The Delusion of Righteousness

Man, apparently alone of life on this planet, has used his mind and reason and knowledge to dominate this world.  Less obvious is how he has suffered and failed due to that same talent....for it founded on imperfection: imperfect knowledge and reason: thus the minds slays life and the soul

Being the animal that thinks and reasons and figures things out, it happens that:
As should be clear, this is not limited to religion. It happens in science (witness Semmelweiss) and engineering (phlogiston, ether).  And as anyone who has honestly raised children with any introspection must admit, the parent communicates belief and behavior systems....and wishes to pass the joys/loves of our existence to our kids: sports, cooking, arts, machinery (how often is that sort of thing shared?) et al.,  Looked at one way, parenting represents a sort of an attempt at immortality: passing along what we think is right, wonderful, lovely, honorable.  But in honest open parenting, the parent learns as much from the child as the child from the parent.
 
 And so in growing, we pattern from our lives, our teaching, our experience...and, God help us, we come to see The Right Way, the desired way, and we come to expect that certain things should be so: relationships, obligations and on and on.  We are also social creatures and socially, we join and believe...in a Master Race, segregation, the New York Yankees, Flat Earth, balanced budgets, the Pope, the Marine Corps, liberalism, conservatism, patriotism, Manifest Destiny, Pax Romana/Brittanica/Americana, the gold standard, Greater Israel, the Lesser Jihad (forgetting the Greater)....and, of course, the Other (the person, the ethnicity, the skin color, the whatever who is other than "us" and must needs be shown the error of his ways and/or expunged).

Our limited knowledge and reason comes between us and the world.

"Oh, Lord, forgive me three sins that are due to my human limitations: 
Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here; 
Thou art without form, but I worship you in these forms; 
Thou needest no praise, yet I offer you these prayers and salutations. 
Lord forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations."

For reason is but a gloss, a window dressing for the hidden agendas and mindless will of the emotions and feelings, that incarnate in belief.   I have come to understand and think that belief trumps reason in almost every circumstance, that the human creature cannot deny his or her beliefs short of being in a life or death confrontation with reality...that reason trails far behind as a means of examining, evaluating and perhaps changing what one believes and does.

If  "the answers are the questions", the questions might be:
I have come to consider that it may be that God is humble.

If all things are seen, are known, are understood, are forgiven, there can be no righteousness, for all things exist in God's eye.  Imperfection *is* perfection.

I have long thought that while angels may be perfect, if they are (in the normal sense), they must then be deprived of free will, which is the glory and the education of all of us here below.  We do what angels cannot; we reach our highest calling in tolerance, love, compassion and humility.

Self-Righteousness: Hatred, Violence and Silencing the Quiet Inner Voice.

There is nothing worse, nothing more catalytic poisonous than when righteousness becomes self-righteousness and then justifies its hate, fear, bigotry and evil as holy and just.  America's Indians and their extermination, the slaves and their subjugation, the Master Race, the Chosen of Israel subjugating and brutalizing the Palestinians.  All one.

And just as a thief/mugger first steals from you, then, seemingly pointlessly, beats you up, so too can a nation or a people first subjugate, than brutalize and exterminate the Other.  Somehow the human creature finds justification and the silencing of the quiet inner voice by doing physical violence after the initial theft. First they are the Other, than they are the Lesser and your Just Prey.

Oh Lord, what is man that Thou art mindful of him?

Or the matter of humility can be completely divorced from any spiritual or religious context.  As Davis Foster Wallace said in this commencement address:

Blind certainty is a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience  upports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.