Tipsy has a piece with some fascinating (to me) thoughts on faith and reason. It’s in the context of the marriage equality debate, but the themes are larger than that. A couple of items that caught my eye:
-”[O]ur culture assumes a fundamental split between faith and reason . . . the severing of faith and reason has led to a nihilism wherein the greatest good is the fulfillment of whatever desires among consenting adults. Is that all reason can really say, that anything one wants goes as long as no one else gets hurt?”
-”William of Occam’s nominalist and voluntarist theology . . . conceived of God not as reason but as raw arbitrary will.”
You might recall William of Occam from Occam’s Razor, the methodological principle of parsimony that suggests, if an element is unnecessary to explain a phenomenon, there is no reason to assume that element. The simplest explanation is usually best. (If gravity explains why a celestial object moves from place to place, there is no need to posit that a herd of invisible angels is moving the thing around.) Which brings to mind a Simpson’s quote on conspiracies:
Bart: So finally, we’re all in agreement about what’s going on with the adults. Milhouse?
Milhouse: [steps up to blackboard] Ahem. OK, here’s what we’ve got: the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people –
Bart: Thank you.
Milhouse: — under the supervision of the reverse vampires –
Milhouse: — are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish
plot to eliminate the meal of dinner. [sotto voce] We’re
through the looking glass, here, people…
But, I most certainly digress. Probably because these themes are of the type that can be done justice only by a lifetime of reflection and writing. Pre-coffee blog posts aren’t going to do them justice.
Any religious skeptic I have talked to has been familiar with the phenomenon of debating this or that matter of religion with a believer and getting to the point where the believer says something along the lines of “you just have to have faith.” That’s the most immediate example that comes to mind of the separateness of faith and reason. But, I suppose it’s probably only superficially related; having more to do with the relative mental agility of the debaters as to the relationship between faith and reason.
Also there is the interesting notion that it’s nihlism to believe that the greatest good is fulfillment of the desires of consenting adults where no one gets hurt. Rather than nihlism, that description sounds not too far off from utilitarianism; a school of thought for which I have a great deal of respect.
Greater goods that are abstractions, not necessarily accounting for individual’s desires for themselves, are tough. One has to have faith that the person espousing that greater good is actually speaking for the Almighty and not merely dressing up their own individual desires about how other people should behave.