Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Convergence of Faith and Reason

I am finding that a lot of people, religious as well as non-religious, seem to believe that faith and reason do not intersect. But if we just use reason alone, we will find that this assumption breaks down.

Mankind is finite. We are limited in what we know. We are limited in what we CAN know. For instance, there are things so far out in space, that no telescope or device will be able to observe, measure or detect. So reason alone says that there are things that exist outside of the reaches of empiricism.

I do understand that there are some people who have a rare philosophy that says that only that which we can observe and experience is real. Such a philosophy goes so far as to say that when a refrigerator door is shut, its contents cease to exist. There are many arguments against such a philosophy. I shall not expound on them, but only say that I think this philosophy says more about the limits of empiricism, than the limits of reality/truth.

So if we acknowledge that there are things that exist outside of our ability to observe and measure, than we have already seen a glimpse into the validity of faith.

But I can take faith even further. EVERYONE has faith. When you get in a car to go somewhere, can you absolutely 100% KNOW that you will arrive safely at your destination? Of course not. But do you BELIEVE you will arrive safely? If not, I don't think you'd get in the car in the first place. THAT is faith.

What if you were to get into the passenger seat of that car and let a drunk person drive you? That would be crazy wouldn't it? But do you absolutely KNOW that the drunk will have an accident? No, but the odds are against them driving safely. It is reasonable to conclude that you would be unsafe to ride with the drunk. But because you can't KNOW this for sure, you have faith. More specifically, you have a reasoned faith. You have a faith informed by rational thought. Your faith is informed by probability.

I could give many many more analogies that demonstrate this convergence of faith and reason. Every time we plan for the future, we "roll the dice" based on the probability that we will live for that future event. We have no proof so we have faith instead. That faith is backed up by reason. Interviewing for a job requires faith. But you wouldn't do it if you didn't have reason to believe you could get the position.

These examples are different than blind faith. Many religions do seem to advocate a blind faith. For instance, Hinduism and Buddhism claim reincarnation, but outside of some people's deja vu experiences, and subjective interpretations of nature, they don't offer any rational argument to support these claims. Most other religions have the same problem.

This is why I am a Christian. Christianity is different in this regard. Its cornerstone is the claim that Jesus Christ died and rose again. It could just make these claims (blind faith) and offer nothing more. Instead, it presents to us multiple witnesses to these claims who wrote the Gospels. These writers were so convinced of Christ's resurrection that they died for this belief.

Yes, it is true that many religious people die for their beliefs, but if you are thinking this, you have missed the point. These writers weren't just ANY group of religious people. They had the unique ability to validate their claims. All they had to do was go to the grave and see if Christ was there. All the Roman government had to do to stifle Christianity's threat to its empire was to produce Christ's body.

Why didn't this occur?

Yes, I have faith, but it is NOT a blind faith. It is a faith that is supported by reason. While I can't absolutely prove 100% these things, if I could it would NOT be faith. But because my faith is supported by a reasonable argument, it is not a blind faith.

What is your faith? Why do you believe it? If you merely believe in it because it makes you feel good, or out of fear, or because it serves you, you believe for the wrong reasons. And please don't think that I'm pointing a finger at you. These are questions that I ask myself.

There are other reasons that I believe as well. I will discuss those in my next two blogs.

If you've read this far and still do not see the convergence of faith and reason, I point you to Google on the subject of Christian Apologetics. Christian apologetics is an attempt by Christians to defend their faith using reason. If this convergence that I speak of does NOT exist, then neither would the apologist.

In every instance that I have EVER encountered someone who didn't understand this convergence, I have found that the dissenter was not aware of apologetics, or had not listened/read such arguments.

I close with this thought. If I were opposed to Christianity, wouldn't the most effective way for me to prevent its spread be for me to cast it as a faith that throws out the brain?

Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living.

If I wanted to bury my head in the sand when it comes to questions regarding the meaning of life, the existence of God, how I should live my life, etc., would I find any better way to do this than to simply dismiss all religious people as holding to a blind faith?

Which takes MORE blind faith; to examine the reasons for believing or to simply dismiss them all as having blind faith?

Often our rejections of dogma, are dogmatic, our objections to zealotry are zealous, and our abstinence of intolerance is intolerant....

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