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A Fundamental Disagreement With The Pope?

Thu Sep 14, 2006 1:12 am

The Pope has just made a speech in which he attacked the concept of jihad promoted by extremists by saying that God does not justify violence.

But that's not the point on which I wish to express my respectful disagreement with the Pontiff, if recent news accounts are correct.

Rather, it is, as reported on CNN and in the source below, the Pope's seeming identification of faith with reason. The Pope appears, by reports, to urge that the two are literally inseparable.

But on the other hand, everything I've learned tells me that the two forces of the human spirit co-exist only uneasily, and that they cannot always be deemed inseparable by the teachings of existence itself.

I used to believe that faith reinforces reason, and that reason reinforces faith, and that by their very nature, never the twain may be torn asunder. But I have come to believe that this is false. Reason can exist without faith, and faith without reason, although -- I hasten to add -- their separate existence is not, by any means, recommended. The point is that the two are not, as may possibly be urged, two sides of the same coin.

Rather, I now believe that reason is provided so that we may apprehend the universe, and faith is given for two purposes: To apprehend God's place in a moral universe, and to place limits on reason.

In this way, faith is, within its own realm, and its own realm only, superior to the edicts of reason. But faith is independent of reason, as reason is independent of faith. Where faith collides with reason, there is never a clear victory in any respect. There is only the personal application of faith in conscience that can prevail.

Reason tells us how and why the universe works. It tells us almost nothing about God. One can be an atheist, and yet be reasonable. This is what experience has taught me.

Faith, however, tells us almost nothing about the physical universe. But faith of some sort is essential for a moral civilization, because without faith, there is only the convenience of egoism, which is nothing more than rationality dressed up in clothes of our own design.

I wish to read the Pope's speech in close translation, because from all news accounts I have read, his take on faith and reason may not be correct at all.

A complete identification of faith in which faith is equated with reason invites the subjugation of reason, and leads inevitably, and ironically, to violence.

See, e.g.,,21985,20408318-663,00.html

[Edited 2006-09-13 18:18:31]
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RE: A Fundamental Disagreement With The Pope?

Thu Sep 14, 2006 1:20 am

I'm pretty sure you mean 'comprehend' rather than 'apprehend' (I'd like to see someone try and apprehend God!).

Faith and reason are two interesting topics that I'm not sure I've figured out my own thoughts on. While you're right in saying that reason on it's own doesn't tell us anything about God, when coupled with faith, it can bring clarity to certain aspects of God that faith alone doesn't provide.

I think possibly it is the clarity that reason brings to faith that causes faith to offer such hope. And after all, that's basically what faith is all about - hope.
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RE: A Fundamental Disagreement With The Pope?

Thu Sep 14, 2006 1:30 am

Quoting IFEMaster (Reply 1):
I think possibly it is the clarity that reason brings to faith that causes faith to offer such hope. And after all, that's basically what faith is all about - hope.

I think you're absolutely right: Faith is very similar to hope.

This is why I think Dante was profoundly correct when he said that the placard introducing hell was emblazoned with the words, "ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER". Because it's true. Hell is the absence of hope. There is no hope there.

Interestingly, hell is also said to be the place where reason has no lease. If that is true, it is nevertheless not necessarily true that hope is the same is faith, and that faith is the same as reason.

The two (faith and reason) co-exist, and are essential, but they are not inseparable.

One way to think about this is to see existence on Earth itself as a kind of anteroom to purgatory and elsewhere, where we can dispense with reason and faith as we like. (In the literal purgatory, sins are extirpated and thus there is less of a choice as to what occurs.) We are given the choice; shall we abandon faith? Shall we abandon reason? In both cases, it is purgatory for us -- if there is one.

Shall we act with evil intent to repudiate both faith and reason, and therefore repudiate God? Then, and only then, is there gehenna, or the literal hell, where there is no hope, no faith, no reason, because there is no existence as we, the living, know it.

God has no possible room in His Heaven for those who cannot possibly conceive of the role of either faith or reason.

As you say in another thread, the entire matter there and here as well is infinitely complex.

This is one reason that the freedom of faith from reason may be a shortcut that God does provide for each of us to believe in Him, to believe in goodness and redemption, because reason has no role in proving that He exists.

We must simply hope. And believe. And be saved.

I'm no preacher. I'm a layman. I can speak only for myself. But this is what my experience in the world teaches me, and it is more important for me recognize what I can glean from it, and from the teachings of wise individuals before me, than to accept, unquestioningly, what any Pope may be reported to have said.

As for anyone else, your mileage may indeed vary.

[Edited 2006-09-13 18:40:38]
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