The Cloak of Religious Zeal

Many a times I thought how can one explain to the critics of religion that what lies at the heart of religion, the inward truth of which religion is only an outward expression, has nothing to do with the heinous acts done under a cloak of religious zeal, that such acts are of men oblivious to the principle and not of the principle itself. Never I found a response better than one offered by William Law:

“Would you know whence it is that so many false spirits have appeared in the world, who have deceived themselves and others with false fire and false light, laying claim to information, illumination, and openings of the divine Life, particularly to do wonders under extraordinary calls from God? It is this: They have turned to God without turning from themselves; would be alive to God before they are dead to their own nature. Now religion in the hands of self, or corrupt nature, serves only to discover vices of a worse kind than in nature left to itself. Hence are all the disorderly passions of religious men, which burn in a worse flame than passions only employed about worldly matters; pride, self-exaltation, hatred and persecution, under a cloak of religious zeal, will sanctify actions which nature, left to itself, would be ashamed to own.”

William Law 

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