SPidge Tales

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Faith and Reason MUST go together

“Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.” Blaise Pascal

“We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith. Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.” Pope Benedict XVI, speech at Regensburg

“I am sorry if you were offended.” “I am sorry that you are so thick skinned.” “I am sorry if my words were misconstrued to make it seem like I actually meant what I said.” We see variations of these apologies all the time, especially in the world of sports or entertainment, where someone makes a boneheaded, racist, or sexist statement, and quickly has to save face. Recently, it was a drunk Mel Gibson uttering some not so nice things about his Semitic friends who he thinks run the world. Earlier, Keith Hernandez commented on the proper place of women somewhere in between the dugout and the kitchen. The later apologies are about covering their own asses and saving face more so than actually being sorry.

Many have been quick to say that Pope Benedict’s apology for his speech in Regensburg was like that: A fake apology. He need not be sorry at all, though. What he said was right on the money. The comments on Islam were more than incidental, but not the focal point of his speech. The thesis was the proper relationship of faith and reason, a point missed both by Islamic radicals who used and urged the use of violence in response for dare suggesting that Islam is not a religion of peace, and by secular Westerners who pooh-pooh the Pope for not being politically correct and speaking positively of a religion that they secretly loath and despise anyways.

Faith without reason, faith not informed by reason, Benedict says, descends into violence, bloodshed, and intolerance. In an honest critique of Islam, Benedict asks whether that religion is equipped to go through an internal Reformation, since the Koran, the holy book of Islam, calls for conversion by the sword. Unlike the Bible, which Christians believe to be inspired by God, though written by humans and subject to human interpretations, the Koran, to Muslims, was written directly by God and handed straight to the prophet Muhammad. There is not much room for ambiguity. If Islam is to grow up, to become peaceful, it must go through a reformation that Benedict is reasonably doubtful that it is capable of doing.

To go on calling Islam a religion of peace, as President Bush is wont to do, as he goes on bombing the snot out of Islamic countries, does not get at the heart of the problem. And, neither does the option preferred by the West; a replacement of faith with reason, or at the very least, the cigarette smoker solution. Yes, just like we tolerate smokers so long as they go outside to have their smoke, and when finished, they may rejoin polite company, the Secular West does the same with religion. It is okay to have your personal spirituality and beliefs, but keep them to yourself, and put it away when you want to join in the civic conversation.

The Enlightenment that the West went through was necessary. We needed to end the wars of religion and compulsion of faith that would be alien to Christianity’s founder, who never harmed a person in his life (a certain Prophet of another religion did quite a bit of killing and warring, but I won’t get into that. I have talked negatively about his religion enough). However, the divorce of faith from reason, and the subjugation of ultimate questions to the private realm does not benefit society. Christianity, as Benedict says, is a faith grounded in reason, a faith that worships the Logos, the Word of God. It is no accident or coincidence that the term St. John uses to describe Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, is the same Greek word that means “reason” or “rationality”. We worship a God of love who is also a God of reason.

To quote Ryan T. Anderson from First Things magazine, “Benedict was challenging both those who have relegated religion to the realm of personal superstition and thus embraced agnosticism or atheism, and those who have pictured God as will detached from reason and thus embraced a version of Islam that can condone violence and terror. Benedict was arguing that both have failed to appreciate the true grandeur of man as a participant in the being of God and thus failed to grasp the centrality of human reason.”


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