Zeal Falsely So Called

And because the situation on the whole is this, namely, the profoundest indifference, it is made in turn all too easy for the individual who is a trifle more advanced to become self-important, as though he were the earnest man, a man of character, etc.—There is a young man—he feels indignant about the general lukewarmness and indifference, he an enthusiast and would also express his enthusiasm, he ventures…to express it anonymously. Well-meaning as he doubtless is, and that’s the pleasing part about it, it perhaps escapes his notice that this is rather weak, and he lets himself be deluded by the consideration that in comparison with the prevailing lukewarmness this appears to be something.—Or it is an older man, an earnest citizen, he is shocked at the lukewarmness and indifference of many people who would rather hear nothing about religion. He on the contrary reads, procures whatever is published, talks about it, declaims zealously…in the parlor; and it perhaps escapes his notice that, Christianly, this is not really earnestness, that it is earnestness only in comparison with that which never ought to be used for comparison if one would go forward; for that forward striving only becomes possible by comparison with what is ahead, the more advanced.

Søren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christiandom”, pp 186-7.