Literature & Religion: Pascal, Gryphius, Lessing, Holderlin, Novalis, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Kafka

By Walter Jens; Hans Küng et al. | Go to book overview

HANS KüNG
Religion
on Trial
in the Enlightenment

The young lad was twelve years old when he sat for his school's entrance examination. He was asked to do a Latin translation on the influence of Christianity in overcoming ancient prejudices toward barbaric peoples. After the assignment was finished, there was still some time left over, so he added on his own a few wellphrased sentences -- still in Latin -- which showed even then astonishing intrepidity, penetration, and eloquence.

It is barbaric, he argued, to distinguish between nations, since all have been created by God and furnished with reason; it is particularly fitting for Christians to love their neighbor. According to Christ, our neighbor is the one who needs our help, and thus, he concluded, since we all need one another's help, we are all neighbors one to the other.

"Hence let us not condemn the Jews, although they condemned Christ" ("Itaque nolumus damnare Judaeos, quamquam Christum damnaverunt"), the twelve-year-old demanded. "Let us not condemn the Mohammedans; even among Mohammedans there are decent people" ("nolumus damnare Mahometanos, etiam inter Mohametanos probi homines sunt"). "Finally, no one is a barbarian, except for those who are inhuman and cruel" ("Denique nemo est barbarus, qui non inhumanus et crudelis est" (shared with me by E. A. Diller, quoted in K. Aner, p. 14).

-69-

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