Is Christian Faith Reasonable?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Is Christian Faith Reasonable? 

All religions require elements of faith. Any metaphysical beliefs are, by definition, not directly amenable to scientific study. This does not reduce the importance or the relevance of religious faith. After all, science offers little or no guidance about the great existential questions: Where did I come from? What am I supposed to do with my life? What happens to me – that stable sense of self that has existed in my body (even as my body constantly changes) – when I die?
Atheists deny that there is any cosmic meaning to our lives. Perhaps they are right, but psychologically many people find such a view unsettling. Further, this stance fails to address the very real mystery of how we came to exist. We know much about how living beings come to exist through biological reproduction, but we have no idea where our own, unique sense of being came from.
Many religious people express certainty about their relationship with God and about their ultimate destiny after they die. I don’t see any firm grounds for such certainty. Even if there were compelling evidence, certainty seems unwarranted, since we know that the human mind can be fallible and thus there is no way to know whether a person’s sense of certainty reflects true knowledge or whether it is just a manifestation of a fallible mind. Evidently, being surrounded by people who share their convictions seems to augment a sense of certainty, but mutual reinforcement of a belief does not necessarily signal a greater likelihood that the belief is truth.
I think we should be willing to accept uncertainty when it comes to answers to these existential questions. While we might crave certainty about these matters, this attitude strikes me as most reasonable, most intellectually honest, and, from a social perspective, most desirable. Historically, people have tended to become most hostile when their religious beliefs have been challenged. Even if they can live peacefully among non-believers, rigid religious convictions can prompt people to ignore their basic senses of justice and decency if they believe that God favors policies that harm vulnerable individuals. As Voltaire observed, “As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.” Unshakeable religious convictions made it easier for churches to defend racial segregation a half century ago and to defend animal abuse today.

Next essay, I will respond to Steven Weinberg’s opinion, "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.” 

Go on to: Does Faith Encourage People to Do Good or Evil?
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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