Why do people assume faith and reason are mutually exclusive?


#1

Hi everyone,

I have a very good friend who is an atheist and considers himself to be an intellectual. The one thing that irritates me about him is that he maintains a false perception that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. In other words people with faith have no ‘reason’ or lack the mental capacity to understand what ‘reason’ is. I believe ‘reason’ is the common ground between believers and non-believers.

I have pointed out that many great scientists were/are Christian. These were deep intellectuals and also faithful such as Fr Lemaitre and Professor Francis Collins.

I printed out the encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) written by Pope JPII the Great and gave it to him to read. He said it was 'too deep and theological". :eek:

He refuses to give any ground.

Any information to boost my argument and advice on how to have a productive and convincing debate about the issue would be appreciated because at the moment we descend into an argument rather than civil discussion.


#2

Faith can contradict reason. I would put the beliefs of many on CAF about the alleged preservation of bodies of saints into that category, as I would the beliefs expressed by young earth creationists. I do not doubt that these people have a genuine faith. But it is not reasonable. Interestingly, most of these people think the same thing about aspects of others' faith, such as Mormons' beliefs about the alleged revelation to its founders, or Hindu beliefs about reincarnation. Faith can also exist alongside reason, as in those who say "I have faith that there is a God who is the origin of all there is, and I fully accept the observations and conclusions made through the scientific method. In this case the God proposition is not so much unreasonable, but stated outside the bounds of reason. And then there is the position I adopt, which is to say that faith is not itself it the product of our purely biological brains, and worthy of close study because it forms part of the virtually universal human experience, as even unbelievers tend to have a sort of faith in something. If you want to know more about what I find interesting here, google "Susan Blackmore'.


#3

Question: Is it a reasonable act to love someone? Of all the millions that exist on this planet, one individual captures your mind and body above all others, and you become devoted to them: a common experience, irrational, but within reason.

Love is also an act of faith - a declaration of belief in a particular person in a particular circumstance.

So, faith & reason are entirely compatible, and it’s only the pretentions of peudeo-intellectuals that can’t see it!

(ask a atheistic scientist if he believes in life on other planets - he’ll say it’s reasonable!)


#4

Young earth creationists make me crazy, I gotta say. Catholicism is not fundamentalism. We have a long tradition of accepting that truth revealed by authentic science do not and can not conflict with truth revealed directly to the Church by God. When I see Catholics behaving like fundamentalists it really makes me cringe.

The Church also makes the very reasonable claim, IMO, that God’s existence can be determined by reason alone, without recourse to claims of divine revelation. Is it more reasonable to believe in an infinite number of multiverses, of which we just happened to get one of the good ones, than to believe in God? Hardly obvious, I would say.


#5

[quote="loko, post:1, topic:285568"]
Hi everyone,

I have a very good friend who is an atheist and considers himself to be an intellectual. The one thing that irritates me about him is that he maintains a false perception that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. In other words people with faith have no 'reason' or lack the mental capacity to understand what 'reason' is. I believe 'reason' is the common ground between believers and non-believers.

I have pointed out that many great scientists were/are Christian. These were deep intellectuals and also faithful such as Fr Lemaitre and Professor Francis Collins.

I printed out the encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) written by Pope JPII the Great and gave it to him to read. He said it was 'too deep and theological". :eek:

He refuses to give any ground.

Any information to boost my argument and advice on how to have a productive and convincing debate about the issue would be appreciated because at the moment we descend into an argument rather than civil discussion.

[/quote]

The old line Faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum) sums up so much of Catholic thought.

But you might get further introducing him to St. Thomas Aquinas and His rigorously scientific Philosophy:D

Seriously though some people(believers and non-believers alike) do fail to engage their reason when they talk about faith. The Catholic view is that humanity is a rational animal and that when we exercise our potential for rationality we can draw closer to God. (Simple faith is an asset in itself and I'm not discounting it, I've probably learned more about God from examples of such faith than all the text books I've ever read).

JPII was brilliant but at times very difficult to understand and Encyclicals can be difficult for newcomers at the best of times. As an analogy if I were to show a scientific paper from my scientific discipline to a member of another scientific discipline they could easily and rightly say that it was too deep and technical(theology being the science of God and Revelation I feel that technical is an appropriate substitution). Some Christian denominations have jettisoned philosophy and IMO with it the tools to interpret and present the faith in all its rational glory.


#6

[quote="Hokomai, post:2, topic:285568"]
Faith can contradict reason.

Faith can also exist alongside reason,

[/quote]

:thumbsup:


#7

Which is irrelevant to the question of whether faith and reason are opposed: people are, after all, capable of compartmentalizing their beliefs, and very intelligent people are often much better at coming up with (spurious) justifications for beliefs they want to hold. It’s a well-known fact that cults often prey on intelligent people (frequently recruiting on college-campuses and such) because it takes an intelligent person to come up with some of the twisted justifications for belief.

The question isn’t “Can a person be smart and religious?” which is obviously true. The question is, “Are faith and reason mutually exclusive?” And the answer depends on how we’re defining faith. Many people define “faith” to mean “belief without sufficient evidence,” which is obviously incompatible with reason. Other religious believers define “faith” differently so that it’s some sort of inner feeling or supernatural “gift” (which raises the question of how one knows that this “gift” is actually supernatural).

Your best bet in the discussion is to drop the “faith” language – which is defined differently by different people and is thus confusing. Instead, start from what you correctly identify as your common ground with your friend: reason. What evidence is there to think that this God you believe in actually exists? Put together your best case and appeal to his reason, and ask him to tell you what’s wrong with your argument. You’ll learn a lot about his thinking that way.


#8

Of course it is.

Of all the millions that exist on this planet, one individual captures your mind and body above all others, and you become devoted to them: a common experience, irrational, but within reason.

There’s nothing remotely “irrational” about that. You’re just getting confused because the word “love” is triggering some sort of weird reaction in you. You wouldn’t make this mistake if we were talking about something else.

For example: “Is it a reasonable act to have a favorite food? Of all the millions of food that exist on this planet, one captures your mind and taste bud above all others and you become devoted to it – irrational!”

And, of course, you’ll see that enjoying something (or someone) and wanting to spend lots of time with that something or someone isn’t remotely irrational in the slightest.

Seriously, and I say this not to be mean, but if this is the quality of reasoning you have to offer, you’re just lending support to the OP’s friend.

Love is also an act of faith - a declaration of belief in a particular person in a particular circumstance.

Now you’re just wildly equivocating, throwing terms together willy nilly.

ask a atheistic scientist if he believes in life on other planets - he’ll say it’s reasonable!

Good gravy, now you’re equivocating between religious faith and an evaluation of probability.


#9

loko

In other words people with faith have no 'reason' or lack the mental capacity to understand what 'reason' is.

You friend's statement or your recollection of what he said is mistaken. I used to be a person of faith but am no longer. It can be very difficult to use reason with person who hold a position that didn't use reason to get into in the first place, but it is possible.

Faith is described as belief without evidence. Trust and hope have different meanings and indeed, one giveaway being the fact that they are different words.

I've since adopted this definition of faith: faith is pretending to believe in things that you don't know. ( I wish I could take credit for it).

I think it's much easier for some people to see the cognitive dissonance between faith and reason with that definition.


#10

Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, but haven’t there been some fairly prominent Christians who argued that they are? That may be where your friend is coming from.


#11

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=218702


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