21 February 2009

Religion of Reason

Atheists or agnostics often (if not in every case) believe as such because of reason. They think they've escaped from the influences of a religious society to think freely. Freethinking then inevitably results in atheism or agnosticism, since that's the logical result the reason must give. According to them anyway.

Look closely, and it becomes evident that their faith is in the logic. Logic is their god. It is considered infallible. Instead of being without religion, their religion is reason.

I love this quote by Lewis Carroll Epstein:

Physics is actually a religion. A religion based on articles of unproved faith. In physics the articles of unproved faith are: "There always has to be a reason" and "The body of reasons has no self (internal) contradictions." If past experience had not contradicted these articles, that in itself could not assure continued compliance. But past experience has not confirmed the two articles. At any time, past or present, there are always things for which reasons have not been invented and things haunted by internal contradictions. Thus, belief in the articles is unproved faith.

To put this another way, we could say the first basic tenets, the dogmas, of the religion of reason are:
  1. For everything there is a reason.
  2. The body of reasons is entirely self-consistent.
  3. Logic and all laws of the universe do not change with time.
I have been thinking of the significance of tenet #3 lately. It would be a very sad discipline if all the work you did today was worthless tomorrow. So clearly no scientist wants to believe that the laws of the universe might change tomorrow. But this is why most atheistic scientists are also skeptics. Being skeptical is an attempt to justify tenet #3 without calling it faith. Skepticism says, "It has been this way in the past, and unless there is a reason for it to change, it will stay that way." (No, this isn't Newton's first law -- atheistic scientists perhaps have unjustly extrapolated the concept of inertia to their philosophy.) There's really no conclusive proof to this stance. It is only a matter of probably's. That's why the atheist/agnostic arguments have reduced to little more than that as recently displayed as advertisements on London public buses:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”


Probably? That's compelling logic. As I've pointed out before, science is all about theories, and theories are never proven. It is all probably's.

I once got irritated when a professor of mine said in class that the physical equation being studied was true in the past but might be wrong today. I thought he was an idiot. Now I realize it is truly something we take for granted, taken on faith. As a Christian, I have good reason to believe that how the world works tomorrow will be the same as today. It is because of God's nature to be unchanging and ever faithful. Should He desire the laws of the universe to change, He certainly can do so. But because they have not changed yet, I attribute it to His goodness. It is a reason to thank Him every day.

So even as I have used reason in this very discussion, my premise is upon the nature of God. The use of logic stands on this firm foundation. Reason and faith in God are not opposites. Without God, logic's feet are gone, so to use logic requires faith in logic itself.

Reason this, will you?

1 comment:

Josh Koehn said...

Malachi 3:6

"For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed."

That's the first thing that came across my mind.

Things keep working because God is inclined to allow them.

Good word Jordan.