Quote of the day: Walter Kaufmann #5

This is the last of five quotes I’m putting up from Walter Kaufmann’s book, The Faith of a Heretic. I’ve nearly finished it now, and this quote, from p. 41, is about the hypocrisy of theologians:

“Religion is as privileged a field as politics and advertising.  It is widely held to call for tact, not truthfulness. It is considered perfectly all right for men of the cloth to make a business of pretending to believe what they really do not believe; to give the impression, speaking from the pulpit, that they are convinced of things that, talking to philosophers, they are quick to disown; and to feign complete assurance about matters that, in private, trouble them and cause them endless doubts.  One does not even demand that a preacher should at least be honest with himself and know precisely what he does believe and what he does not, what he means and what he does not mean, what he knows for certain and what he considers probable or merely possible. One does not make such strict demands on him—or on oneself.”

19 Comments

  1. Posted January 7, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I like the comparison between politicians and priests, I think they work well together especially in dictatorships where one rules by peddling lies of hell and another through use of terror

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      In that order?

      Mike.

  2. @eightyc
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    People like to be deceived.

    It’s like a Magic Show but without the rabbit and top hat.

    People also like to wallow in their own grief.

    It’s really all very strange.

  3. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Hitchens alluded to this when talking about the deceitfulness of religious leaders. Kaufmann week was great. Thanks for the posts

    • gbjames
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      +1

  4. Jaime Ospina
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    You run some risks misleading in advertising, none misleading in politics, but you will certainly fail if you are honest in religion.

  5. Kev
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the HR and senior management in the company I work for:

    “where one rules by peddling lies of hell and another through use of terror”.

    Kaufmann’s comments could equally apply as critique to any class of activity where manipulative bulls**t is the major commodity.

    • RFW
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I have a horrible suspicion that your HR and senior management are typical. Exceptions to rule by lies, fear, and terror are rare in the corporate world.

  6. Sastra
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Behind the idea that it’s okay for ministers, priests, and theologians to say one thing in private and another thing in public is the curious tendency to infantilize the common believer.

    The people in the pew, the simple folk who bow their heads and say their prayers and believe in God and the Bible with the faith of a child really are like children. They need to be handled. You reassure and comfort and strengthen their beliefs because — face it — they may be the salt o’ the earth, but they’re also a bit soft in the head and weak in the heart. They can’t manage on their own.

    Give them what they need. That way, you’re kind.

    It’s a Little People Argument — only, instead of being used to shut up atheists, it’s being used to shut up more “sophisticated” believers. When people use the Little People argument, I always wonder what the Little People would think of this argument — given that they’re capable of understanding it.

    “Don’t call me a moron — I know it means something bad.” — Kelly Bundy

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      The “Little People” do not mind being called sheep. Sheep need pastors.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted January 8, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

        And shepherds wear wool in the winter time with the leather on the outside. They also eat mutton, what they don’t sell to be eaten by others.

        In other words, flocks get fleeced if they are lucky, turned into roasts if they aren’t.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      +1

  7. Posted January 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    WEIT exists in part to combat that Little People blasphemy of humanity, I assume.
    Some of those preachers are now coming forward to announce their atheism! Would thousands more would do so!
    Why don’t those advanced ones announce from their pulpits that so much of the Tanakh and The Testament fail to match reality? However, one orthodox rabbit a few years ago told his congregation that the Exodus was just a myth! How, otherwise, he would uphold those orthodox commandments? At least, the orthodox don’t stone!
    Thanks, WEIT, for advancing Kaufmann as one of our key thinkers! This statement of his itself demands an article from other naturalists groups. Again, his work merits scholarly and – lay attention.
    Accommodationists surely wouldn’t call him a gnu atheist!
    Please, everyone try to read those two outstanding books of the ages!

  8. @eightyc
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Lol.

    The word Gullible should be made synonymous with the word Christian in everyday language.

    Problem solved.

  9. @eightyc
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    With the amount of information readily available at one’s fingertips in this day and age makes one’s religious (superstitious) inclinations inexcusable.

    It’s weak and lame! They need to grow up and get on with it or else get laughed at.

  10. Jeffy Joe
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    This quote reminds me of the William Lane Craig response to the Newtown shootings. He paralleled it with Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, but I have seen several resurrection debates where he explicitly declines to defend most elements of the gospels because they do not stand up to historical criteria (while pretending that the empty tomb and resurrection appearances do past historical muster). So WLC, do you believe that Herod’s slaughter really happened or not? Why do you express one set of beliefs around Christians, and another around skeptics? Honesty is a scientific value, and clearly not a religious one.

  11. marksolock
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  12. Posted January 8, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    These 5 excellent articles have for me been a sound lesson in how great writing is essential when presenting great ideas. I am most grateful for lessons and for the fine phraseology.


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