Faith and Reason

Challenging religious fundamentalism, especially evangelical christianity here in North America, is a tough one; but absolutely necessary. The sine qua non of any form of fundamentalism is faith. By definition "faith" is anti-rational and, as such, at root unassailable. There is simply no point arguing the issue of faith because argument, again, requires rational ("consistent with or based on or using reason") thought.

Faith and reasoned discourse are contrapuntal. You either have faith, or you don't. You either point to heaven when you hit that home run, or accept that by accident of birth, determination and hard training you have become a gifted athlete. Certainly wisdom is not the province of faith since wisdom (as my blog subhead notes) is the consequence of a journey; faith implies no need of a journey because you believe you have already arrived. Faith is neither a sister of reason nor a midwife for wisdom.

The real problem comes when faith becomes the footing on which you build judgement of others, when you define the other as the "dark side". A recent television episode of Trading Spouses -- the important parts are captured on Mia's blog -- in which a Louisiana woman screams at her family that the house she just came from is inhabited by people from the "dark side" captures starkly the anti-humanist, anti-rational extremes of automatic, reflexive belief.

In the extreme, the Trading Spouses' lady and Islamists are only one step removed from the terrorist act, pogrom and inquisition. (Don't believe me? In reaction to the Trading Spouses' lady's rant, her panicked husband reassures her -- on network television no less -- "Even Jews can believe in God" . . . This in 21st century America.) The tipping point pushing faith towards extremism can be a national tragedy like 9.11 or a personal difficulty or misfortune in which it is easier to blame the ungodly "other" . . . or an exogenous divine plan.

But make no mistake . . . reflexive faith used to judge others is in all forms dangerous. Believe in God if you do; but don't assume the framework in which you cloak your belief can only be defined through apposition with an "other".

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