Saturday, September 27, 2008

Check your brain at the door, please ... (Part 1)

Its been nearly a month since my last post. The next two posts I am planning (a review of The Design Matrix by Mike Gene, and a post I’ve promised to my atheist friend Psiloiordinary on “My Reasons for Belief”), are both a bit daunting, for some reason. As I continue to work on them, here is a “filler” discussion starter ...
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I found the church reader board at right on at this site where you can compose your own message (its actually quite fun, especially if you are as cynical as I am about church reader boards ... yuk!), but I understand that this message was for real. It expresses a sentiment which has been directed against me and this blog site by some of my own friends. Anyone care to defend this point of view? It is quite common in some conservative evangelical circles. So ...

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.”

AGREE ~ DISAGREE ??

8 comments:

RBH said...

It's actually a quotation from Martin Luther, in the context of his argument for fideism. Luther was arguing that because reason plays no part in coming to faith (in his view) and because using one's reason can undermine faith, it is therefore the enemy of faith.

Since I don't have a theological dog in this fight (that is, in whether fideism is the appropriate view), I can't speak to that aspect. But yes, to judge from my experience with deconversions (mostly on Internet Infidels), the free exercise of reason is an enemy of faith.

Psiloiordinary said...

Well speaking for myself it is my reason which seems to prevent me from having "faith".

- - -

That is one scary sign!

Psi

Damian said...

I can't speak to the theological perspective rbh talks about, but my reason has been the greatest tool in my life for expanding and increasing my faith, and I disagree strongly with the quote.

Cliff Martin said...

Psi: That is one scary sign!
Yes, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

My own experience has been much like Damian's. But my reasoned faith has, so far, proven unassailable by science and rationalism. That might not be true if I were holding on to one of the many forms of rigid fundamentalism. Which leads to this question:

RBH, the objects of de-conversion to which you refer, what "brand" of Christian faith did they profess before their faith was destroyed by reason? Were they free-thinking, open-minded, friends of science? or were they group-thinking, closed-minded, enemies of science? Did they accept a non-literal approach to the Scripture, or were they strict literalists?

My contention is that rigid, literalist fundamentalism is indeed threatened by reason. Thus are fundamentalists typically enjoined not to think. Of that kind of faith, reason certainly is a great, if not the greatest enemy. But Christians who think deeply, who enthusiastically engage with scientific discovery, who reject wooden literalism, such believers have a faith which, like Damian's, grows with the application of reason.

Psiloiordinary said...

Just two words which elevate you further still in my (sometimes humble) opinion;

". . . so far. . ."

- - -

I haven't seen any convincing evidence of the supernatural, so far.

:-)

RBH said...

Cliff asked

RBH, the objects of de-conversion to which you refer, what "brand" of Christian faith did they profess before their faith was destroyed by reason? Were they free-thinking, open-minded, friends of science? or were they group-thinking, closed-minded, enemies of science? Did they accept a non-literal approach to the Scripture, or were they strict literalists?

Mainly out of pretty fundamentalist literalist traditions, usually YECs. They were by no means the majority of fundamentalists we'd get on Infidels -- most who appeared there were drive-by posters who hit and ran. Very few actually deconverted, though some shifted to less literalist readings. Those few who actually deconverted tended to be of relatively high intelligence (judging from their verbal behavior) who stuck around to participate in the interchange. And it could take years -- literally. One in particular I think of spent on the order of five years debating, discussing, and arguing before his eventual conclusion that he had become faith-free.

The one trait that seemed to differentiate them from the other fundamentalist theists we got was sustained curiosity about unbelievers and unbelief. Long-term exposure to nonbelievers who were evidently not tools of Satan, who were fully engaged human beings, seemed to be the medicine they needed. :)

Cliff Martin said...

Good comment, RBH.

Of course that line separating belief from non-belief leaks in both directions. Many atheists who convert to faith are, no doubt, influenced by their discovery that not all believers are wide-eyed, rabid, science-hating crazies.

We would all do well to recognize that the gulf separating believers from non-believers is narrow indeed. We are all human beings, capable of decency and mutual respect. One hope I have is that here, at OutsideTheBox, believers are being exposed to atheists who are considerate, thoughtful, intelligent, and engaged ... and vice versa.

AMW said...

Thus are fundamentalists typically enjoined not to think.

I disagree. I think fundamentalists are typically enjoined vigorously to think. But they are also enjoined vigorously as to which sources of information from which they should draw.

It's a rigged game. The community controls the evidence that's allowed in, and also frames the language in which the debate will take place. The individual is encouraged to think as rigorously as possible within these constraints and, lo and behold, ends up being very convinced that what the community believes is correct.