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No Such Thing As Faith Without Reason
by Jason Wisdom
I have recently heard/read a lot of people claiming that faith and reason are opposed to one another. Sadly, the sentiment is not only advanced by non-believers but often by Christians as well. Recently, I have been considering whether this claim even makes logical sense. Are faith and reason polar opposites? That is, does faith necessarily decrease as reason increases and vice versa? Or, to put it another way, are faith and reason inversely proportional? That is the question I want to consider here.
I think the best way to handle the question (and many similar questions) is to "de-spiritualize" it. That will help to unload some of the religious baggage and see the core principles at work more clearly. To do this, I will use marriage as an analogy. I have faith that my wife loves me. That is to say, I trust that she loves me. Of course, I cannot know with complete certainty, but simply have to take it on faith. It is entirely possible that she is deceiving me. However, that seems incredibly unlikely. Why? The answer is because of reason. There is a great deal of evidence that gives me reason to trust (by faith) that she loves me. What is more, as reasons for thinking she loves me increase, so does my faith that she loves me.
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Are there any counter evidences that might make me think she doesn't love me? Of course. Any (honest) married person will testify to this. I often struggle to understand why she reacted a certain way or said a certain thing, and if I only analyzed my emotional response to those particular moments, I might say "there is no way she loves me." But are these isolated incidents -- the highly subjective, emotionally charged moments of confusion -- enough to overthrow the wealth of evidence that points to her love for me? Absolutely not!
Now, let us consider how absurd it would be if I reassessed my marriage using the formula that faith and reason are inversely proportional. In order for my faith in my wife's love to grow, I would actually need less reasons for it. The less she showed her love and the more she voiced her contempt, the greater my faith that she loves me would become. Stepping back from the analogy for a moment, that would mean a person of faith would be in the awkward position of actually wanting his beliefs to be disproven in order that his faith might reach its greatest potential. That is totally ridiculous.
At this point, I can imagine that someone accusing me of having grossly misrepresented the "faith vs reason" position. They would likely argue that the absence of reason simply makes more room for faith.
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