Warum der Mensch zur Megalomanie neigt

Man knows more than the immediate natural situation in which he stands, and he constantly seeks to understand his immediate situation in terms of a total situation. Yet he is unable to define the total human situation without colouring his definition with finite perspectives drawn from his immediate situation.

Man is tempted to deny the limited character of his knowledge, and the finiteness of his perspectives. He pretends to have achieved a degree of knowledge which is beyond the limit of finite life. This is the ‘ideological taint’ in which all human knowledge is involved, and which is always something more than mere human ignorance. It is always partly an effort to hide that ignorance by pretension.

This ability to stand outside and beyond the world, tempts man to megalomania and persuades him to regard himself as the god arount and about whom the universe centres. Yet he is too obviously involved in the flux and finiteness of nature to make such pretensions plausibly. The real situation is that he has an environment of eternity which he cannot know through the mere logical ordering of his experience.

Reinhold Niebuhr. The Nature and Destiny of Man. Vol. I. Westminster John Knox Press: Louiseville 1996. (182, 124-125)