“We of the churches often gather our robes away from contamination, and thank God that we are not as other men. We don’t despise God’s name; in fact, we call upon it constantly to justify ourselves. How few parents, annoyed past bearing by a young child, can resist the facile, “God will punish you!” How few strait-laced churchwomen, outraged by the shamelessness (and popularity) of the town’s bad girl, can keep from secret satisfaction at the thought of the divine judgment awaiting her! If we object to meat-eating, we declare that God is vegetarian; if we abhor war, we proclaim a pacifist Deity. He who turned water into wine to gladden a wedding is now accused by many of favouring that abominable fluid grape juice.
There can hardly be a more evil way of taking God’s name in vain than this way of presuming to speak in it. For here is spiritual pride, the ultimate sin, in action-the sin of believing in one’s own righteousness. The true prophet says humbly, “To me, a sinful man, God spoke.” But the scribes and Pharisees declare, “When we speak, God agrees.” They feel no need of a special revelation, for they are always, in their own view, infallible. It is this self-righteousness of the pious that most breeds atheism, by inspiring all decent ordinary men with loathing of the enormous lie.”