“Because I Love Her” Is a Rational, Reasonable, and Logical Response

In his book The End of Faith Sam Harris points out, “People of faith naturally recognize the primacy of reason and resort to reasoning whenever they possibly can. Faith is simply the license they give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail” (232). To believe something true without evidence or in spite of evidence is called faith — and many consider it a great virtue. A semantic distinction becomes necessary here; I am not talking about faith as trust — as in, “I have faith my wife will show up on time.” This type of faith is likely based on experience, e.g. the many times my wife has been on-time. Having faith as the result of weighing and thinking through available evidence is simply how one operates in a reason-based worldview. Logic, emotion, and even subtle “subconscious” cues may add to and aid our evaluations and calculations, but this kind of faith requires no leaping or revelation. This kind of faith does not require faith.

There is another kind of faith that lies “beyond” logic and cannot be shaken by logic. While our ideas about the importance of this kind of faith are likely based on a combination of childhood imprinting, evolutionary adaptation, and emotional gaps unsatisfied by reason, no amount of explanation or examination accounts for its power to those who have it. The importance of faith, especially in the concept of God — inlayed as it is upon our earliest experiences — becomes immune to the intrusion of logic and inquiry; as Freud states, “For any other question at all — even one that affects us so little as the question whether whales lay eggs — we demand more proof than we have for Providence.” And revealed religions recognize the need to regard faith as the final arbiter when judging what is true or false. The Bible provides a telling quote: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Corinthians 1:19). Reason becomes faith’s enemy when reason points us in other directions; science and religion have been at odds because science does not recognize faith as a valid way of knowing, and is therefore not bound or convinced by the revelations and proclamations the faithful may hold as true.

Faith as a way of knowing is regarded not only as an alternative to logic and reason, it is held as a virtue. People of great faith are often judged as “good” simply by exhibiting those high levels of faith. This equating of good with faithfulfeeds the allure of religious extremism. Richard Dawkins finds this allure worthy of high concern writing in The God Delusion: “Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. Teaching children that unquestioned faith is a virtue primes them — given certain other ingredients that are not hard to come by — to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads or crusades” (285). Conditioning the mind to dismiss reason as unnecessary (or inadequate) to know our deepest truths — and to perceive such a perspective as virtue itself — creates in the fanatically faithful a dangerous worldview. In this worldview lies an inexhaustible wellspring of answers that can be wholly detached from reality. Prayers of the truly faithful are always answered; the reply may be Yes, No, or Maybe but a willingness to hear makes even silence indicative of God. This deep attraction-to and hunger-for faith results at least partly from a failure to appreciate the complexity, strength, and power of human emotion.

We must remember that when asked, “Why do you want to marry that woman?” Because I love her is a perfectly reasonable and logical response. Emotion, intuition, and desire are not mutually exclusive to reason. To see faith as an alternative to machine-like rationality is to set up a false dichotomy of the most glaring kind, but for many believers “materialism” carries the taint of an impossibly cold and cruel logic. The Christian writer Ravi Zacharias describes his view of materialism in his book Can Man Live without God: “A materialist is forced to a theory of randomness and cannot avoid this reduction of man to flotsam and jetsam. Where there is the loss of wonder there is a natural tug toward a reductionistic view of everything aesthetic or virtuous. For that matter, all of life boils down to the rags of matter in chemical or physical reaction, and the strongest ‘reactions’ win. Man becomes another blip on the radar screen of time. The noblest is reduced to the lowest, and love is merely glandular.” 

Holding such a view of materialism is as depressing as it is wrong. For love, glandular as it may be, is just as intense, wonderful, and valid regardless of its origin. The feeling of love does not subside when I learn that the human heart is a pumping machine. The metaphors that surround it are no less accurate, no less human, for our knowing that the heart is not heart-shaped. My appreciation of cardiac-mechanics in no way detracts from the love I have for my family and friends — in my heart.

To accept Zacharias’ definition of materialism is to become willfully blind to the incredible machinery of nature, and it is to cede our emotions, the most human of human qualities, as the sole domain of ministers and priests, gurus and mystics — all the men and women of faith. Under the guise “faith” lies a detachment from science, reason and reality. Faith may be touted by believers as a panacea for whatever ails. But faith can be a dangerous drug, an intense hallucinogenic for those fanatics tightly focused on the pages of their books or on the words of their leaders revealing to them the Truth of what must be done.

13 Responses

  1. Within these lines I see faith is delusion, faith is denial. I have often felt a sadness in my own lack of faith in this story of Jesus as the Son of God. I have, at times, wished for the blind faith of my mother and my priest, who without any proof at all believe in these fantastical stories. Because to have this blind faith would make me good, right? It is a sin to ask for proof, to be the Doubting Thomas because who is man to ask God to show himself because man’s faith is lacking? But I see now that to have this blind faith would be to live in adamant denial. Laws of science tell you that a theory can not be proven to be an absolute truth. One can test a theory and results can either absolutely prove a theory wrong or merely add support to the theory. Once a theory is proven wrong or impossible or illogical, it stops being held as a truth and yet all of these ideas of God and Jesus, the virgin Mary, feeding thousands with 5 fish and 2 loaves, 200 year old women having children (Sarah&Abraham) are believed. Not just believed but fought for, wars waged. To have this kind of faith is to deny all reason, logic, rational thought. Isn’t it? Isn’t that just…stupid?

  2. Nicely said and spot on (IMO)… remember where all the admonishments to “just believe” are coming from—they are coming from the faith and the book of the faith… it’s like the guy, who having just scribbled something in his notebook, looks down says, “It’s true! I read it! And here it is!”

  3. marriage is like a tuning fork….

    but seriously, i would say that all that has been said is true about ‘religious faith’, but boiled down the concept of faith is just a tool we use as self-aware thinking beings to fill in the unknown in order to get to the next level of life. Be that the next second or next ten years of continuing to exist in the direction that we want to go. We can spend our whole lives dedicated (or obsessed?) to finding the truth of all or just one unknown…but is this a waste of life? You decide to either have faith that this is the most important “thing” in life to find truth, or use faith to continue on to the what you feel is more important. I don’t find faith as ignorance solely.

  4. “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.”

    “Faith: not wanting to know what is true.”

    Nietzsche

  5. Having faith seems little more than an excuse to hold onto something you know logically to not be true. “He’s just not that into you” is a book about, among other things, refusing to accept or give credence to the stupid excuses or lies or denials because it makes you feel better. He’s not calling you because he’s not interested so why continue chasing him down. Doesn’t the Bible rely on, prey on, our need to believe in what we know not to be true because doing otherwise makes us less good. Where’s my burning bush? Where’s my miracle? Well, thundering voices from above aren’t coming because “he’s just not that into you”. Being honest with yourself and having self respect would tell you to give it up. He’s not coming. But the Bible wants you to believe if you do that, you’ve now turned YOUR back on HIM. Incredulous!

  6. Well, what about the person who (by the standards laid down in this article) has a reasonable faith in god?

    “Every time I pray for XYZ, I get XYZ.”

    Same faith as the wife showing up on time?

  7. Do you mean like, “Every time I pray for the sun to rise, it does, the very next day!”

  8. Sure and the wind in your hair is God’s caress. Or it could just be the wind. You pray you get that job, you re-vamp your resume, you buy a new expensive suit, you practice the bs’ing and low and behold…you got a new job. Was that God? Maybe that’s trivial…say you have a lovely couple who wants to have children so they pray for God to allow them to conceive. In this particular incident “God’s answer” is an empty womb. You can interpret your answer that maybe you should adopt a motherless child, that is where you are needed. And now, having children the stress of performing and creating live within yourself, you’ve let go. Voila, miraculously…now you conceive on your own. A miracle? An answered prayer? Or hormones running free without stress of creating your own family? I was once told one can make almost any answer to a multiple choice question work. I think the same logic can apply here. An “unanswered” prayer is God’s gentle push because what you think you want isn’t what he had planned for you. An “answered” prayer is God being magnanimous.

  9. I get it, this is a blog for people to poo-poo those crazy believers. But I find mental gymnastics employed to allow some faith (wife) and disallow others (jesus) disingenuous.

    Just so you know, I’m not a believer. I’m not religious. I am an atheist.

    But damn, do you really want a circle-of-yes echo chamber?🙂

  10. Just so you know. I’m a cradle Catholic. I receive the Eucharist and daily ask for His patience to help me through another day of this muck. I occassionally feel like a unexplained settling feeling. I’m a Doubting Thomas. I’m also the motherless child, or I was. And my parents went on to have 3 natural births, one set twins, after doctors telling them it would never be possible.

  11. …and you love David Bowie

  12. Good God, man! Who doesn’t!

  13. […] are two posts from our first month. “Because I Love Her” Is a Rational, Reasonable, and Logical Response is a look at the importance of emotion when making decisions. It is the first of many times that […]

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