A Reasonable Faith?

In The End of Faith, Sam Harris argues that faith is unreasonable, and the cause of much of our present world turmoil (bar natural disasters). My faith struggle is evidently clear on this blog, and my beliefs have undergone radical changes in a short period of time. Presently I have been looking at the nature of consciousness and the purpose of myth, these being incredibly fascinating areas. It took a great deal of time to let go of ‘the God out there’, yet once gone I was not saddened, for that inferior idea was replaced with the notion of ‘the ground of our being’. I no longer care to seek to experience God in religion, for the experience of life is far more enriching. This means that faith in God is entirely unnecessary, and however I name my experience of life is an arbitrary construction.

As such, I am more and more coming to the position, like Sam Harris, that religion itself requires deconstruction. The whole system is flawed and really should just be pulled apart. Depth and meaning, or sacredness and spirituality can still flow through the culture without the necessity for institutions to administer it. I never really was into institutional religion even through my Christian years, as I viewed my simple faith and pentecostal experiences to be superior to the extra baggage that seemed to be carried in other traditions. Still, that did not make me irreligious, just skeptical of the validity of the other forms. As I moved through my deconstruction process, I have tried to remain as open-minded as possible to the potential good that could still exist in the religious traditions, particularly Christianity. Unfortunately, it seems the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to the contribution that religion makes today.

I guess the most pertinent question to ask is, how useful is religion? What is religion’s contribution to the world? Some would say the benevolence, such as aid organizations that are currently supporting Burma and China in their recent disasters. Others might say that they have a tremendous unifying power, bringing people together under a system and banner that makes for effective community. These things may be true, but do they outweigh the pathologies? The institutional religions by-and-large hold on to archaic and imperialistic beliefs about the world and reality that more than counter any aid effort, instead leading to death and destruction. Christians might say, granted this may be true for Islam, even for Judaism, but not for Christianity with its peace-loving Saviour. Putting the historical argument of the Crusades aside, I have to again side with Harris in the thought that irrational beliefs, such as those promoted in the Left Behind series, do impact foreign policy, and are cited as motivators for war. Why should we consider the word of one person writing over 1,000 years ago (Augustine) to be definitive in the cause of launching a ‘just war’? Moderate believers who promote tolerance within their own traditions are condoning beliefs that lead to senseless violence.

So, is there a reasonable faith? There might be, so long as the beliefs in question are held lightly and are open to question. I would suggest that faith must be progressive for it to be reasonable. In other words, it must be open to change and correction. There is no room for reason and arrogance to coincide, whether believer or atheist. Willful ignorance should be challenged wherever it exists, without the necessity to resort to pettiness.

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10 responses to “A Reasonable Faith?

  • archieabe

    Q: “So, is there a reasonable faith?”

    A: A resurrection from the dead cannot prove the divinity of the recipient of that resurrection.
    Assuming for the moment that the miracles, teachings, resurrection and ascension of Jesus actually did occur:
    Miracles, teachings, a resurrection and an ascension cannot prove anything about anyone. They cannot prove that the recipient of the resurrection was the supreme being of the universe. They cannot prove that the recipient of the resurrection was the son of the supreme being. They cannot prove that the recipient of the resurrection was a lesser deity. They cannot prove that the recipient of the resurrection was an immortal being of any kind at all. They cannot prove that everything the recipient of the resurrection said about himself was in fact true. They cannot prove that anything anyone else said about the recipient of the resurrection was in fact true. All that we can know about these events is that something occurred that we can’t explain. We can’t explain the how. We can’t explain the why. And God knows that that is all that we can know about these events. God knows that miracles, teachings, a resurrection and an ascension cannot prove the divinity of the recipient of that resurrection.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/1.html

  • Gary

    Might I ask, what has that got to do with the price of fish? 🙂

    No argument that belief in the resurrection as a real event is irrational, given we cannot know anything about it APART from the authority of the books that describe it.

  • Mysical Seeker

    I would suggest that faith must be progressive for it to be reasonable. In other words, it must be open to change and correction. There is no room for reason and arrogance to coincide, whether believer or atheist. Willful ignorance should be challenged wherever it exists, without the necessity to resort to pettiness.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I completely agree.

  • Archie

    Gary, thanks for your prompt reply. Your comment was thought-provoking. When I used the word “prove” I should have defined it as:

    To demonstrate, through the use of evidence and reasoning, the truth or acceptability of a conclusion, beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The above definition of “prove”, in my opinion, is an integral part of our God-given gift of reason.

    Now, I honestly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I must state this clearly:

    There are many possible causes, both natural and supernatural, for each and every historical event that is recorded in the Gospels, in Acts, and in the Epistles. There is nothing in the New Testament that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt the truth of the claim that Jesus the man literally was, and is, God.

    If anyone is in the habit of claiming that Jesus the man literally was and is God, then it is morally incumbent upon her or him to present the evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that such a claim is in fact true.

    Thanks for reading!

    P.S. I don’t know anything about the price of fish, sorry!

  • Archie

    At the age of 20 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, was born-again and baptized-in-the-Holy-Spirit, all in the same moment. It was a thrilling experience. Since then I have been a devoted Christian, active in a large Spirit-filled church and in several different ministries. I love the Lord and His people, and they love me. Filled with the Holy Spirit, I walk daily with the Lord, and actively seek His Truth wherever I can find it. I believe that all Truth is God’s Truth and that all Truth originates with God.

    Therefore, I have taken up the study of Critical Thinking and in the process have learned quite a bit about myself and about the seeking of Truth. Here’s a portion of what I’ve learned as the Spirit has been leading, guiding and teaching me:

    Critical Thinking is about being both willing and able to think, about developing two aspects of God’s gift of Reason to us: our Critical Thinking skills, and the disposition to use those skills to form good judgments.

    Disposition means developing the habitual intention of being truth-seeking, open-minded, systematic, analytical, inquisitive, confident in reasoning, and prudent in making judgments.

    Those who are ambivalent on one or more of those aspects, or who have the opposite disposition [biased, prejudiced, intolerant, disorganized, heedless of consequences, indifferent toward new information, mistrustful of reasoning, imprudence] are far less likely to use their God-given gift of Reason for Truth-seeking.

    I’ll leave it there for now. I look forward to hearing any and all thoughts from you, my sisters and brothers in the Lord.

  • Gary

    Thank you Archie for your comments, I truly appreciate learning from a variety of perspectives. It sounds like you have a truly mystical experience of the divine. I write as one who has grown weary of modern Christianity in its many guises. When you look at the sacred texts without the filters of religion, you can emerge with an entirely different perspective. Religion has added layer upon layer of baggage to something sublime, something beautiful. Religion tends to be black-and-white, whereas the original mystical spirit is colourful.

  • Archie

    I agree wholeheartedly. In many christians I’ve known, I’ve seen how easy it is for literalism and fundamentalism to shackle their minds and enslave their spirits.

  • Archie

    Check out my comments and the comments of others on this same topic right here:

    http://www.flowerdust.net/2008/05/21/jesus-brand-spirituality/

  • Archie

    I’ll be back from vacation in 2 weeks so Adios till then.

  • Good vs. Bad Faith « Beyond Black and White

    […] vs. Bad Faith I have previously written about whether a reasonable faith exists, and have just started reading Finding Faith by Brian […]

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