Reason to believe, or not


[size=2]Reason to believe, or not[/size]
Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial address of September 12, in which he stated that Islam rejects reason, caused an outcry. In response, 38 Islamic leaders have signed an open letter to him, in which they state that there is no dichotomy in Islam between reason and faith. Spengler reasons that the letter shows the pope is right.


I feel that the document is partisan, and glosses over philosophical dilemmas that still exist. The Islamic explanation of reason is no more (or less) valid than the Christian description - both imply that reason is either there as a sign, or as a *gift *from the creator.
I personally am not yet convinced that there is a genuine application of reason in religion, or *faith *would not be required to accept the existence of a deity. Part of the reason the church has a love affair with the Greeks is that they pursued a teleological search for truth.

It strikes me as odd that religions have official bodies that judge if revelation is “genuine” - God initially appears to wild men in the desert who come back changed and intent on changing those around them. Today, we’d assume these people were lunatics, or had suffered a mental collapse. To apply a form of ecclesiastical legalese to these tales of spiritual dareing-do does not make the initial event any more plausible. That it is required is comical. It just coats the event in a veneer of authenticity and erudition that, in the same manner as legal documents, blind us to the content.

While some faiths tolerate reason, there will never be an instance when a reasoned argument will be accepted that “proves” the non-existence of God, although many exist. Those that have faith will often use a form of reason and semantic argument (like Socrates) to make the false true. If philosophy has taught us anything, it’s taught us that you can say a lot of stuff with language, but truth isn’t one of them. Reason, being a form of analysis using language, is not a reliable tool in this debate.

Those arguments that resolve in the existence of a creator require an initial cause, like the Greeks, a movement that began all motion, but which does not result from one. I suspect that this argument indicates a limitation of human cognition, that we cannot fathom infinity and so we resolve arguments like this by invoking celestial punctuation marks - like sero, or God. Religious arguments that require God as the outcome before the first question is asked are (IMO) not valid.


I agree with some of what FightingFat is saying. My biggest problem with Spengler’s article, however, is his assertion that reason begins with Descartes. I’m pretty sure that’s not the usage Pope Benedict had in mind! Spengler appears to dismiss the medieval scholastics as engaging in the same sort of self-affirming enterprise that the Islamic scholars are. (I also wonder why Kierkegaard is the final word on what Socrates was all about!)

Still, I think there’s some truth to the claim that Christianity has come to terms with the skeptical function of reason in a way that Islam hasn’t. Not all Christianity has done so, of course. . . .Even the medieval scholastics knew how to ask potentially destructive questions in the context of “faith seeking understanding.” It does seem to me that on the whole Islamic philosophy was never quite so well integrated into Islamic faith. But I’m not sure about this.



And I would say to you, FightingFat, that unproven assertions don’t make good arguments, nor characterizing the Hebrew prophets as “wild men in the desert” help the discussion. If you were to actually read the OT prophets you would know that your description is far from accurate, and is indeed, merely a smoke-screen keeping many from seeing the truth.

And a lot of fancy words and false suppositions work no more than mis-characterizations do. What you wrote may sound learned and wise and all that, but actually it sounds to me like the musings of people very anxious to give themselves wiggle room in order to believe whatever they want, and so negate the revelation of God to man, especially in Christ, God’s last word of truth to humanity.


As it happens Della I am a faithfull Catholic bringing up my family in the faith. I am also an avid student of theology and these issues are of utmost importance to me and I don’t just accept what I am told, I believe in confronting these things head on. I have a personal relationship with God and my journey is about finding the reason to support that knowledge~ That’s what theology is all about, as St. Anselm said: fides quaerens intellectum.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit