Faith (also mysticism) is essentially commitment to the imaginary without acknowledging the imaginary as unreal. As such, faith is a fundamental distinguishing feature of the religious view of the world, a view which makes the world in which we actually live take a backseat to an alleged realm that is accessible only by means of imagination.
In spite of faith’s elevating of imagination over facts, apologists for religious worldviews today, even in the West which enjoys historically unprecedented post-Enlightenment progress, still insist that their faith is compatible with reason. I can only suppose either that they simply do not understand the conflict between reason and faith, or that they want to downplay it in order to exonerate their own worldview’s complicity, witting or not, with trends that are working to erode that progress.
Having been both a Christian as well as an Objectivist, I have firsthand psychological experience as both an advocate for faith and an advocate for reason. This is not intended to mean that readers should take my word for it on these matters. Rather, I remind my readers of this to bring home the fact that I do not approach any of this as an outsider unfamiliar with how one side or the other treats the conflict between reason and faith.
Moreover, having learned the categorical distinctions between both the religious view of the world and rational philosophy, I have come to identify ten distinct fundamental points of conflict between reason and faith. I present them here as follows:
1. Incompatible metaphysical foundations:
Reason: The primacy of existence (cf. wishing doesn’t make it so; facts exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity).
Faith: The primacy of consciousness (cf. wishing does make it so; facts are products of and conform to conscious activity, existence finds its source in consciousness, etc.).
Reason: Looking outward at the realm of facts, discovering and integrating facts according to an objective standard in conceptual form.
Faith: Looking inward into the contents of one’s own consciousness, including emotions, preferences, wishing, imagination, fears, without any formal understanding of conceptual integration.
Reason: Knowledge consists of concepts abstracted ultimately from perceptual awareness (firsthand discovery of facts).
Faith: Knowledge consists of beliefs (cf. “justified true belief”) based ultimately on “received” dogma (secondhand – in fact, further removed – stipulations apart from facts).
Reason: Rational methodology and logical validation.
Faith: Approved interpretation of sacred storybook texts.
Reason: Application of the law of causality to entity classes (thus induction is possible).
Faith: Whatever the ruling consciousness wills (thus induction is impossible).
Reason: Conscious activity conforms to reality.
Faith: Reality conforms to conscious activity (e.g., imagination, belief, commands, wishing, etc.).
Reason: Objective identification of facts discovered by looking outward.
Faith: Subjective stipulations based on emotions apprehended by looking inward (cf. fear, guilt, doubt).
Reason: Emotions as reactions to new knowledge relating to one’s values.
Faith: Emotions as unquestionable cognitive primaries functioning as deliverances from the supernatural.
Reason: Sense perception providing objective content to conceptually irreducible recognitions.
Faith: Imagination conjuring subjective content sourced ultimately in irrational emotional commitments.
Reason: Man can discover, learn, know, think, validate, judge and choose.
Faith: Man cannot discover, learn, know, think, validate, judge and choose.
Also, I think this topic is important because the conflict between reason and faith plays an enormous causal role in the state of the world today, affecting everything from Obamathon spending sprees to inner city crime, from totalitarian threats to individual liberty to full-scale international war. Of course, it also plays an enormous role in an individual’s psychological wellbeing which, cumulatively on the societal level, has profound implications for the overall health of a culture. And I know of no culture right now that is intellectually healthy, nor does any culture seem to be moving towards intellectual health. Quite the opposite in fact!
by Dawson Bethrick