Moral Man and Immoral Society - A Study in Ethics and by Reinhold Niebuhr

By Reinhold Niebuhr

Ethical guy and Immoral Society is Reinhold Niebuhr's very important early learn in ethics and politics. Forthright and lifelike, it discusses the inevitability of social clash, the brutal habit of human collectives of each type, the shortcoming of rationalists and social scientists to even think the realities of collective energy, and, finally, how person morality can triumph over social immorality.

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Augustine, City of God, Bk. 4, Chap. ) There is a form of religious piety in which religious sensitivity heightens the sense of sin, without destroying its moral connotation; in which the affront to God is the final, but not the only, crime of selfishness, and in which the worship of God is the crown, but not the only, manifestation of the self-conquered life. Such a relation between religion and ethics is found in the thought of Thomas Aquinas for instance. Nevertheless the tendency of religion to obscure the shades and shadows of moral life, by painting only the contrast between the white radiance of divine holiness and the darkness of the world, remains a permanent characteristic of the religious life.

So nations crucify their moral rebels with their criminals upon the same Golgotha, not being able to distinguish between the moral idealism which surpasses, and the anti-social conduct which falls below that moral mediocrity, on the level of which every society unifies its life. While critical loyalty toward a community is not impossible, it is not easily achieved.

Only rebellion against God, and only the impertinence of self-will in the sight of God, are regarded as sinful. One may see this logic of religion very clearly in the thought of Jonathan Edwards. "A crime is more or less heinous," he declares, "according as we are under greater or less obligation to the contrary. Our obligation to love, honor and obey any being is in proportion to its loveliness, honorableness and authority. But God is a being infinitely lovely because he has infinite excellence and beauty.

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