to the Western mind, should have an equal right to exist on the planet. However, the enforcement of plural rights would require world domination, and that might entail the destruction of those cultures who resist. Therefore we should be wary of old examples of pluralism offered as solutions. and we should examine the dirty facts underneath the umbrellas that screen them from the light of day. As for the Indian caste system, we might ask, for example, Why was it greatly admired by the German Nazis? The Indian caste system like other traditional caste systems was comparatively flexible in its antiquity. For instance, a member of the lowest inherited division might enjoy high political office. Many centuries passed before Brahmins gained enough political power to shove red-hot irons down the throats of people they had disqualified from chanting praises to Brahma.

· The Nazis needed an enemy to hate in order to love their psychotic Nazi regime with its insane logic, and they found that enemy in the downcast Jews and social outcasts. Their spurious social science in its blind admiration of the high caste failed to see what was so obvious to the Hindus many centuries prior, that the low caste is needed because it constitutes the feet of Brahma - and of course the feet need something even lower to walk on. Therefore, besides their grievous error in the degradation of Jews and other humans in order to elevate their own, priestly caste, the Nazis made the fatal mistake of cutting off their own feet and liquidating the fertile ground under them - including the corrupt criminal class from which the leaders themselves emerged. The victorious survivors of great evil are indebted to the vanquished for the horrible lessons provided those lessons are not forgotten and not repeated. In German National Socialism we see the terrible danger of an unrestrained retrograde or "conservative" movement, which was not a genuine evolutionary regression but rather an organized synthesis of man's inherited brutishness and cruelty.

· The Nazis supported technicians and engineers, but they murdered or exiled the intellectuals who constitute the binding principle of a natural theocratic caste system. The Nazis were synthetic barbarians who abused the technological advantages of Western science. They discarded pure science and practiced magic, resorting to absurd synthetic superstitions and rituals. The fascist cattle marched around aimlessly, mesmerized by the screams of their father, by the pompous music, chanted slogans and the like. The miniature narcissistic supermen were submerged in a colossal irrational herd commanded from the top down by the hateful whims of an insane father-god. The practice of magic, astrology, tarot, and the cultivation of father-principle was coordinate to the paranoid delusions of racist mongrels who fancied their selves to be descended from an original Aryan race, a mythical race that invaded India and set up the caste system. The Aryan race was from the far north and had taken shape as super-humans as the Sun melted glaciers. Wherefore the famous Fire and Ice theory, a pseudo-scientific theory based upon an steam-boiler engineer's inductions from his observations after he dumped hot water on snow; scientists who wanted to remain in Germany had to sign on to the absurd theory; Hitler took it so seriously that he suppressed the rocket program for fear of disturbing the ice crystals in space and thereby throwing the universe out of kilter; the same engineer's speculations on the moon, however, appear in the annals of legitimate science.

· People in Europe and in the United States were enthusiastic when they encountered Hinduism. It provided a virtual feast for Westerners who were weary of their monistic, puritanical religion. Even narrow-minded by-god "bigots" loved to study Hinduism in order to denounce it as pagan superstition. It did seem from afar to provide a much welcome pluralism, a variety of views under one umbrella supported by a Trinity, with Brahma predominant. However, when we looked at the facts beneath the umbrella we were severely disappointed.

· Historians have long considered the treatment of women as the barometer of a culture's stage of civilization. Woman symbolizes the affectionate nature of humankind. Hinduism exalts the feminine principle in a manner offensive to patriarchal politics although not to the Romantic gallant's sentiment. Sakti, representing the feminine principle, is the active or energetic principle in contradistinction to Siva, who represents the formal principle. She is Power, he is Form, her "dead husband." Sakti is Power, the creative power of Brahman, the creator. Although it is said, "There is no Sakti without Siva", many philosophers have given Sakti the courtesy of precedence, and many faithful Hindus actually worship her as a deity before and above Brahma, claiming Divine Mother is the Origin of All. After all, she is the mother of both male and female. In other words, Woman is worshiped as God by many Hindus, to an extent that would embarrass even a Catholic Marianist. Setting aside the pedestal and looking at the fact, India, the home of Hinduism, has one of the longest and most appalling records for the abuse of women in the annals of humankind. When the horrible conditions in modern times were exposed in a book by a former secretary to Mahatma Gandhi, he played the book down, calling it a "sewer inspector's report", for he was desirous of national independence and knew very well that female status is the indicator of civilization - in the West some thinkers complain of the "feminization" weakening our culture. Some time before, Swami Vivekananda, an extremely popular Hindu sage in the West, was asked about the notorious treatment of women in India, to which he answered that we must not focus on the particular abuses but on the Ideal Mother. Now the Divine Mother's women in India are proud of Mother and of India, and regardless of their actual state, they might object indignantly to any reference to their historical denigration. As a matter of fact, it is more productive to consider how women are treated now, lest we unfairly use history against them; sexual politics change. And when examining the history, we should make a distinction between sexual politics and the religious ideal, asking ourselves whether it is fair to blame the abuses on the ideal? And also we might ask: Is any faith fundamentally moral? Some thinkers say no. They say faith is simply a platform of confidence upon which people do whatever they want to do in the first place with a good feeling, and therefore it good, and theology is a rationalization after the fact.

· We must have both, our Sewer Inspectors and our Ivory Tower Idealists. The difference between the Actual and the Ideal and between Action and Idea is the underlying crisis of every actor (hypokrites) and society on the scene. When the homogenized American longs for the heterogeneous spice of life in India, which he imagines in green contrast to his paved-over fields on his side of the mountains, he should first of all consult with the Indian immigrants in his own country, and discounting the vestiges of their loyalty to Mother India, wonder why so many people in exotic lands want to live in America - I refer to the most arrogant nation in North America, which has the audacity to call itself 'America' without reference to Canada, Mexico, and parts further South of the Border. The postmodern primitivist who has never ventured into the variety he loves may be surprised when he arrives to find, for example, that Myanmar is not the idyllic Burma Margaret Mead described, and that its residents would love to have a ticket to the homogenous and hegemonic United States. Nevertheless, the Sewer Inspector must not rely exclusively on local testimony or that of immigrants, for even those who are most oppressed and abused at home will still naturally take pride in their home and have patriotism for their kind when foreign Sewer Inspectors inquire.

"The very religion (Christianity) whose victory as a triumph of conscience over violence set upon men's conscience with fire and sword. To its believers Christianity lent a frightful strength. The martyr who survived his torture quite logically turned into a persecutor... His earthly life was perhaps of no great value to him in any case; he even desired to suffer and die... the Church left him only the choice between its dogma (its syllogism) and the stake. Its terrible assumption was that man must have power over the opinions of his fellows.”

"Heresy is tantamount to eternal damnation, hence... it must at all costs be prevented from infecting innocent souls, still more whole peoples... death is of no account in comparison with the eternal damnation of nations..."

· It appears that United States Capitalism in respect to Communism is a religion too. Take for example the genocide sponsored by the United States in Latin America. Many thousands of people were tortured, raped, murdered. Entire Indian villages were "liquidated." And this was condoned for the same reason "under God" was put into the U.S. pledge of allegiance: to advance the Holy Cold War against godless communists, especially the poor ones who desire real democracy. If they are going to burn in hell, they might as well be killed now before they infect other people. Ironically, the baptism in blood included the murder of liberal Catholic activists who wanted to do something material for the poor; apparently they are heretics, at least compared to the right-wing Opus Dei (work of god) church within the Church, whose members are staunch capitalists. The very same people who cry out against the Jewish Holocaust want to forget this holocaust.

"The great intellectual movements of the eighteenth century brought a great breach in the persecutions. In the first place, the secular arm refused further service, a new conception of the state having arisen. The decisive factor, however, probably lay elsewhere. Under the influence, among other things, of the Copernican system, the preoccupation with a life to come declined; it became bad form and the sign of a hard heart, for men to be always thinking about about the 'eternal' damnation of other souls...."

"A new religion can arise beside the old one and divide the world with it, but can never oust it, even if it has conquered the masses, unless the State intervened... Without force, or at any rate without the steady application of force, religions continue to live... In India, with the help of the State, Brahmanism was able to exterminate Buddhism. Without the imperial legislation from Constantine to Theodosius, the Graeco-Roman religion would still be alive today. If there had not been suppressions... carried out by the secular arm (if necessary with the utmost violence), the Reformation would have established itself nowhere. It lost all those territories in which it did not command this privilege of the secular arm and was obliged to allow a considerable body of Catholics to remain alive."

· Prize fighter Mike Tyson was recently asked if he was fighting for money. He replied that it is natural to want more money because money is god, and if someone wants proof of the existence of this real god, all he has to do is quit his job, give away his property, go into the street and pray to the unreal god.

· The secular religion sweeping the world, that of Organized Greed with its liberal corporate theology, has been taking the world by force at the cost of millions of lives - the sacrifice is deemed worthwhile. The old-time religions whose gods are no longer found on Earth seem to provide a vague, good feeling for faithfully doing whatever one wants to do according to the guiding principles of the secular religion - under the slight of hand of the Invisible Hand of free-market capitalism.

· We might wonder whether enough global group love might be achieved by non-religious means to achieve the ideal of universal love and peace. Pessimists believe not, and think humans will always need someone else to hate in order to love themselves, therefore reasons will be found for doing just that.

· Sigmund Freud, in his 'Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego', referred to a novel written by 'Guy Thorne' (C. Ranger Gull), entitled When it Was Dark (1903), wherein an archaeologist reportedly finds inscriptions in a sepulcher, to wit the testimony of Joseph of Arimathea that he secretly removed the body of Jesus on the third day after its entombment and buried it in the sepulcher in order to advance the pious hoax of the Savior's resurrection. When this information is published, European civilization convulses in a violent crime wave. However, the archaeologist's report itself turns out to be a hoax, whereupon the abominations immediately subside. Freud believed the dissolution of society differed from an ordinary panic inasmuch as the behavior was not the result of fear - such as the fear of fire, or the fear of an enemy because of the loss of a general, and so on. I disagree with that aspect of his analysis, but his pessimistic perspective on the issue at large is worth quoting for its revelation of hate-based love:"The phenomenon which accompanies the dissolution that is here supposed to overtake a religious group is not fear, for which the occasion is wanting. Instead of it ruthless and hostile impulses towards other people make their appearance, which, owing to the equal love of Christ, they had previously been unable to do. But even during the Kingdom of Christ, those people who do not belong to the community of believers, who do not love him, and whom he does not love, stand outside this tie. Therefore a religion, even if it calls itself a religion of love, must be hard an unloving to those who do not belong to it. Fundamentally indeed every religion is in this same way a religion of love for all those whom it embraces; while cruelty and intolerance towards those who do not belong to it are natural to every religion... people who are unbelieving or indifferent are much better off psychologically in this matter (of cruelty and intolerance. If to-day that intolerance no longer shows itself so violent and cruel as in former centuries, we can scarcely concluded that there has been a softening in human manners. The cause is rather to be found in the undeniable weakening of religious feelings and the libidinal ties (love-bonds of the group - Ed.) which depend on them. If another group tie takes the place of the religious one - and the socialistic tie seems to be succeeding in doing so - then there will be the same intolerance towards outsiders as in the age of the Wars of Religion; and if difference between scientific opinions could ever attain a similar significance for groups, the same result would again be repeated with the same motivation."

· Another pessimist of note is the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), who taught Christian social philosophy at Union Theological Seminary for nearly forty years. His thought is the foundation of modern Christian thinking in several denominational bodies, and influenced the school of foreign policy known as realism: George Kennan said, "He was the father of us all." According to Ronald Stone, whose article on Niebuhr appears in Thinkers of the Twentieth Century, Niebuhr's great achievement was in the presentation of "the full squalor of human existence" in contrast to the "magnificence grace of the source of life." Of course the greatest Christian preachers have presented the most vivid contrast between heaven and hell to enable people to make the right choice. Furthermore, Niebuhr found the usual cause of the problem in god-given freedom, the possession of which causes people to do what they want to do and to be proud of it instead of doing what god wants them to do and being humble about it. All human institutions are therefore corrupt and always will be as long as humans have this problem of freedom, which, incidentally, leads to both good and evil deeds. Their only salvation is the revelation of god in Christ, which teaches divine forgiveness. Some are saved by grace pursuant to Lutheran doctrine, while the rest can follow the Calvinist line and create conditions where people can live more freely - not free to do what they want, such as have sex, use alcohol, drugs and be proud of themselves and so on, but to do what god wants them to do, to be slaves to their god (but if the deity does not exist or is unknown, are they not just slaves to their own passions?) Niebuhr's realism was a reaction to Christian utopianism which holds, for instance, that war can be abolished and peace permanently instituted on Earth by the universal love of Christ; hence he wrote such essays during the world war as 'Why the Christian Church is not Pacifist.' His antipathy towards utopianism and his belief in just war caused him to drop his activities and posts in the Socialist Party and the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation. According to Ronald Stone, as far as Niebuhr was concerned, "Social institutions lacked the function of conscience, and they magnified the egoism of insecure human beings. Conflict between social groups organized into institutions was inevitable. Humanity could not look forward to the diminution of conflict or to moral progress in the regulation of its institutions." Well, then, we might as well give up on religious institutions also. It appears that the self-contradicting or hypo-critical god gave man freedom so man could suffer until he learns to be free from freedom, for true freedom is slavery to god's will as defined by his representatives on earth to whom it has been divinely revealed. But there is hope in man's god-given ignorance; for example, Niebuhr thought the Cold War would never be won; it would not end in the foreseeable future, hence it must be endured. In the final analysis Niebuhr was worried about the overreliance of the United States on its military power, which could, if unrestrained, lead to nuclear war.

Further Notes May Be Added & Interposed by anyone

Source: Burckhardt, Jacob Christof, 'Reflections on History' in Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy and Other Selections, Chapter Two: The Three Powers, Religion' (p.29) Translated by M.D. Hottinger, New York: Washington Square Press, 1966. Selected from Burckhardt’s Force and Freedom: Reflections on History, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd.


[i] Noble M. Notas is the nom de plume David Arthur Walters uses for his notes on various subjects.

">" name="_edn1">[i] Noble M. Notas is the nom de plume David Arthur Walters uses for his notes on various subjects.


Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!

Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!

You can also search authors by alphabetical listing: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Featured Authors | New to AuthorsDen? | Add AuthorsDen to your Site
Share AD with your friends | Need Help? | About us

Problem with this page?   Report it to AuthorsDen

AuthorsDen, Inc. All rights reserved.