The Worst Religion

G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy describes what he thinks to be the worst form of religion, what he calls the "worship of the god within":

"Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the inner light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within...That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners" (Chesterton, 1063)

In stark contrast to the modern philosophy of which I have spoken of time and time again that supposes man to be good, that supposes man ought to follow his heart and every passing inclination; Chesterton says that the only correct posture is one that looks outward. As opposed to finding delight and liberation in "who we are", Christianity asserts that we are thoroughly depraved beings whose hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Our righteousness is the equivalence of filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6); and though we may scour the world for a truly good person there is in fact no one who does good (Romans 3:12). The Biblical indictment against man is as extreme as it is unpopular: We are sin-tainted, evil beings.

It only figures then that the worst religion is when man, instead of subjecting himself to God in humility and obedience as he was created to do, looks within to that polluted inner light. When instead of serving the one who is outside himself, he turns inward and serves the god within. Is this not what the forward thinking builders of the tower of Babel proclaimed as they built their structure to the heavens: "Let us make a name for ourselves!" (Genesis 11:4) Is this not the lie that Eve believed when she took of the fruit and ate: "You shall be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5) Is this not the degraded charge against the people of Israel: "They did what was right in their own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

St. Augustine says the following when examining the sin of our first parents:

"What is the origin of our evil will but pride? For 'pride is the beginning of sin.' And what is pride but the undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction. And it does so when it falls away from that unchangeable good which ought to satisfy it more than itself." (St. Augustine, 10861)

He continues on: "By craving to be more, man becomes less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from Him who truly suffices him." (10890)

Pride is the root of all sin, and such revolt against our created order will not go unpunished. Scripture reminds us that he who exalts himself will be humbled. Therefore, as Christians we have to reject with fury the age old religion in modern clothes that rejects heaven's design in self worship. We have to be skeptical of things we feel a natural bent towards, and mindful of what that "Outer Light" desires and requires.

May we follow in the words of Christ: daily denying ourselves, living wholly subject to Him.


Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. 2012.  Kindle Edition.
St. Augustine. City of God. Skyros Publishing. 2015. Kindle Edition.


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