Friday, July 13, 2007

A Numinous game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

The following is an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend of mine. It covers a section of the book that's earlier on than my most recent points, but I thought it'd make a good posting nonetheless:

While reading "An Assault on Reason" I came across this passage:
The Relationship between faith, reason, and fear sometimes resembles the children's game of rock, paper scissors. Fear displaces reason, reason challenges faith, faith overcomes fear ... for many people, a balance between reason and faith is a better guide than either alone ... despite the many clashes between reason and faith, these cohabit much more easily in the mind than do reason and fear.

Perhaps it's just a measure of how poorly I relate to religious belief, but this observation resonated deeply with me. I've long been aware of research that suggests a need to believe in something larger than ourselves - a need that's most frequently manifested as belief in a deity - is fundamental to the human condition; but I've had trouble looking at this need as a strength. That difficulty's been alleviated with a few short sentences. After all, as suspicious as I am of universal statements, I think everyone's susceptible to some sort of fear. Some people may be able to rationalize their fears away longer than others; but I think a bad enough situation will scare anyone to the core. The ability to believe in something stands as a defense against just such a situation. Given, I doubt that belief has to be in a god - but a well considered religious belief seems like it could serve quite well.

What do you, fellow readers, think of this perspective for understanding religion's relationship to rationality? Do you see any flaws or points of concern?

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