Christianity and Rationality

a religious world view is fundamentally incompatible with a rational one

Do you buy this or not?

Perhaps more importantly, are you aware how aggressively it’s being sold?

Lisa Miller, the author of this Newsweek article on President Obama’s nomination to head the National Institute of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, doesn’t feel like this is necessarily true.  But there are folks that do.  She paraphrases a recent opinion piece in The New York Times by Sam Harris, who worries that Collins’ belief in a God-given human morality will make him unwilling to pursue certain scientific fields as aggressively as he might otherwise.  Harris is doing doctoral work in neuroscience, and therefore has a very vested interest in ensuring that funding for scientific arenas such as his are not underfunded or otherwise ignored. 

I would suggest that assuming that morality is somehow relative or driven by man himself is problematic, to say the least, but I’m not likely to get into a debate on the matter with Mr. Harris directly.  Needless to say, he doesn’t seem to think that his personal biases against the existence of any supernatural entity are problematic.  Considering the very real problems that can arise when morality becomes a matter of expediency, convenience, or even profit, I tend to worry more about Mr. Harris’ assertions about the nature of reality. 

Christianity is irrational.  Religion is irrational.  This is what we are being pounded with these days.  It isn’t true, or at least is not universally True, of course.  But it sounds good and when repeated often enough by persuasive enough personalities, it can take on the air of undisputed truth that it seeks to lay claim to, but cannot by the very terms and definitions it has created for itself.  The honest rationalist at best can say that she is unable to prove whether there may be a God or may not be.  The very honest (and very rare) rationalist would probably be compelled to say that simply from an empirical standpoint, the more likely explanation is that there is a creator God, rather than the convoluted extrapolation of time and chance and wishful thinking that ultimately lie at the base of natural selection, evolution, and non-theistic attempts to explain our existence. 

And science, which has prided itself on the vigorous investigation of things in myriad and sundry ways, that has learned repeatedly of the chance observations and random lines of thought which lead to greater insight and understanding of this marvelous universe, seems an unlikely voice to attempt to silence another train of thought, another set of presuppositions.  It is ironic for the standard of rationalism to be used for the type of theological and philosophical repression once so vehemently portrayed as the exclusive realm of the religious. 

I don’t pretend to think that having a Christian in a prominent government and scientific position means much.  I know all too well how many people extol a Christianity that has little relation to the Bible which has traditionally served as the source and norm for Christianity for over two millenia.  It is every bit as possible for a Christian to allow an evil or ill-thought out branch of action or thought to continue as a non-theist – or a Muslim, or a Mormon, or a Hindu.  But I should think that a man of Mr. Francis’ stature, who has demonstrated his expertise and acumen amongst his peers, should not be forced to ride out of town because of his faith.  And I think it ironic that the rationalistic faith that there is not, can not, and must not be a God should hold itself out as the more honest and more objective faith even as it seeks to eliminate contrary or alternative lines of thought and belief. 

(thanks to J.P. for forwarding me the Newsweek article!)

3 Responses to “Christianity and Rationality”

  1. Carl Henning Says:

    For more on the Francis Collins’ nomination with links to other articles see the July 20 Carl’s Quote of the Day at Feel free to subscribe.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    Sorry for the delay on your comment, Carl!  I look forward to checking out your site.

  3. fantasy Says:

    And we still have very cold ((((

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