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Reason or Faith


Reason and faith are two completely opposite ways of examining the world . A person can use reason in some areas of his life and faith in...

Reason and faith are two completely opposite ways of examining the world. A person can use reason in some areas of his life and faith in others, but the two approaches are like water and oil. Reason is pragmatic and harder. Faith is perhaps more comforting for some and much, much easier (unless you decide to become a martyr).

What Do They Mean? The two terms are often used casually without regard to what they mean. The use of the word “faith” is common in the media, and the use of word “reason” is not so common but not unheard of. Both words can have multiple meanings, which confuses the issue. The word “faith” in particular will be used in different ways in the same argument. In this article, I am referring to the religious meaning of “faith” and the more philosophical meaning of “reason.” So what are they? Why are they different? And why is reason better?

Reason and faith are opposing ways of approaching what is knowable and what we know, one way is down to Earth and material, the other way is spiritual and based on feelings.

Reason assumes that there is only the material universe, and all knowledge comes from within that material universe; there are no supernatural sources of knowledge. Knowledge about what is true can be based only on what is observed. Reason accepts that because we can never be certain that we know everything—there can always be some unknown detail—we can never be absolutely certain of anything. However, this lack of certainty is no excuse for not trying to find evidence that one course of action or believe is better than another. You do your best. If there is little or no evidence, you simply have to make your best judgment until more evidence is found. Often, if what you believe works, and helps you survive and be happy, then that is enough. As long as you know that you are basing your actions on belief, not solid evidence.

Faith—I am referring to religious faith—believes that the most important knowledge is supernatural. Faith does not necessarily disavow reason, but it does make reason secondary. Faith is the belief in things unseen and is based on feelings. A person wants to believe something is true, so the person creates a certainty in his mind that it is true. Faith, unlike reason, assumes certainty. For faith, the object of faith is more important than the reality of whether the faith helps you with survival and happiness.

The different meanings of “faith” often make discussions about “faith” slippery. In religious talk “faith” means having a certainty about something, but in everyday talk “faith” means having a confidence that something is true. For me to say, "I have faith" in evolution is not the same as a religious person saying he has faith in Jesus. I have a very strong confidence in the truth of evolution and cannot imagine how evolution could not be true, but there is always that one-in-a-billion possibility; the religious guy feels a need to have absolute certainty about the existence of Jesus and will not admit to any uncertainty.

Reason does not give certainty. If you believe there is only this material world, then reason is the only possibility. If you believe in a supernatural world with spirits, then faith is necessary, how else can you know about such unseen things. Reason can never give certain knowledge because we can never know if we know all the facts. Faith assumes that it is certain with no basis except the good feeling that the imagined certainty gives the believer. Reason is pragmatic and evolves in new circumstances. Faith is ideological and dogmatic.

If your goal is to make the best of this world, the world you are living in, then reason is the better choice. If you enjoy the good feeling that believing in a God gives you, then faith will be your choice. The irony is that the use of reason also gives a good feeling, while on the other hand, basing ones live on faith can lead to a diminished life caused by avoiding the real world.

One Last Note On Reason: There are different levels of reasoning. At the common day-to-day level, which is the type of reason that most people use, the best evidence for the truth of an idea is that it works. You do not need a list of facts to believe in something, just results (actually, the results are facts too). If you do not get results, you look for another idea or belief that will get results. For this to work you must not be in the habit of trying to justify preconceived or personal pet ideas.

A second level of reason is logical and philosophical and involves the examination of beliefs for fallacies, coherence, and evidence. Finally, a third level of reason is scientific, which is very formal and involves a systematic and organized search for data to provide evidence for or against an idea.

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Consider This:

Being unable to reason is not a positive character trait outside religion - Dewey Henize



The Evolving Monkey : Reason or Faith
Reason or Faith
The Evolving Monkey
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