Faith and Reason
Text of a paper published in the Fall (1996) issue of Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, addressing why and how religious experience is to be approached critically, using Buddhist meditation as the central example.
Moore and Kramer analyze four main conflicts between humanistic psychology and prominent religious precepts found in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic prayers. These conflicts concern locus of control, self-esteem, social values, and the status of the family. The authors conclude that the messages promoted by various prayers are diametrically opposed to the goals of humanistic psychology and progressive education.
What does it mean to suppose that something is absurd? In the dictionary sense, to say that something is absurd is to say that it is ridiculously incongruous and unreasonable. Is Christianity absurd in the dictionary sense? Given standard criticisms of Christianity and certain plausible interpretations of it, Christianity is filled with ridiculous incongruities and unreasonable beliefs and practices. It can therefore be considered absurd.
Part of Gerkin’s comprehensive review of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, Strobel’s interview with Lynn Anderson is analyzed and critiqued.
Objection #8: I Still Have Doubts, So I Can’t Be A Christian (5th ed., 2020) by Paul Doland
Part of Doland’s comprehensive review of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, Strobel’s interview with Lynn Anderson is analyzed and critiqued.
Commentary on Paul Doland’s Critique of Strobel’s Case for Faith (n.d.) by Avue (Off Site)
While Paul Doland’s critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith shows a decent understanding of current issues within the Christian Church and the socio-religious issues surrounding the Church, he does not show a good understanding of Christianity itself. He shows this, for example, in his discussions of God as heavenly father, original sin, and salvation.
In his earlier Secular Web critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, Paul Doland concluded that by raising tough questions for Christianity but failing to adequately respond to them, Strobel (and his interviewees) inadvertently ending up producing a strong case against faith. A rejoinder to Doland’s critique was subsequently published on the God and Science website. In this response to that rejoinder, Doland defends his original conclusion that neither The Case for Faith in particular, nor Christianity in general, provide believable and coherent answers to the sorts of questions that Strobel originally raised. Nor, for that matter, does the attempt by the God and Science website to rehabilitate Strobel’s answers to Christianity’s toughest questions.
In this review of Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, Kenneth Krause notes Harris’ most important points about the destructive nature of faith. After pointing out that hundreds of millions of Americans hold beliefs clearly inconsistent with well-established scientific and historical facts, Harris turns to a discussion of how faith adversely affects our daily lives, directly motivates religious violence, and even threatens the future of civilization. The problem is not so much specific religious doctrines as it is the principle of faith itself–a principle which eschews reason and ends all meaningful conversation. Harris also blames religious moderates as much as fundamentalists for the ongoing religious conflicts of our times. Though Krause greatly appreciates all of these points, he ends by noting at least two deficiences of this book.
“The new atheism” refers to a recent revival of popular atheist books, particularly in the United States, which critique both the grounds for belief in God and the detrimental effects of religion on society. The popularity of these books has naturally spawned a religious counteroffensive, the latest installment of which is John F. Haught’s God and the New Atheism. Though Haught laments the new atheists’ indifference to theology, a case could be made that theological nuances are irrelevant to the views held by most ordinary believers, and that this is the real target of critique. Moreover, Haught completely misses the main point of the new atheists: that all religious doctrines lack reasonable justification. In the end, their central point is untouched: that faith requires belief without evidence, and that in the absence of evidence, any imaginable (self-consistent) belief is as credible as any other—so there is no good reason to adopt one unevidenced belief over any other.
David Eller’s Natural Atheism is no ordinary freethought handbook. Its chapter on church-state separation reviews most of the appropriate legislation and case law, concluding that freedom from religion is protected by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. As an unapologetic rationalist, Eller insists that any deviation from reason–including faith–merely masquerades as thinking. Advocating the relativity of moral systems to specific social contexts, Eller nevertheless thinks that reason can ground moral systems by encouraging socially beneficial behavior on the basis of intersubjectivity. And while he thinks that no religious source truly values toleration, he is ambiguous about the extent to which freethinkers should tolerate religion for social convenience at the expense of truth.
William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith is an apologetics textbook ranging over arguments for the existence of God to the alleged evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. It also includes discussions of Craig’s views on faith, the meaning of life, miracles, history, and Jesus’ view of himself, as well as an original chapter on the reliability of the New Testament by evangelical New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg. In this critique Chris Hallquist argues that at best Reasonable Faith provides thoughtful arguments for the existence of some sort of God, but not the Christian God specifically, and that Craig fails to adequately answer arguments that belief in miracles–including belief in the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection–is unwarranted. Moreover, by implication Craig wants his audience to renounce the basic moral notion that no one deserves eternal punishment for picking the wrong religion. In the end, Craig wants us to believe something that all reason is against, though paradoxically every apologetic assumes that we must take reason seriously. This is, ultimately, why Craig’s apologetic fails.
Anthony Campbell’s short and accessible Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination illustrates a temperament rather than providing exhaustive arguments against religious beliefs. Campbell thinks that the supernatural is not real, but there is no rancor in his view of religion. He does not treat supernatural convictions as a straightforward mistake curable by a steady application of common sense. Nor does he think that religion is invariably an evil. And even though he has come to think that religions involve too many false beliefs, he thinks that there are too many important questions entangled with our religious traditions to just cast them aside.
Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination chronicles a medical doctor’s journey from traditional religion to Eastern-path meditation and mysticism, finally ending in nonbelief. The author writes in great detail about his own loss of any kind of faith in his personal journey toward atheism and naturalism. Although the author has come to reject all supernatural claims, he nevertheless apparently suspects that humanity cannot endure without hope in the existence of some unseen supernatural being. He seems to doubt that any secular worldview can ever satisfy the spiritual yearning of the masses. Reviewer Edward Tabash, a constitutional lawyer who is extensively involved in atheist activism, deeply appreciates the author’s comprehensive chronology of the journey from religion, through mysticism, to nonbelief. Tabash has made a similar journey. However, Tabash does not embrace the author’s apparent pessimism about ever persuading masses of humanity to give up their supernatural beliefs.
This essay dispels many myths about the scientific mind, detailing what scientific methods really are, and how science really gets done, based on a scientific study revealing troubling levels of scientific illiteracy among college students and high school science teachers.
Many aspects of psychology are at loggerheads with religion. In this paper excerpts from prayers, hymns and scriptures of the three monotheistic religions are used to illustrate major areas of conflict between these two institutions. Special attention is given to those aspects of prayers which contradict basic tenets of psychological well-being not only of individuals but also of families. The discussion is divided into four major fields: Feudalism vs. egalitarianism, developmental issues, defense mechanisms, and interpersonal control mechanisms. In each field, several examples, organized around subtopics, show how the manifest message of religious texts legitimizes and encourages practices considered pathogenic by the standards of various psychological approaches.