In the analysis of how humans approach religion, there is a tendency for us to claim that belief and logic are mutually exclusive. That is, to believe one must throw aside logic and accept faith alone, following blindly, the words of scripture. But is this necessarily true?
First off, when this claim about the irreconcilability of faith and logic is made, it either comes with an air of arrogance or ignorance. Many of the religious believe that faith does not require logic because belief is its superior. But what pride is there in abandoning the incredible mind that you were bequeathed? What other form of beauty is there than to apply reason to scripture to sift out meaning and identify truth? Perhaps it is fear that binds us to this mindset. We fear that our faith is susceptible to logic and that the forces of darkness will mount reason to dismantle our faith.
Perhaps this is why many attempt to discredit scientific findings like the big bang, evolution, birth control. But why are these things so contentious that accepting them as truth is seen as affront to faith? The problem lies in the fact that for many religious people, scripture is as close to the literal written word of God as we can get, and because of the logical and moral inconsistencies that exist in various all scripture across various religions, we respond to these inconsistencies by asking practitioners to “suspend reason to find truth”. And this is very dangerous path for human society. This tells us to assume that religions are above reproach and questioning scripture is to heresy. Saudi Arabia advocates for this form of scriptural literalism called Wahhabism and it is a very dangerous form of religious practice prone to fundamentalism and extremism e.g. Al Qaeda and ISIS. A necessary component of religion is that it is a PERSONAL spiritual journey that is, each person must carve out his/her path, by themselves guided by truth and faith.
Many a religious person has remarked to me, “Ahn you just don’t get it, religion and logic don’t mix”. But I fear we misconstrue what is meant by logic. Logic is an instrument of truth which, in the hands of the truth seeker, reveals the nature of all things. Logic is often misconstrued to represent atheism or a disbelief in the supernatural. Miracles do not ‘defy logic’ and it is indicative of the state of religion that many think they do. If you have established a belief in an omnipotent spiritual being, that is the only precedent you need for miracles. If you believe this omnipotent being is the First(uncaused) cause of the universe, then rewriting the laws of physics to give someone Superman level strength (Samson/Hercules) is not in defiance of logic at all, in fact, it would be illogical to believe that a God exists and not also believe in the supernatural. I do not think this should be irreconcilable.
Many religions have logical and moral inconsistencies (as earlier stated), and not only lack evidence to back up certain claims but deny current scientific evidence to defend these claims. What every practitioner must realize is that all of scripture was written by humans and we are VERY susceptible to our own biases. Consider this from 1 Timothy 2:11–12:
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent”
Paul advocates that women must never have authority or teach a man. This is obviously sexist. Not only does it not have any backing by way of reason (i.e. there’s nothing to back up Paul’s statement) but it so obvious that Paul is projecting his views onto the church. Millions (if not billions) of Christians around the world hold onto this view and accept it as truth. What I propose (and have always proposed) is that you view Paul not as holder of truth but as a seeker of it. And when you look at Paul’s words through this prism, you realize that perhaps not everything he says in his Letters should be accepted wholeheartedly and so completely.
Islam is no different. Examine this quote, attributed to the Prophet, in a Hadith, Bukhari Al-Jami as-Sahih, hadith no. 4425:
“ No people will ever prosper who appoint a woman in charge of them.”
While these words are not in the Qur’an (and are thus subject to contention), they have still been used by multiple Muslims to justify the neglect of women in positions of authority. And it is not merely with this quote, there are many other ayats (verses) that support the subjugation of women. It is a recurrent theme in many religions and Christianity and Islam are not unique in this way.
Many practitioners are wedded to this view of religion. And this idea that scripture cannot (and more importantly must not) be questioned is frankly, ridiculous. It embeds the idea that the messengers (and writers) of scripture are infallible and perfect. And we know that this is just not true. A lot of the bias inherent in many religious scripture can be viewed as the bias of the writer. There’s a reason why we say “blind faith” instead of just “faith”. Faith is not blind, it STILL requires reason and evidence. Many of the religious have leaders that propose that practitioners shut off their brains in the faith. And incredibly, many acquiesce to this request. Some of the most educated men and women can claim that evolution and the big bang theory are merely ‘opinions’ because they do not want to engage reason. You will find many women, some of whom claim to be feminists, maintain that yes, indeed, men are the head. Faith REQUIRES Logic. This is not to say that all the writers in scripture are useless, of course not. Paul writes beautifully about the nature of love in his letter to the Corinthians. The Prophet has a magnificent description about the nature of God. When we enforce logic in our minds, we will be able to immediately recognize truth and light.
Logic forces you to think, it requires that you use that beautiful, magnificent brain that God blessed you with. With reason (logic) you plot a course with God and with faith you experience him. This must be your goal. Religion is not a set of rules that determines your spirituality and it is this dogmatic view of scripture and religion that has caused contention. Many practitioners claim that one must not try to “change religion”, one of my favorite phrases, a phrase that really asks men and women of reason to abandon logic and follow blindly. They ask you not to change? How can you change that which you do not understand?
Some might claim, erroneously, that this allows practitioners to ‘pick and choose’ what part of scripture they will adhere to. Far from it. Logic is not a subjective action i.e. what is logical for me is also logical for you, there is no your truth or my truth but THE truth. For example, a thorough understanding of the message of Christ is love and redemption and is the same core that breathes in all the Abrahamic religions. Judaism and Islam preach that union with Yahweh/Allah is the way to purify oneself. Truth reveals itself when you apply this prism as you view scripture, you can separate the wheat from the chaff, you will be able to see what is divine truth and what is human bias. You will see things as they ought to be not as they are.
Do you know who benefits from this suspension of logic? The religious elite. By advocating for a form of religion that causes antagonism, they are able to stoke the flames to draw believers to themselves. Religion is not about being from damnation (although, that is part of it). Religion is about unification with the Supreme Deity. By preaching that science and reason are enemies of faith, religious leaders can seclude the minds of followers and actively prevent them from reasoning on their own. Look at the science, evolution, homosexuality, the big bang theory, gender equality, these are all scientific facts that do not impede your faith in any manner and are not antagonistic to your faith.
This is necessary, a number of us are transitioning into a new generation, we are molding the minds of billions of children and I think, that we owe it to our children to evolve. You must train your mind as well as your spirit. This does not ask you to accept everything scientists say as truth either. Science is not truth but it does assist in the pursuit of it. It is tragic that we were not raised this way, many of us, in this young generation, were raised in an antagonistic religious way of life. Perpetually fighting an ‘other’, is this the purpose of religion? Is this the high life that we are called to live?If we continue to place religion and reason on a warpath, headed for each other, the result will not only be grotesque spectacle but will also set us back years, perhaps even decades, we will continue to be manipulated by the religious elite and we will still be at loggerheads with each other.
The unification of religion and reason IS possible and not only is it necessary for personal growth but it is paramount for global growth as well. Is it impossible? Time will tell but, now this information is in possession what you do with it is entirely up to you. I look forward to having conversations with you.