The perils of moral certainty

Anthony Robinson of the Seattle Times expounds on the perils of believing in one’s own moral certainty.

A Cardinal Rule for a columnist, as for a preacher, is “Have only one subject, focus on one topic.” I have a problem. I have three topics.

Topic 1: The revelations regarding Eliot Spitzer’s little problem, a topic that has preoccupied front pages, talk shows, blogs and coffee-pot conversation all week long.

Topic 2: The anniversary (seems like the wrong word somehow) of the Iraq war. On Wednesday, it’ll be five years since George W. Bush gleefully announced the “initiation of hostilities.”

Topic 3: A new book about religion and politics by Washington Post journalist E. J. Dionne, who was in town this week, and with whom I spoke.

A trinity of topics, but one theme. The New York governor’s fall, five years of war and Dionne’s book all make clear how intoxicating, how politically useful, but how perilous it is to be absolutely certain that you are right.

All three point out the perils of moral certainty and the dangers of being sure of our own unassailable virtue. What a dangerous high is to be had by concentrating the mind on the evil of others, while being clueless about our own. If smugness isn’t a sin, it should be.

Read the rest here.

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