Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold
Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr
1892
1971

American Ethicist, Intellectual, Leftist Neo-Orthodox Christian Theologian and Commentator on Public Affairs

Author Quotes

Without repentance those who have created peace through their power imagine that they have created pure peace: and suffer from the delusion that the enemies of their peace are God

While it is possible for intelligence to increase the range of benevolent impulse, and thus prompt a human being to consider the needs and rights of other than those to whom he is bound by organic and physical relationship, there are definite limits in the capacity of ordinary mortals which makes it impossible for them to grant to others what they claim for themselves.

Without repentance those who have crated peace through their power imagine that they have created pure peace: and suffer from the delusion that the enemies of their peace are God

We have, on the whole, more liberty and equality than Russia has. Russia has liberty and more equality. Whether democracy should be defined primarily in terms of liberty or equality is a source of unending debate.

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about a particular degree of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimatized.

Ultimately evil is done not so much by evil people, but by good people who do not know themselves and who do not probe deeply.

We don't properly discriminate. We never discriminate properly when we're dealing with another group and one of the big problems about religion is that religious people don't know that they are probably as flagrant in these misjudgments as irreligious people.

This insinuation of the interests of the self into even the most ideal enterprises and most universal objectives, envisaged in moments of highest rationality, makes hypocrisy an inevitable by product of all virtuous endeavor.

To the end of history, social orders will probably destroy themselves in an effort to prove they are indestructible.

There is no social evil, no form of injustice whether of the feudal or the capitalist order which has not been sanctified in some way or other by religious sentiment and thereby rendered more impervious to change.

There is no cure for the pride of a virtuous nation but pure religion.

The will-to-live becomes the will-to-power.

There are evidently limits to the achievements of science; and there are irresolvable contradictions both between prosperity and virtue, and between happiness and ``the good life,'' which had not been anticipated in our philosophy.

There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.

The value and dignity of the individual is threatened whenever it is assumed that individual desires, hopes and ideals can be fitted with friction harmony into the collective purposes of man. The individual is not discrete. He cannot find his fulfillment outside of the community; but he also cannot find fulfillment completely within society. In so far as he finds fulfillment within society he must abate his individual ambitions. He must 'die to self' if he would truly live. In so far as he finds fulfillment beyond every historical community he lives his life in painful tension with even the best community, sometimes achieving standards of conduct which defy the standards of the community with a resolute we must obey God rather than man.

The whole art of politics consists in directing rationally the irrationalities of men.

The stupidity of the average man will permit the oligarch, whether economic or political, to hide his real purposes from the scrutiny of his fellows and to withdraw his activities from effective control. Since it is impossible to count on enough moral goodwill among those who possess irresponsible power to sacrifice it for the good of the whole, it must be destroyed by coercive methods and these will always run the peril of introducing new forms of injustice in place of those abolished.

The tendency to claim God as an ally for our partisan value and ends is the source of all religious fanaticism.

The separation of church and state is necessary partly because if religion is good then the state shouldn't interfere with the religious vision or with the religious prophet. There must be a realm of truth beyond political competence, that's why there must be a separation of churches, but if religion is bad and a bad religion is one that gives an ultimate sanctity to some particular cause. Then religion mustn't interfere with the state

The society in which each man lives is at once the basis for, and the nemesis of, that fulness of life which each man seeks.

The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.

The scientific observer of the realm of nature is in a sense naturally and inevitably disinterested. At least, nothing in the natural scene can arouse his bias. Furthermore, he stands completely outside of the natural so that his mind, whatever his limitations, approximates pure mind. The observer of the realm of history cannot be disinterested in the same way, for two reasons: first, he must look at history from some locus in history; secondly, he is to a certain degree engaged in its ideological conflicts.

The people that weren't traditionally religious, conventionally religious, had a religion of their own in my youth. These were liberals who believed in the idea of progress or they were Marxists. Both of these secular religions have broken down. The nuclear age has refuted the idea of progress and Marxism has been refuted by Stalinism. Therefore people have returned to the historic religion. But now when the historic religions give trivial answers to these very tragic questions of our day, when an evangelist says, for instance, we mustn't hope for a summit meeting, we must hope in Christ without spelling out what this could mean in our particular nuclear age. This is the irrelevant answer, when another Evangelist says if America doesn't stop being selfish, it will be doomed. This is also a childish answer because nations are selfish and the question about America isn't whether we will be selfish or unselfish, but will we be sufficiently imaginative to pass the Reciprocal Trade Acts.

The real of our existence lies in the fact that we ought to love one another, but do not.

The old prose writers wrote as if they were speaking to an audience; while, among us, prose is invariably written for the eye alone.

Author Picture
First Name
Reinhold
Last Name
Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr
Birth Date
1892
Death Date
1971
Bio

American Ethicist, Intellectual, Leftist Neo-Orthodox Christian Theologian and Commentator on Public Affairs