Sunday, February 27, 2005

Democracy and Religious Humility – Reinhold Niebuhr

5th in a series of quotations.

Religious idealists usually insist that the primary contribution of religion in democratic life is the cultivation of moral idealism which inculcates concern for the other rather than the self. But this is only part of the contribution which profound religion can make. Consistent egotists would, of course, wreck any democratic process; for it requires some decent consideration of the needs of others.

But some of the greatest perils to democracy arise from the fanaticism of moral idealists who are not conscious of the corruption of self-interest in their professed ideals. Democracy therefore requires something more than a religious devotion to moral ideals. It requires religious humility.

The real point of contact between democracy and profound religion is in the spirit of humility which democracy requires and which must be one of the fruits of religion.

Democracy may be challenged from without by the force of barbarism and the creed of cynicism. But its internal peril lies in the conflict of various schools and classes of idealists, who profess different ideals but exhibit a common conviction that their own ideals are perfect.

2 Comments:

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12:18 PM  
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