|Augustine's Thought On Religion
Augustine distinguishes among understanding, which is "always without fault," belief, which is "at times faulty," and mere opinion, which is "never without fault." Belief is "blameworthy," according to him, when it is "too readily held" or when it attributes to God what "is unworthy of Him." Otherwise, belief is without fault, so long as it is held with the honest realization that it is not rational knowledge. Mere opinion is objectionable because it stifles the incentive to gain knowledge and involves the rashness of acceptance without foundation. True understanding, by contrast, must be of the truth and on adequate grounds. "What we understand, accordingly, we owe to reason; what we believe, to authority; and what we have an opinion on, to error. But everyone who understands also believes, and everyone who has an opinion believes, too; but not everyone who believes understands, and no one who merely has an opinion understands."
Fideists and sceptics are both enemies of truth. Those who attack faith without understanding would undermine parental authority since children must believe and obey their parents, even before understanding why they rule as they do. The utility of belief is that it gives the soul access to truth prior to rational knowledge and prepares it to attain understanding.
Augustine maintains that God, being all-good, never does evil. On the other hand, God does cause some people to suffer evil as punishment for their wrongdoing. We should conceive of God as supreme, omnipotent, the immutable Creator, and the most excellent of all beings and just Ruler of all creations.
Augustine argues that everything real is good insofar as it is real: "For every nature is either corruptible or incorruptible. If it is an incorruptible nature, it is better than a corruptible nature, it is undoubtedly good, since corruption makes it less good. Therefore, every nature is good."
Augustine advises us to conceive of God "as good without quantity, as the Creator who lacks nothing, who rules but from no position, and who contains all things without an external form, as being whole everywhere without limitation of space, as eternal without time, as making mutable things without any change in Himself, and as a Being without passion."
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