Monday, August 19, 2013

Star Parker’s Condemnation of Pride Highlights the Connection Between Pride and Liberty

Conservative political activist Star Parker says that “same-sex marriage is really pride’s assault on religion.” Why?

The Book of Proverbs, in biblical canon, once a vital part of American culture, tells us: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” It’s this haughty spirit, this pride that precedes destruction, that lies behind the Supreme Court’s decision . . . to bury the Defense of Marriage Act.

This decision . . . is but the latest in a long process of the unraveling of American culture driven by pride—the sense that we answer to no higher authority.

Parker’s attack on pride suggests something about the life-serving importance of pride. For one thing, pride is the antithesis of blindly accepting the moral dictates of some "higher authority." If one does submit one's moral judgment to authority, one does not have pride. If one does submit, one places the quality of one's life and potential for happiness in jeopardy by placing one's moral guidance in the hands of some authority other than one's own reason. To think for oneself is to have pride—and vice-versa.

So, what precisely is pride? Two great philosophers weighed in on the issue.

Aristotle identified pride as “the crown of the virtues,” reflective of the personal commitment to “greatness in every virtue”: The proud man “thinks himself worthy of great things,” never “thinking himself worthy of less than he is really worthy.” Pride, observed Ayn Rand, is “moral ambitiousness”—“the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value”; a recognition that must and can be earned by a personal commitment to the achievement of moral perfection in character and deed, while never self-sacrificially subordinating one’s judgment to the authority of others.

But “Pride,” counters the Christian theologian Augustine, “is self-glorifying attempts to rely on oneself to any degree . . . The flawed will [that] turns [one] away from God.”

Religionists like Parker seek to legally force their marital terms on everyone else. On whose authority? By the dictates of “biblical canon”; the writings of people who claim to speak for God, a “higher authority” that they claim exists.

Is it any wonder why religionists consider pride to be man’s “primal vice” and his “Original Sin,” as Augustine put it? What proud person would submit to religionists’ unchallengeable commandments?

Pride stands in the way of religious authoritarianism, because standing up for one’s rights and intellectual autonomy against religious authoritarians like Parker is an act of pride.

Related Reading:

Why We Need Freedom From Religion

The Broader Threat of Theocracy

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