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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

About hubris: extreme pride or arrogance --
particularly as it applies to religious belief.

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Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities.

I am not often dumbfounded, caught with a loss for words. But today it happened. For hours now I have been shaking my head in disbelief, not at my own surprise and amazement but at the hubris of the person I had been talking to.

Years ago, after listening to Donald Rumsfeld after he left office I realized I was witnessing hubris at its finest and that it was that hubris that brought down the younger Bush’s presidency.

Hubris surfaces when I think that I and only I have all the answers; I am the only one that knows the TRUTH; I am the only one that can solve this problem. I don’t have to listen to anyone else; everyone else isn’t just wrong and misguided; they are actually unpatriotic or evil, out to destroy all that is good.

AND here was another example. I am totally stunned. But not too stunned to realize that there is something worth writing about here.

All of the world’s religions -- at least I think all of them -- as well as the thinking of secular philosophers have realized that it is our ego that gets in our way and keeps us from reaching our highest potential as human beings as well as keeping us from finding whatever it is we are seeking in this life; God, Allah, Brahmin, the Tao, Nirvana, Peace, contentment, happiness, security, Oneness with the Universe……..

They have all disagreed over what we are to do about it:

  • Do we subjugate our ego? If so to whom or what? To the WILL of a God, the Gods, or the Goddess, or a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses? Who tells us what the God/s/dess/desses or pantheon wants us to do or expects us to do? Do we rely on words in a book, if so which one? Do we rely on the word of the Pope or Priest, a Minister or Mullah, or that voice inside our own head to tell us what God/s/dess/desses or pantheon wants us to do? How do we know if that voice is the voice of God/s/dess/desses and not something evil, the Devil or demons?

  • Do we just try to subdue our ego? Try to keep it under wraps, so to speak. Try to keep it quiet, pretend we don’t hear it? When we do, it becomes a thorn in our side. Its persistence can literally drive one crazy. It can make us very uncomfortable, bring on acid indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, high blood pressure.

  • Do we annihilate our ego? Try to do away with it completely. To do that is to deny the reality and role our ego plays in our very survival. It is our ego that steps in when we face a frightening situation and tells us that we can do it, that we have the strength, the courage, the chutzpah, whatever it takes to get through this, to get the job done.

I realize that it isn’t the ego that is the problem. The real issue is hubris -- an out of control ego. Its voice is the voice of self-righteousness and conceit, pride and envy.

What was the event that set me off? An ex-friend contacted me last week to say he had published his book about his life experiences and how he found Christ and God. He had copies of the book for sale for $13 and would hand-deliver a copy to those that live in the area. I assume he sent the same email to all his acquaintances. Since we had spent time a few years earlier discussing our very different beliefs I felt that it would be respectful of me, a gesture of “good faith” to offer to buy his book. He delivered a copy to me Saturday morning and I read it that afternoon.

I sent him a short email in which I said that I admired him for having the courage to write down his life story and put his feelings and beliefs in print and that I could see that he was sincere about what he wrote and what he believes.

I also said that it seemed to me that he was full of contradictions. I pointed out that several places he says that he is not judgmental yet he calls homosexuality a sin and an abomination and cites the biblical passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 as proof. I pointed out those words are judgmental.

He wrote back saying they aren’t his words they are God's. I pointed out that Leviticus is a great collection of “dos” and “do nots.” Either you accept ALL of Leviticus or you reject ALL. But to pick out those two passages as being a greater sin and abomination than others is to be hypocritical. Then I suggested he educate himself about the issue of homosexuality and recommended the pages on this web site as a good place to start. I also reminded him that the Bible condoned slavery, genocide and rape. Our nation and other countries have decided that those are all morally wrong and outlawed them. IF we can choose to reject “God’s word” on these issues for a higher moral position then we can and we must choose to reject “God’s word” on other issues that are no longer applicable to our place and time.

I also pointed out that to state that the Bible is God’s word is also being judgmental. I then pointed out how the discovery and publishing of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other documents has helped scholars learn a great deal about the Bible, who wrote it, how it was compiled, how it has been modified over the centuries, about mistranslations, about errors and contradictions.  Again I suggested he educate himself about some of this information because the Bible is a beautiful book, full of great wisdom for those that read it thoughtfully and critically.

His response was to remind me that if I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior I would be lost. I then told him as I had done in our conversation several years earlier that the very concept of Grace means that it is freely given, there are no strings attached. If you have to accept Jesus as your savior, believe this or that, or follow this law or another, what you have isn’t Grace it is a quid-pro-quo, bribery, or coercion. Either we are all saved or none of us are saved.

He wrote back saying that yes it is freely given but you have to accept it as he put it “God will throw the lifesaver to everyone but they have to accept it.” The lifesaver of course is his version of Christianity.

I pointed out that no strings, means no strings. We forgive others their trespasses as we hope to have our own forgiven whether the other accepts our forgiveness or not. I pointed out that it seems impossible for him to imagine that his God could be great enough to offer His Grace to those who deny his existence, or those that reject Christianity for other TRUTHS. I attached a copy of the article from this web site: "Christian concepts of salvation: An introduction to ancient & modern beliefs. I also suggested he check out this web site for more information on the subject, that it is fair and honest, and that it doesn’t present one position as being more true or THE TRUTH over another.

His response back was what floored me: “I will not waste my time digging into the teachings of other religious leaders. To me, it would be spiritual adultery.”

Learning what other Christians have to say about these topics would be spiritual adultery? Showing respect for other people by learning about their beliefs and traditions would be spiritual adultery?

He continued his explanation: “I have accepted and embraced Jesus as the one and only true way to God the Father. 1 To explore other paths would be unfaithfulness to Him. He is like a marriage partner to whom I commit myself and I will not defile that relationship be exploring other “partners.”

This all coming from a man who confessed in his own book to having an adulterous relationship with a woman while married to his wife, fathering four children by her, and then leaving her and returning to his wife when he had a change of heart.

After I regained my wits I wrote him back and said: “If there is any “truth” to what you believe it won’t be harmed by educating yourself about the beliefs of other people. If your beliefs are false they won’t stand the test. If they don’t stand the test then you will have learned something valuable that will help you become a better person. If your beliefs are false they will still be false even IF you refuse to learn about other people and their reasons for why they believe what they believe.”

Self imposed ignorance is such a waste and so unnecessary and the reason behind the fear and distrust, the outright hate of "the other" -- the one that doesn’t believe what you believe. It actually ends up creating what the ignorant fear the most, it turns other people that aren’t like them into real enemies. It is hard to be friends with someone who disrespects you, or one who calls you as one pastor put it, “a threat to the moral foundations of society.” It makes people feel that their beliefs and way of life are threatened. And the circle of fear and hate goes round and round and round.

I ended by pointing out that his position is why so many are leaving Christianity. His position is why so many young people consider Christians to be hypocrites, self-righteous and judgmental and why they  refuse to have anything to do with any part of that religion, including The Bible.

That is a shame because the Bible, even though it is the work of men, is still filled with great wisdom for those who will read it thoughtfully and critically. AND it is a must read for those that want to understand world history and the problems in the Middle East. Wise words need no claim of divine authorship, they stand on their own merits.

So here this man is continuing to preach that his way and ONLY his way is the TRUTH, all other Christian positions as well as the teachings of other religious leaders on issues of homosexuality, gender identity, salvation, abortion, etc. aren’t just wrong but are lies and that the people that follow those other beliefs aren’t just misguided but are inferior to him.

He continues to insist that I am wrong and  his words imply that I am a sinner and an abomination for not accepting his beliefs and for insisting that the beliefs of others are just as good as his own. (I feel that they are neither superior nor inferior to his beliefs, just different). Meanwhile, he admits that he hasn’t bothered to learn anything about those “others” because to do so would be to commit “spiritual adultery”.

That is pure and simple HUBRIS. Fortunately or unfortunately (depends on how you look at it) his Hubris is driving many folks -- and especially many young people -- away from the religion and Jesus and the God and the Bible that he professes to love.

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Footnote by the webmaster:

  1. I suppose that everyone at some time in their life -- perhaps after reading a Superman comic -- has fantasized about what it would be like to have super powers. If I had my choice of any such power, I would ask to have access to a "super editor" that I could unleash on every word in the Internet, other media, and every book ever printed. It would search out phrases like:

    • "The Bible says" and replace it with "My personal interpretation of the Bible says." and

    • "I have accepted and embraced Jesus" and replace it with "I have accepted and embraced my own personal concepts of Jesus," etc.

Then I would like the super editor to rescan the same information sources for similar references in other religions. I think that this would go a long way towards reducing inter-religious, intra-religious and intra-denomination conflicts, alienation, and denigration. It might eventually even persuade people to not commit mass murder on their God's behalf and in his name. After all, if God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient then he knows what people are thinking and doing. If he wanted to, he could simply stop the blood flow in their jugular vein and end their lives within seconds. But he doesn't do that. He apparently wants them to live. Therefore it would be blasphemy for us to kill these people on behalf of God if God does not want to kill them himself.

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