Sunday, January 29, 2006

“Cunning of Reason”

There are four voices brought together by a fifth that I’ve quoted to give you this post. Guess at them and win the prize…or not.

“Does not every moment of your practical life give the lie to your religious theory? Do you think it is unjust to appeal to the courts if somebody cheats you? But the apostle says it is wrong. Do you offer your right cheek if somebody slaps your cheek, or would you rather start a lawsuit? But the gospels forbid it. Do you not ask for a rational law in this world, grumble about the slightest increase of taxes and become excited at the smallest violation of personal liberty? But it is said unto you that the sufferings of this saeculum do not matter in comparison with the future glory and that long-suffering and hopeful expectation are cardinal virtues. Does the greatest part of your lawsuits and civil laws not deal with property? But it is said unto you that your treasures are not of this world.”

“Nobody shall tell us ‘the ways of God are inscrutable,” for we have indeed scrutinized them and we have read in characters of blood the proof of his impotence if not malevolence…eternal father, Jupiter or Jehovah, we know thee: thou art, wert, and ever wilt be envious of Adam and the tyrant of Prometheus.”

“‘What I admire the most in the work of our modern compilers is the wisdom of good faith with which they prove that all that happened once in the greatest empires of the worlds happened only for the instruction of the inhabitants of Palestine. If the kings of Babylon in their conquests fall incidentally upon the Hebrews, it is only to chastise these people for their sins. If a king named Cyrus becomes the master of Babylon, it is in order to allow a few Jews to go home. If Alexander is victorious over Darius, it is in order to establish some Jewish secondhand dealers in Alexandria. When the Romans annex Syria and the small district of Judea to their vast empire, it is again for the instruction of the Jews. Arabs and Turks come in only to correct these likable people. We must admit that they have had an excellent education: no body has ever had so many teachers. This shows how purposeful history is.’

Persuasive as this reduction of sacred history to its profane aspect may be, it does not result in a more complete universality; for history does not become universal by surveying…it becomes general…Within a cyclic Weltanschauung and order of the universe, where every movement of advance is, at the same time, a movement of return, there is no place for progress…

It seems that nowadays even professional theologians get along without any theodicy unless they venture to assert that providence has managed to give the atomic bomb, and the bigger industries, into the hands of the peace-loving nations.”

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