THIS I BELIEVE
I believe in the primacy of reason.
I believe the Light of Reason
is the true meaning of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that faith, in the sense of belief
without reason, is the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Here is the Light of Reason in play: Years ago my physics professor went through a blackboard demonstration, using calculus to show how Kepler’s conjectures of planetary motion were the consequence of gravitational acceleration. In other words, how Newton’s laws explained the observations of Kepler and others. On going through this process, I was not asked to accept the result on the basis of a lucky guess, or because some supposed authority said so, or because of a vote. Instead, by following the line of thought I saw for myself how it works, why it is true. Along the way, I could ask questions to clarify concepts or correct possible missteps. This mental engagement brought me into an intimate understanding of how elegantly the Universe works, and it became a spiritual experience of what author Michael Shermer has called deep and sacred science. This is the Light of Reason, the true Holy Spirit.
In contrast, where does faith lead you? The ceremony of burning a witch or a religious doubter at the stake was called the auto-da-fé, which is Portuguese for “act of faith.” This is not the label of critics; it was the Inquisition’s own term, and it is entirely accurate. Those faith-based atrocities were carried out in the complete absence of reason.
The attacks of 9/11 also were acts of nothing but faith, entirely lacking in morality, human feeling, and reason–but based instead on blind illusions of service to Islam and immediate teleportation to Heaven. Of course that did not happen; faith carried those blighted souls either elsewhere or nowhere. Likewise, every suicide bombing is a faith-based action that creates only suffering.
The great tyrannies of the last century, Communism and Nazism, were also based on faith rather than reason. Though not conventionally religious, those political faiths used principles and methods identical to previous religious ideas and behaviors. Blitzkrieg and genocide were invented in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua; and antisemitism had been a Christian project for centuries.
But, one may ask, doesn’t faith also underlie generosity, compassion, and other goodness? Not really. Good impulses and actions can be justified by reasons, including evolutionary and sociobiological explanations. Unevidenced belief–faith–is not needed.
When reasons are available to support a belief, most persons will try to use them. Only when evidence and reason fail to support a belief does anyone need to resort to faith, which just means the belief is most likely false, or at best a lucky guess. Claiming that unevidenced belief is better than knowledgeable opinion is the utmost of arrogance and pride, which leads to oppression and even terrorism. Religion is sopping-wet saturated with these sins, which are built on faith–the sin against the Holy Spirit.
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