The Great Religion Paradox

If we define religion to be the practice of submission to a god or gods, how can the attributes of selflessness and humility be reconciled with acceptance of salvation or somehow otherwise being “special”? Can a man be selfless while at the same time holding to a guarantee of his own immortality? Can a man be humble while at the same time believing that a god has singled him out as a worthy individual?

It is my contention that if a man is one entity, while his god is another, then the man is in an impossible situation if his god demands humility, because the man must deny the very power of his god and deem himself unworthy of the worth that his god has bestowed upon him. On the other hand, if a man and his god are one and the same, then the paradox is resolved as the man enjoys a unary metaphysical state of attributional homogeny.

Are there some religions that are caught in this paradox while others aren’t? If you are religious, how do you reconcile your faith in God (or gods) with your faith in yourself?

Well, there are religions that don’t necessarily demand humility - their gods want very specific things from their worshippers and reward them for providing them.

You’re right, Badtz. There are religions that, by their very nature, are exempt. There are, however, billions and billions of people who adhere to religions that demand humility and selflessness while at the same time bestowing immortality and guarantees of special status. The debate is about how these people reconcile these opposite attributes.

Even Jesus Himself spoke to this problem: “The first shall be last, and the last first.” “The least shall be the greatest.” “I have come to be a servant.” And so on.

In my own case, I am God. Therefore, I am in a state of unary attributional homogeny. But for those who believe that their own spiritual consciousness is separate from the one whom they worship, there is a problem.

Two thoughts:[ul][li]My own understanding of humility is that it is the acceptance of yourself, your abilities and faliures as they truly are. Thus, if you truly are the best piano player in the world, humility is to say “I am the best” and not “I am not that good, really”. If the truth of the situation is that God has blessed me, humility is the acceptance of that fact. Salvation is the work of God rather than of me - it is a work of grace, pure and simple. I am not worthy of his acceptance, I have done nothing to deserve or earn it and yet He had feely given it to me. Humility therefore has no place - I have nothing to be proud of in the first place.[/ul][/li]**

Jesus commands us to “Love your neighbour, as you love yourself” (emphasis mine). One cannot properly love one’s neighbour if one does not love and accept one’s self - likewise, one cannot love oneself properly if one is not loving one’s neighbour. Christianity is not a faith of self-hatred, but of the realisation of the the fullness/richness of one’s self and then choosing to submit that to God. My recognition of my own unworthiness of God’s affection for me does not alter the fact of its existance, nor the richness and fullness of its expression.

That is my belief…


This is way too deep a topic for me to make a meaningful contribution Lib, but my view of the relationship between man and God as being ‘one but not the same’ (as opposed to ‘one and the same’ - union in marriage being a perhaps useful analogy. We’re dealing with non-logical systems here; I expect a paradox or two; in fact I sometimes wonder if paradox isn’t a good thing in that it keeps things flowing.

Grimpixie, you make a formidable argument. But your definition of humility doesn’t seem to square with the ordinary definition, as the quality of being “marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful”, “showing deferential or submissive respect”, or “low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly”. Are you saying that God requires a special kind of humility?

Mange, I do get your point, but isn’t it something of a copout to attribute a problem in circumstance to “mysterious ways”? If a paradox is reconciled extralogically, then isn’t there a way to express the reconciliation by some method other than logic?

I don’t know; my feeling is almost that the paradox is essential in that it provides the stimulus to press on toward the goal. For me, the reconciliation isn’t so much as a done deal, but a ongoing process that can only asymptotically aproach completion, so long as there remains flesh in the equation.

Libertarian, your comments show that both you and I understand GrimPixie the same way. I have not bothered to look up “humility” in a dictionary, because I don’t want to get hung up on semantics. I’d rather modify the question to be something like, “According to those religions which demand that a person be humble, exactly what does that mean?”

The definitions of humility which you gave cover a broad array of feelings. I suggest that there is a distinction between “I’m a nothing” and “I’m not special.” You seem to take humility as the former; grimpixie and I take it as the latter.

BTW, I love Mangetout’s point: At either extreme (“I’m nothing” or “I’m special”) there is no motivation to improve. Being in the middle provides the stimulus.

Grimpixie, I think, has it on target, albeit I’m not thrilled with his choice of analogies. To “be humble” in the sense in which it is called for in the Gospels is to have a clear understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world, neither elevating oneself above others (for a parallel, how many threads have you read here in which some person is arrogating to himself the authority to prescribe what others should or should not approve of, ranging from the music of Elton John to gay sexual practices, from religious belief to political stances) nor adopting too lowly a stance. I was made who I am by the subtle work of God operating through my parents, my teachers, my cow-orkers, my foster sons and their wives and children, my friends, and all the other influences that have gone to make up who I am. I have a role to play in the world. To be egotistical about how “important” that role may be is to fail to exercise humility, but also to think that I am dirt and worth nothing in the estimation of those who matter is equally erroneous.

No - not really, perhaps a different understanding of humility…

Of your ordinary definitions, the first is the closest to my own - and I agree to a certain extent with all of them, but I see too much false humility around to leave the definitions there. St. Bernard defines humility as: “A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself.” (quoted in this entry in the Catholic Dictionary, which says a lot of good things about the subject) also St. Thomas: “The virtue of humility”, he says, “Consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one’s superior”

Making oneself unpretentious and lowly in denial of one’s own abilities and gifts is simply lying - to oneself, to those around you and to God. The Devil’s greatest lies are complimentary - one says “You am not good enough for God” (false humility), the other says “You do not need God” (pride). True humility comes when, secure in your self awareness, you submit yourself to others (including God). Jesus at the Last Supper demonstrated this in the washing of his disciple’s feet (emphasis mine)

This is the example we are set to follow - it is at neither extreme of the spectrum, and we are always striving to find the “third way”. As Mangetout said - dealing with paradoxes like this is what keeps our faith real and dynamic, there is no “done and dusted” solution, we need to keep seeking God and examining and adjusting our attitudes and actions…


P.S. Polycarp said: “my cow-orkers” - heh heh, don’t get on eh?? :wink:

Manny Peoples have used “cow-orkers” for “people with whom I work” since the earliest days of AOL/SD. No insult to the people with whom I have worked over the years was implied.