Thursday, March 3, 2011

Faith is better than Reason? You Bet!

I love it when some religious nut attacks, makes strong and unambiguous claims, and I can show them to be plainly and obviously wrong. It would be even more satisfying if these people would feel humbled by their mistakes, but they rarely are. It seems that their religious convictions preclude the possibility of error.

Today's topic is the one thing I object to the most about religion. No, it's not terrorist martyrs, creationism or even young men wearing black ties who knock on my door and are so nice I can't bear to argue with them. The thing that gets me the most is the idea that when faith and reason collide, faith should be trusted over reason.

Recently several readers have argued with me that Christians don't believe this. They flat-out deny that faith-over-reason meme is at the core of their beliefs. (I call this the Anti-Rationalism Meme in my book.)

So here is a collection of quotes that I hope will shed light on the question.
"Divine revelation, not reason, is the source of all truth."
– Tertullian of Carthage (150-225 AD)

"Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets."
-Martin Luther

"Reason is used in theology not to prove the truths of faith, which are accepted on the authority of God, but to defend, explain, and develop the doctrines revealed (Answer 8)."
- Catholic Encyclopedia

"The principles of St. Thomas on the relations between faith and reason were solemnly proclaimed in the Vatican Council. ... First, reason alone is not sufficient to guide men: they need Revelation; we must carefully distinguish the truths known by reason from higher truths (mysteries) known by Revelation. Secondly, reason and Revelation, though distinct, are not opposed to each other. Thirdly, faith preserves reason from error; reason should do service in the cause of faith."
- Catholic Encyclopedia

"... reason should prepare the minds of men to receive the Faith by proving the truths which faith presupposes (praeambula fidei)."
- Catholic Encyclopedia
Get the idea? First you have faith, then you use reason only to the extent that it supports what you've already decided is true!

This may be the most intellectually bankrupt bit of philosophy in the history of humankind. The idea that it's OK to deny a plain, incontrovertible fact because it disagrees with faith is at the root of everything that's wrong with religion. It allows people to believe Genesis is true even though there is overwhelming evidence that proves it is false. It allows manipulative terrorist leaders to convince their followers to blow themselves up. It allows people to rationalize slavery, homophobia and the oppression of women, just because someone told them it is God's law. And it allows people to believe that God personally wrote the Bible and that the Bible is completely without errors, even though a child can find glaring inconsistencies and errors.

It also allows the two biggest religious copouts: "It's God's will," and "God works in mysterious ways." Prayers go unanswered, hurricanes and earthquakes devastate innocent people, prophets' prophecies prove to be wrong and "facts" in the Bible are refuted by science yet none of it matters. Religion just takes its "Get Out of Jail Free" card and plays it, over and over.

It's the religious easy out clause.

The idea that faith trumps reason is at the very heart of the Abrahamic religions. In a kafkaesque twist of irony, they're only able to deny that they value faith over reason because of their faith in their faulty reasoning skills!


  1. Actually, faith and reason are intertwined: there can be no faith without reason. Delve a lil' deeper, my brudda, and you, too, will come to that conclusion --- However, FACT: we will croak at some point in our lifelong demise, thus, our indelible spirit rises-up to meet our Maker - absolutely nuthin we can do bout that: our soul wants to be loved, nourished, enveloped, return-to-her-maker-thing. Jesus doesn't have a sign outside of Heaven saying, 'Those who don't believe? C’est la guerre. C'mon in. Guess I wasn’t as forthright as Marvel Comix'. Be on the pro-LIFE-eration side, don't be on the side which'll swiftly LET/LEAD you down. I’m a small 'peAce-de-resistance' of a Larger Picture: give your soul that final chance. Repent and believe. God bless you with discernment.

  2. I think that's the thing with extremely inteligent people that believe in gods.

    They just don't use their inteligence when talking about their religious beliefs. It seems to be something quite natural in ourselves, actually.

    I've discovered myself several times trying to defend a point just because I believed it to be true beforehand. It's not an easy thing to leave one's beliefs.

  3. Faith Is Not A Virtue, Faith Is Gullibility!

  4. Probable drive-by evangelization. Probably never hear from Kadavr again.


  5. The truth is, faith is stronger than reason, because just to start using reason in any capacity faith is first there, this is one of the greatest misunderstandings of people. Just because there are frailties in religion doesn't mean reason is stronger

    1. So, anon, you're saying that if your faith tells you something is true that you can plainly see is false with your own eyes, that you would trust your faith over your powers of reasoning?

      Then, since you believe in God, why did God give you those reasoning powers if not to question and learn the truth about the world?


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