On March 20, two men made very different remarks about the relationship between faith and reason.
For Father Jonathan Morris, “[H]uman reason [is] the great cultural meeting point for people of every race and creed. … [Pope] Benedict sees rationality as the only suitable launching pad of all true faith…”
Yet, if it is reason that makes possible mutual understanding, what does faith contribute? Historically, while faith has brought together many people within various regions, as in the Egyptian Nile or the Christian Roman Empire, faith has also inspired the oppression and slaughter of internal dissenters, bloody wars between people of different faiths, and external conquest in the service of faith.
Every person has the capacity to reason, and reality is the final arbiter of what is reasonable. Reason means invoking arguments and evidence to establish what is true in reality. Faith, on the other hand, depends on alleged divine revelation and/or some authority. Men of reason may resolve conflicts by reference to a common standard — reality — while men of faith have no such “meeting point.”
In an article titled “The Easter Masquerade,” Keith Lockitch notes the irony of the dating of Easter, accomplished through precise scientific means, and the subsequent persecution of men of science by the church. Lockitch notes the “long history of the hostility of faith towards reason — which continues to this day.” He continues:
Violent clashes between the two are not only possible but unavoidable, and the notion that religion can coexist on friendly terms with science and reason is false. …
Religion’s alleged harmony with science is a fraudulent masquerade, extending only insofar as religious dogmas are not called into question. True defenders of science must be committed to reason as an absolute principle — following facts wherever they lead and bowing to no authorities but logic and reality. And they must understand that the servile obedience demanded by faith is wholly incompatible with science — and with the rational thinking on which all human progress and prosperity depends.
The relationship of faith to reason is wholly a parasitical one. Faith cannot survive without some practice of reason, else the faithful would soon die out, yet reason succeeds to the extent that it is freed from faith.