The exhortation of Horace became for Kant the guiding principle of the Enlightenment. Few of us … dare to accept the challenge. Some of us think we do, but should recognize that almost everything we think is totally unoriginal. We have been sponges ever since we were born, and learned almost all of what we know from others; personal experience has added to our stock of knowledge but even our “personal” opinions owe much to our parents and teachers, to the books we read and to the people we admire, and even to the blogs we consult. We may come up with an original turn of phrase, but the content of the thought is usually not our own.
All of this is especially evident in matters religious. What you believe and what you refuse to believe, as well as your reasons for believing or not believing it, are unlikely to be something you invented. There is no shame in this. The pity is that so many people never dare to question what they have been taught to believe or disbelieve. Unless we are content to be a brainless sponge and echo-chamber, we do well to make personal judgments as objectively and as independently as we can. Unfortunately, as has been recently pointed out by Jean-Claude Liaudet, a French psychoanalyst and psychosociologist : “It is in the nature of every religion to replace personal thought with a collective delirium which acts as a sedative for the individual” (“L’Obs”, 3/12/15).
In this Blog I have attempted to say what I think, without claiming to have often broken entirely new ground. I owe so much to so many. But I have made the thoughts expressed my own, and tried to find my own ways of expressing them. I have dared to think for myself even before I ever knew that the poet and the philosopher had immortalized the mantra. Whether anyone gives a damn what I think is another matter.