Religious faith is the culmination of Reason

Our public atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al.) are correct to point out the difficulty in using syllogisms to prove the existence of God. But they misconstrue the nature of reason when they then assert the irrationality of theism. The mistake is not theirs alone.

At least since the enlightenment, the public conception of reason has been limited almost exclusively to syllogisms. Indeed, the syllogism is the important analytic component of reason. It clarifies the implications latent in premises, drawing out the consequences of ideas and occasionally demonstrating their incompatibility. And its value in practice was proven during the enlightenment when applied to the religious wars of the time, exposing the incoherence at their roots and laying the foundation for the modern conception of tolerance. The syllogism has since been basking in the reflected glow of that success.

Thus, it is often forgotten that reason has a broader concern than clarity and consistency. Reason is in the business of providing an account, of giving explanations and justifications, of answering the questions, “How?” and, “Why?” But the syllogism cannot do any work without premises. Since there are no self-evident premises, reason entails a creative capacity that furnishes premises with explanatory power. The syllogism was successful during the enlightenment because it then had rich material on which to work. But, in our society, the creative capacity of reason has been trumped by the analytic, and the analytic ascendancy produces little because of a dearth of creative premises.

It is this context within which Kierkegaard’s understanding of religious faith is most attractive. In our society, many people want to participate in a religious tradition, but syllogisms seem unable to provide compelling proof of religious claims. Thus, faith is likened to a blind leap, considered absurd in the technical sense that it cannot be justified; it is either embraced in a moment of existential passion, or scorned.

Advocates on either side rush into a debate. Those against faith indict the Inquisition and Crusades and interpret religious commitment as a crutch. Those for faith indict the atheism of communism and note the increase in charity and life expectancy that often accompanies faith. The debaters spill much ink but rarely convince each other of anything. Both religion and irreligion have black marks on their historical record in politics. In social science, religious faith is in some ways opiate, in other ways nourishment.

Perhaps the incomplete understanding of reason in our society is best expressed when those against faith assert their allegiance to “following the evidence wherever it leads.” The problem is that mere experience does not lead in an obvious and uniform direction. Any compelling account of human experience is an interpretation of human experience in terms of creative premises. The analytic is impotent without the creative. Because the debaters accept the analytic as the whole of reason, their arguments can only be negative. It is thus necessary to reclaim the creative capacity of reason as a prerequisite of compelling explanation.

This reclamation suggests that reason may be compatible with scripture and faith. It is not necessary or possible that one person carry out all the creative work of supplying premises. Communication becomes paramount in reasoning, with the living in conversation, with the dead through books and scripture. Reason combines individual creative efforts with the best of other sources; at its foundation, it is a project in collected creativity. Though the existence of God is still unlikely to be the conclusion of a syllogism, perhaps a scriptural God is the premise in terms of which the fullest account of human experience can be given.

Debate over what constitutes the fullest account of human experience will be the mainstay of this rational project, and many will reject the religious account. But for those who accept it, religious ideas would be the premises, and faith the conclusion, not the other way around. Faith would not be the competitor of reason, but instead its culmination.

Peter Johnston is a junior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    The atheists et al, aren't arguing that there is conclusively no god. They do, however, address how unlikely such a thing is and how vague and useless the term actually is. What the atheists actually do is attack the texts that purport to enlighten readers about the deity. So, when the Bible says X in one place and then says contradictory Y in another, it has abdicated any claim of infallibility, as it, at best, can be simultaneously lying and truth-telling. At worst, of course, it's just wrong on both accounts. Furthermore, when the Bible says historical event A happened, but actual investigation realizes it didn't, there is again a problem. One can also do this with religious morality, although admittedly, that's a bit more complicated. Still, there remain certain outstanding barbarism, like the brunt of the book of Leviticus (which calls on people to be stoned for, among other things, disobedience, adultery, covetousness, homosexuality, eating shellfish, etc.) or the New Testament prohibition on women speaking in church (1 Tim 2, 1 Cor 14) just to give some examples, that I don't think anyone would actually argue belong in any modern moral system. So, having successfully refuted the Bible (or any other religious text) on its moral, historical, and continuity claims (and whatever others might be relevant), what is the basis for belief in the god it (they) espouse(s), whose supposed attributes are demonstrated either
    impossible, wrong, or simply bad?

    Peter, I'm sure I've argued this out with you a thousand times, but there's a difference between logical premises (i.e. those necessary to operate within or investigate the world) and religious ones (i.e. those people just make up in order to have said religions). Identities, syllogisms, and other logical constructs are examples of the former. That there is a god, who is necessarily good and powerful, and whatever else is of the latter.

  • DC07

    Never before has the subtitle for an opinion columnist been so apposite.

    First and foremost, Johnston is setting up a straw man by using the enlightenment conception of "Reason" (note the capital "R") instead of the "reason" associated with Dawkins, Hitchens, and their brethren. They employ not "Reason", but "reason," which is more closely related to the scientific method and the Western logical tradition (specifically, the Socratic method). It is important not to confuse the two.

    Second, by proposing that "a scriptural God is the premise in terms of which the fullest account of human experience can be given," Johnston supports the notion that one can accept a conclusion and then interpret (or create) evidence to support it. The whole premise of a scriptural God is that its existence is assumed; the scripture just describes and documents it. The approach of forcing evidence to conform to a predetermined result runs contrary to the notions of reason and logic--a word Johnston studiously avoids--and illustrates the nature of religious belief.

  • Anon

    Anthony L-

    Okay- so what about those religious people who find evidence for God outside of the Bible?

    Anslem's Ontological Proof, Aquinas' Prime Mover come to mind…

  • Anonymous

    Anthony,

    Consider this: while you point out that some historical events cannot be proved, there are also many sites and cultural habits and historical events that can and have been proved. Why is it that everyone loves to investigate Homer or any other ancient epic/literary work as potential historical sources but everyone's so quick to bash the Bible?

    The Bible was also written in a cultural conext, Jesus ended up repealing some things because some habits were no longer necessary. And silence is meant for reverence. Everyone's required to be silent, not just women.

    Why don't you do some further investigation and reading and then tell me if you still agree.

    There are also many people who find God's presence outside of the Bible. And Jesus did exist, we have lost perhaps more than half of all ancient texts, and the fact that his name even comes up a few times in Roman texts is not insignificant.

  • Anonymous

    P.S. Anthony, read the New Testament again, Jesus repealed Leviticus in that he repealed one law, hence repealing the whole chapter.

  • John Devor

    "Why is it that everyone loves to investigate Homer or any other ancient epic/literary work as potential historical sources but everyone's so quick to bash the Bible?"

    Homer's works didn't produce a cult-like following that lead to the numerous religious wars and killings.

  • Prefer Not to Reveal

    I have been following this with interest. The poster at noon states Jesus did exist. Okay? Does that mean that he REALLY performed miracles? Healing the blind? Parting the sea? Fish and loaves and, oh, don't let me forget, raising Lazarus from the dead? Was he divine? I've been seeing all these ostensible CHristians today walking around with ashes on their foreheads, and it served as a reminder to me how thankful I am that I'm an atheist, and that I survived the indoctrination I received growing up in the South.
    Can I prove no god exists? No, but there also is no compelling logical reason that I should believe in a world with so much evil, pain and human suffering that there's a sky god somewhere who gives a fuck. I don't think so.

  • LP

    People shouldn't think that faith automatically relates to religion. Sure, I may have faith that I have no faith, but I still have faith but not in a religion. Or something like that. Faith is faith is faith. One may have faith that there is a higher being. I can say, however, that I have faith this grapefruit will taste sweet and sour. Or this chocolate bar will be great. You can have faith sans religion.

    BTW, I think the miracles Jesus performed can be medically and/or symbolically explained and the writers of the Bible just left out the medical explanations to make it sound more literal and magical.

    Ex. The blind man was figuratively blind, not physically.

  • Anonymous

    @ #3: No, I don't believe in proof of god outside of texts. The ontological arguments are not good ones (hence why they tend not to convince people), as they tend to commit various logical fallacies (e.g. circular reasoning or question-begging, depending on the particular argument). Existence is not a property, and many a prior arguments that might hold describe nothing more than what can be described as the sum-total of reality/existence/etc. Once one gets to that point, the concept of god loses any practical use, as I argued in my previous post.

    @ #4/#5: I've done more investigation than you seem to realize. I don't buy the "cultural context" argument. It's either infallible and eternally relevant or it's not. The obsession with Homer and other ancients is NOT universal (many modern minds don't attribute any particular value in them--hence much of the debate over the relevance of the humanities). Furthermore, many who value the ancients consider the Bible in the same light--great stories and records of thoughts and opinions and possible (as in, not necessarily reliable) representations of actual history. These classicists and other pro-humanities people don't consider the Bible or Homer or anything else moral authorities or sacred truths. They're just windows to a distant, otherwise dark, comparatively barbaric past. They take of any of these works whatever they wish, and discard the rest (e.g. the barbarisms), as they're just not relevant. This approach is contingent upon the texts not being sacred, and the Bible (or any other religious text) is not special.

    Furthemore:
    “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Tim 2:9-12

    “For God is not [the author] of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. If they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” 1 Cor 14:33-5

    “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matt 5:17-8

    Conclusion: the Bible says women can't speak, teach, or help (vocally) AT ALL in church and ought to ask their husbands--who presumably can--outside if they want to know anything. Also, Christ upholds the Law. You can, of course, cite other areas in the NT where the Law is repudiated or whatever, but that constitutes at best a contradiction. Regardless of what the "Scriptures" say elsewhere, these verses say they say. Seeing as how the NT was not yet compiled (here assuming, for the sake of argument, that this Jesus guy was preaching when it's claimed he was) he can only be referring to the OT Law of the Torah/Pentateuch. And I think the points raised by John and Post 7 are interesting points you might want to consider. Perhaps you ought to read your Bible again and develop a more substantive defense of its antiquated (and barbaric) moral system, or else drop it altogether, as would be far more reasonable and rewarding.

    And by the way, I'm an ex-Christian formerly indoctrinated in the churches of the South. I know the religion fairly well and am becoming increasingly aware of the philosophical and other arguments based therein. The more I learn, the more I'm convinced of that the text is just another string of literature composed by numerous random people who probably (or not) had the best intentions but are nonetheless wrong in so many ways. It's not just that the biblical god does not exist; it's not even a coherent concept. The most consistent element of that god is violence and death, and even that is messed up (a little) by the NT character, Christ. You'll likely find this true of any other "god" that is claimed to be more than anything but the sum-total of existence. The concept of god is an inherently flawed human construct that simply is not compatible with or necessary for a meaningful understanding of the world.

  • Doodle Lover

    #7, Why do you presuppose that god is infallible, "good," or cares for humans? The Judaeo-Christian God is only one of countless versions of gods we as human beings have conjured up with our imagination. Perhaps this world is a failed attempt by a well-meaning but inexperienced creator who is powerless to change the course of our destiny. Perhaps god is evil and means for us to suffer. Perhaps god doesn't "give a fuck." Better yet, what if god resides in a higher dimension of reality which transcends human logic, morality, and linguistics? What's the point of looking for "compelling logical reason[s]" for god's existence if it is not bound by the limitations of our perception and reason? I, too, was brought up Christian and became an agnostic (you are an agnostic, not an atheist, by the way). But I don't trust "reason" to get us to an exhaustive understanding of the world we live in. Christianity is just one of many ways to deal with this inherent void felt by many. And your sinister worldview seems to suggest that you could use some religion or spirituality in your life.

  • anon

    I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.

    1- The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality.

    2- The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect.

    3- The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd.

    4- The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii.

    5- The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

    St. Thomas Aquinas aka the guy who is infinitely smarter than Dawkins

  • Anonymous

    I don't know about you others… but I get warm and fuzzy feelings inside when I reflect on how intelligent I must be as an atheist. I'm not like the ignorant masses who cling to fairy tales. *I* submit to the truth. And I'm not just smart, either-- I'm also brave. Let the religious people rest on their crutch-- not I! Science has disproved all that stuff. In fact, I've never even bothered to read the works of people who believed in some imaginary sky god-- people like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Averroes, Avicenna, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, Locke, Erasmus, Bacon, Pascal, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, Kant, Kierkegaard, MacIntyre, et al. They were all prejudiced and biased-- products of their culture. I, on the other hand, am absolutely unbiased, and I seek the truth with an open mind. Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris have told me so. I am a free thinker! It makes me really angry when people just believe fairy tales for no reason. Come on! Don't you know that all the people in academia are atheists now? Get with the program, people. Get with the program.

  • A.C.

    Also, the author's idea that there has to be some sort of creative force providing syllogisms with their premises seems, well, untrue. Premises can (and, indeed, often should and do) come from objective, observable reality -- which is why I strongly agree with the above poster who clarifies that our modern conception of "reason" is that which is so strongly influenced by the scientific method.

    I think that, in a roundabout way, the author is making the arrogant mistake that so many religious people make in claiming that us atheists have some sort of "hole" (or, in this case, "creative void") in our lives that only religion can fill and that reason and logic are hollow pursuits without a God to fill in the blanks. Well I'm not buying it.

    Like Buñuel once said, "Thank God I'm an atheist"

  • Hitchens Lover

    I think you guys need to invite Christopher Hitchens to Yale if you can pull him away from the New School for an evening. I think it would be a great event. I am really impressed by the discourse here, and think it would be great if you guys could get him and/or Richard Dawkins to come to campus for a discussion. Have you seen any of the Youtube videos of him at that creationists university: Liberty?

  • Anonymous

    @ #11: I answer that your proofs prove nothing in a number of ways:

    1. At best you're taking issue with the singularity, and it seems that from this one might conclude that something must exist outside this world. It does not follow, however, that there is an ultimate first actuality--or prime mover--as there remains no more basis for it's eternity than there is for the chain of existence. All you're proving is the existence of beginnings in some sense, although you're saying nothing about them. Call this god, if you wish, I call this a practically useless concept (in terms of how I ought to do anything/live my life/etc.).

    2. If I accept this argument--which I don't--then it follows that nothing can exist for itself. Ergo, god cannot exist for itself and must either exist for something else (in which case, why does that exist) or there is an infinite regress (which is actually the same result). How can there be a first cause unless it exists for itself? If there can be a first cause, why must it be outside the chain of existence? That would only suppose that the cause of said cause must be outside that cause, and again you have infinite regress.

    3. Again, either god or the chain of existence must have always existed. Keep in mind, the chain of existence isn't necessarily bound exclusively in this universe (not that we have any way currently of knowing). So, what argument is there for god being able to be eternal that does not also work on the chain of existence (which is essential in order to avoid the dreaded infinite regress)? Again, this god is, practically speaking, utterly useless.

    4. The existence of "better" is linked to the existence of "best", as are all such comparative terms. It does not follow, however, that any one thing actually is best overall (e.g. I could be "best" at writing, but you "best" at speaking. Who is really "best"?). Also, even if we were to say there is something that is "best", it does not follow that it is perfect. I could conceive of something not existing that is better than something existing. The former would be better in a way, although still not existing (outside my mind), further suggesting that what exists is not necessarily perfect because it is best. In the sense of the best existence (or whatever you were getting at), what does such a thing even mean? What is it to be/have the best life? What does it entail?

    5. This argument makes little sense to me. The wind blows and it causes clouds to form such that it rains and allows for seeds to grow into trees that feed people with their fruit. It all seems designed but is nonetheless accidental, so to speak, as the cause does not exist for the effect. That is, the wind is not blowing in order for the clouds to move and form rain. The rain isn't falling for the trees to produce fruit and feed people. Rather, conditions, having adapted to what happened to be the case, formed as they are. What couldn't adapt ceased to be for that very reason. As Hitchens put it (paraphrasing), our eyes enjoy green foliage because they have adapted to that being the case; the foliage is not green because our eyes were already designed to enjoy it as such.
    This being called god seems hollow to me; what is to be said of it? What follows from it?

    and Aquinas' thoughts weren't all that great to me, although I concede he was very smart. In many cases, though, he just seems to be wrong.

    @ #12: I'm really beginning to see why so many people seem to be losing respect for satire (although I don't think your post ought to qualify). I assume you think you made a great, witty point. You haven't. The philosophers you mentioned had great ideas in a lot of ways and were wrong in a lot of ways. That they all believed in some divinity (and I'm not sure all of them really did), is irrelevant--fallacy of appeal to tradition/authority (not sure which one is more expedient here, as they both seem to fit). People are atheists because it makes sense, and Hitchens et al. implore reason that stands independently of their saying it. Your "point" regarding them is about as sensible as berating us for believing the earth is round because scientists with telescopes and mathematical formulae have told us so.

    @ #10: You may be missing #7's point; he seems merely to be pointing out the ridiculousness of the Christian story. I think it's quite a leap to assume their worldview is sinister or that they feel some void and thus need spirituality. To your remarks on the what might be outside our perception, they already answered it: "Can I prove no god exists? No, but there also is no compelling logical reason that I should believe". This position, to me at least, constitutes atheism, and I, too, am an atheist.

  • Anonymous

    Faith doesn't require logic. This is where both sides get it wrong.

  • Anonymous

    You're right, #16. That's pretty much why it sucks.

  • Clay

    Interesting discussion of Peter's well-reasoned article. I hope it will clear to readers that the somewhat random citation of a few Bible verses in order to draw a hasty and fragile conclusion is not worthy of the otherwise thoughtful tenor of this discussion.

    The claim that the Bible is full of contradictions is a bit of a facile cheap shot, one that doesn't take into account the complexity of its theological literature. Each of three verses cited in one post here could warrant a book-length hermeneutical treatment, and yet the author is content to quote these verses as if they formed some sort of self-evident syllogism.

    Attacking the Bible as barbaric or sexist is another puerile approach based on a clearly cursory and flat reading; this fascinating discussion deserves better. Questioning the existence of God on a philosophical basis is one thing; freighting one's casual reading with one's own hermeneutic of suspicion is another. Critique of religion on philosophical and historical grounds may prove a more fitting avocation for some writing here, unless the writers decide they want to be more serious in dealing with a range of scholarship concerning the sacred text.

  • Anonymous

    Those who claim that they follow "reason" irritate me thoroughly, which includes most atheists. #12, your "warm and fuzzy" feelings about adhering to the Church of Reason come from just as frail of an illusion as religion in general is. You are working with an assumption of basic validity in "reason", which I personally don't buy. I agree with #18 that many, if not most, atheist readings of religious scripture are shallow, fail to take into account the complexity of the arguments based upon (or leading to, take your pick) these premises, and are almost always working with double standards. Their logical as well as practical fallibilities are present in virtually any system of belief (including logic and science) Science, especially medicine, is hardly more satisfactory upon scrutiny. Forcing people to take antidepressants based upon a "rational" theory of serotonin levels in the brain is based on just as big a "leap of faith" and could be just as incoherent and/or harmful as religious wars, on a micro level. Or even worse, anti-psychotics, where are almost always administered against the patient's will. And these atrocities are committed every day in psychiatric hospitals in modern society. I don't hear objections. That's because the social construct of sanity and insanity still has a grip on our imagination, whereas that of religion does not.

    Any attempt at a logical argument for or against the existence of God WILL fail. We are simply incapable of infinite analysis. It comes down to what we, as individuals, find most persuasive. A "valid" argument is nothing more than a universally persuasive one. Unfortunately, we no longer agree.

  • Anonymous

    @ Clay: Your colorfully empty rhetoric was as lacking in substance as it was pitifully condescending. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that you're that guy from the RUF who keeps emailing me via that panlist. The only reason why that's relevant to this discussion is it supports my assumption that you're Christian. That said, I think it fair to say you've inculcated plenty of the complex mythological apologies constructed over the centuries to try to smooth out the countless problems with your "holy text". Your argument (which is being generous on my part, as you haven't made one) from complexity to explain away the contradictions is the real cheap shot; when something is logically inconsistent, you call it part of some rich complex structure. When something is disturbingly barbaric, you call it part of an intricate and developing culture or whatever. You can launder all the witty little remarks you have, but at the end of the day, what's wrong in your antiquated collection of myths and stories is still wrong, what's bad is still bad.

    But since you've raised the point of complex and systematic dismantling of the Bible and all its idiocy (here I confess to just being hostile, but you've riled me with your pedantic haughtiness), I have a number of comprehensive reasons as to why the Bible cannot be trusted as "Holy Scripture", reasons that were scarcely touched on in my three previous posts to this page (I, like you, presumably, choose not to delve deeply into them in this forum as it would be far too time-consuming and one-sided). I'd love to talk to you about it should we ever meet. And my name is Anthony (although I go by Rek), as you can see at the top of my posts: address me by name if you feel the need to attack me and my "casual reading", which is probably more extensive than you might think (which isn't difficult, given how little you know of me). That said, you have my email, as I am still on that RUF panlist. If you have a substantive point, make it. Otherwise, don't bore me with your feckless attempts at erudite responses to arguments you don't like.

    @ 16 & 17: the faith doesn't require logic is irrelevant (and thus your point disingenuous), as people implore faith as though it can deliver meaningful, applicable truths about the actual world, which IS knowable by logic. if faith were an exclusively personal thing that was never used to contest science (e.g. creation "science" or ID "theory") or reason or infringe upon the rights of others (e.g. marriage equality/gay rights and abortion rights) or enact and uphold flawed policies (e.g. the war on drugs, abstinence-only education, etc.), then no one would care any more than they care about random Joe's passionate faith in the value of stamp collecting (similarly unsubstantiated/irrational as religion but completely innocuous). It is because this is not the case that it is a problem. Furthermore, when people treat religious faith (in this case, Judeo-Christian belief systems) as though it has some sort of philosophical legitimacy--which it doesn't--they seem to be suggesting that there's more to it than just faith (which, in the context of religion, is quite blind). that said, it's one thing to believe in some abstract infinity/perfection via faith or logic; it is quite another to believe the miscellaneously collected text of several self-important "prophets" from throughout the more primitive ages of mankind either because your parents/friends/etc. taught it to you or because you had some "spiritual" experience from which it actually doesn't follow that your religious text is true (or whatever other sort of conversion stories people tell these days).

  • Anonymous

    An old saying in computer science comes to mind: "garbage in, garbage out"

  • Anonymous

    Hurray, I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny again!

  • Clay

    Anthony,

    Your comments in #20 underscore the problem with your biblical citations and interpretation in #9. You say that you chose "not to delve deeply into them in this forum as it would be far too time-consuming and one-sided"; fine, but this is a manifestly cynical and condescending attitude toward the readers of this forum. This is true not because you addressed a complex topic briefly--which is certainly legitimate--but because your hyper-reductionism lacked any subtlety and nuance. Readers of your post who are not familiar with the Bible, if they lend credence to your selective citation and interpretation, will have a horribly distorted picture of the Bible's worthiness to be dealt with as, at the least, a complex literary text.

    This is what provoked me to respond. I deeply appreciate rigorous philosophical and religious discussion, and you certainly have a right to critique the Bible. But I suspect most readers of your post at #9 will perceive that what you do there regarding the Bible does not rise anywhere near the sophistication of your other arguments. (You may, as you claim, have "comprehensive reasons why the Bible cannot be true"; my only point is that those of us who don't know you wouldn't be able to discern that you have such familiarity with the Bible, on the basis of your post at #9.)

    Beyond this, you've guessed my identity correctly, and I'd be happy to sit down for coffee some time. As I reread my post, I do regret using the word "puerile"; that was over-the-top ad hominem, and I apologize for that. The rest of my post, your critique notwithstanding, has plenty of substance, in that I was not seeking to defend the authority of the Bible per se but only suggesting it should be afforded as serious a reading as a scholar would give any similarly variegated literary text.