MLK on Science vs. Religion

Science investigates; religion interprets.  Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control.  Science deals with facts; religion deals with values.  The two are not rivals.  They are complementary.  Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism.  Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.

Take that fundamentalists both of the evangelical and atheist variety.

You Just Think You’re Excited

Today I got into a heated, though thankfully not acrimonious, religious discussion with a good friend which had to end abruptly for the sake of our friendship. Afterward, I was reflecting and was surprised by my emotional reaction. Heart pumping, adrenaline flowing, voices tense. What the hell? We are both very committed Christians and in the heat of the moment we were more talking at each other than conversing with each other. I was taken at how angry I had become. And for no intellectual reason really. It wasn’t that deep. The world would not end, but here I was upset.

It finally occurred to me that as my friend spoke he used words and phrases and believed things that triggered visceral emotional reactions to experiences I’ve had in the past. But not recognizing that is a fundamental mistake. It is very hard to think when you are excited and full of emotion. I reacted rather than acted with intention. My friend was gone replaced by the bogeymen of my past humiliations and righteous anger. I failed to get outside myself and acknowledge him and, most importantly, that he might be feeling precisely the same way. In truth, things I said challenged his deeply held beliefs and that is rarely welcome.

It was an object lesson in compassion. It takes a lot of humility and hard work to “feel with” others. If I had taken the time to do so, we might have turned a sharp disagreement into a teachable moment rather than a clash of ego, belief, and emotion.

What Do You Believe Rob?

A friend recently asked, “I sincerely would like to understand what makes a bright, educated, eloquent person believe in god and accept religion. Please tell me.”
This is my answer:


“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”

–St. Thomas Aquinas

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

“I believe in Coincidence like I believe in God. I know both exist but have never seen either.”
The Unit

Simply put faith is like love or the appreciation of art or one’s morality. It is part of who you are and is not the product reason, rather the reverse. (Nor does the object of these human experiences change their essential nature. From a materialist reductive standpoint, a father’s love for his son is completely in his head, just a collection of neuro-chemical reactions and bio-elecricity regardless of the reality of his son.) Faith is a human experience that is ineffable though we, like romantic love, spend many words describing it’s reality. Religion is faith in practice and like anything else human, subject to our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. And that is the plain truth.

So for me, Truth is accepting what Is as clearly as I can see it and refraining from letting my desires, wants, and biases cloud that vision. So the truth is I believe in God because I have experienced God. I have a modest spiritual capacity. I deploy religion to practice my spirituality and employ my faith because I am driven to do so. I do not subscribe to fideism, nor does my Church by the way. I believe that experience lies at the ground of all we hold True. The rest is mental exercise and commentary.

I am a Catholic because I found a spiritual home at St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. Otherwise, I would be done with organized religion as my wife and I were tired of lots of sizzle and no steak. Spirit: that’s all that’s Real to me. Otherwise you might was well worship Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or Russell’s Teapot for that matter.

Catholicism is enough for me because I know God intimately through it. I don’t worry about ancient traditions, doctrines or dogma too much. (Maybe that makes me a bad Catholic in the Magesterium’s eyes, but I’m not in this for them now am I?) A caveman and I start a campfire pretty much the same way and appreciate its reality despite vastly different understanding of its nature. So I’m less worried about the Trinitarian Godhead as monotheism, for example, and more worried about how my religion makes me a better persons and deepens my spirituality, i.e. knowledge of God.
Jesus, my Lord and Master, taught:

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:9-10,13)

Amen.

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Trust, but Verify

Finishing up a late night with a good book on Catholic apologetics.

Faith and reason are interdependent. One of the great secrets of the universe is that reason leans on faith every but as faith leans on reason. Rightly did St. Augustine say, “I believe that I may understand.” It’s not that people who lack Christian faith cannot know anything. But anyone who knows anything must first put faith in principles that are tacit, unproven, and unprovable. We have good reasons to believe such things. But we don’t have proof. We believe that we may understand.

Rational Lies

This weekend was a good one spiritually. Saturday, Bishop Steib from the Memphis visited and gave us a Word that had people rushing for his autograph. Today at Mass, Father gave a great homily on authentic Christianity. Both had me pondering on how I saw my own faith. Was it something I should defend against attack from the Jehovah’s witnesses at my door on the one hand to the subtle (and often not so subtle) condescension of my atheist friends and the likes of Bill Maher on the other? For a long time I, in fact, thought so. Well, no longer. I am willing to evangelize and to explain, but I’ll no longer defend. To do so is to accept the premise for attack. I don’t apologize for loving my wife. Why in the hell should I for loving Jesus? Rationally, neither makes any sense.
I remember a good friend asking me essentially why I was a man of faith, “You’re so bright,” he said. He went on with the usual old saws about how religion is good to get your through a tough time or if your are weak mentally or emotionally but not for the serious minded and intelligent. And I explained, patiently, where I was coming from.
Such thinking is ironic to me. It demonstrates a strong faith in one’s senses. If a man born blind denies the existence of color, what argument could convince him? His senses tell him nothing about the existence of color. In fact, every argument that I know of made to convince him could easily be employed to “prove” the existence of God!
Faith like love or art is a part of the human experience that is not subject to argument. It is ineffable and undeniable for those who experience it. To quote St. Thomas Aquinas:

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

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Palin: Iraq war ‘a task that is from God’ – Yahoo! News

Palin: Iraq war ‘a task that is from God’ – Yahoo! News:

“ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a ‘task that is from God.’
In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it ‘God’s will.'”

(Via Yahoo! News.)

I love God too, but last I checked, pipelines and war weren’t among his top priorities.