Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


Antinomianism — the belief that the intrinsic holiness of believers liberates them from petty concerns with moral, much less humane, behaviour — often seems depressingly prevalent. At least as prevalent as the mirror-image disposition that many believers attribute to atheists, that if there is no God to set rules, all things are permitted.

I was just reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the first time, and I was struck by the morality of the Tin Woodman, who hopes that the Wizard will bestow upon him a heart. Of course, the running joke is that the everyone is going to the Wizard to get something that they already have. The Scarecrow wants brains, even though he repeatedly proves himself the cleverest of the company; the Cowardly Lion wants courage despite the fact that he repeatedly performs heroic and self-sacrificing deads. The Tin Woodman, although he is made of metal and lacks a heart, is the most tenderhearted of all. At one point he rusts himself through crying over a beetle that he steps on accidentally.

“This will serve me a lesson,” said he, “to look where I step. For if I should kill another bug or beetle I should surely cry again, and crying rusts my jaws so that I cannot speak.”

Thereafter he walked very carefully, with his eyes on the road, and when he saw a tiny ant toiling by he would step over it, so as not to harm it. The Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything.

“You people with hearts,” he said, “have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful. When Oz gives me a heart of course I needn’t mind so much.”

Replace “heart” by “grace”, and you see that far too many of the devout believe they have been to Oz.

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