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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label rationalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rationalism. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

How Rational Are Rationalists When It Comes to Sex?

In his book God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens writes, "Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason."1 It seems one of the more popular slogans that modern atheists like to banter about is the claim that they are not motivate by "ancient superstition" but by "logic and reason." There is even a t-shirt that says the same. The popular 2012 atheists’ conference was even named The Reason Rally. The claim to uphold reason above all is frequently repeated to me by those in the freethought movement.

Yet, there seems to be something else going on. More and more prominent atheists hold to a very liberal sexual ethic, announcing their "sexual orientation" shuns monogamy for multiple sexual partners,2  or have had their fair share of promiscuous flings.3 The American Atheists and the Backyard Skeptics co-sponsored a billboard proclaiming "Atheists make better lovers. (After all, nobody’s watching.)" Spokesman Bruce Gleason states, "Atheists make better lovers because they have less guilt about sex, while people believing in religious superstitions attach a negative aspect to sex. We do not think a supernatural deity is watching us — neither in life nor in bed."4

Aquinas on Reason and Passion

I want to stop here and clarify what I'm trying to say. I am not saying that just because someone is an atheist it means he or she is more sexually loose than others. But the claim to hold rationality seems to be contrary to the positions taken by the examples above. Thomas Aquinas recognized over 800 years ago that human beings had certain biological drives for sex, hunger, and other natural impulses—Aquinas called these "passions of the soul"—that we share with animals. These are necessary as they provide the drive for species to thrive and reproduce. But Aquinas also recognized that human beings have a unique aspect of the soul that animals do not have: the ability to reason. We have the ability to see our actions and to measure their ultimate ends. Will certain actions enforce rationality and self-control or will they simply strengthen the animal appetites? Aquinas holds in order to express one’s full humanity, reason must rule over and control the passions.5

Appetites are not good and bad in themselves, but they must be subjected to and governed by the faculties of reason, and they must help to strengthen our rational souls. Allowing any carnal desire or passion to become the driving force in a person’s life is inherently antithetical to reason. I agree with this. Today, if one lives to satisfy his or her urges or biological desires, we would classify that person as uncivilized.  But succumbing to such drives doesn't demonstrate that a person is more rational. On Aquinas’ view it would show quite the opposite.

The Irrationality of Atheist Sexual Promiscuity

Now, here’s the problem. If atheist principles "rely solely upon science and reason" as Hitchens claims, then why are so many atheists bowing to those animal passions as a driving force in their lives? How is the claim of polyamory as a sexual orientation applying the principles of logic and reason? Are groups like the Godless Perverts placing their passions under the control of their reasoning or are they seeking to express their animal desires? As more atheists identify with a loose sexual ethic, are they bolstering reason or strengthening the animal impulse?

In Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Reality, Darrel Ray writes, "Fear is the foreplay of religion. If done right, it interferes with all aspects of human sexual pleasure."6 One may claim that religion done right interferes with all aspects of human sexual pleasure only if one assumes that any sexual predilections are good and should be acted upon. But this is contrary to reason, which allows us to master our activities and keep our sexual urges under control. When Christian theology teaches that we should keep our animal passions in subjugation, it elevates humans to beings that are capable of living above their animal passions. Sexual restraint and monogamy demonstrate just how reasonable Christianity is.


1. Hitchens, Christopher (2007-05-01). God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 8). Twelve Books. Kindle Edition.
2. "Coming Out Poly + A Change of Life Venue." Richard Carrier Blogs., 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
3. Lee, Adam. "The Wall of Silence Around Michael Shermer." Daylight Atheism., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
4. Mehta, Hemant. "Atheists Make Better Lovers, Says Billboard." Friendly Atheist. Patheos, 115 Feb. 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
5. Aquinas, Thomas. "The Summa Theologica: I-II.24.1." Summa Theologica. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 11 Jan. 2007. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
6. Ray, Darrel. Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Reality. Bonner Springs, KS: IPC, 2012. Print. 26.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Reason and Faith Are Not Opposites

I don't know how many times I've heard the claim that "religion is just a crutch for the weak-minded". Many of the popular atheists in print today like to try and say that belief in God is the opposite of being rational.1 Others I've had conversations with dismiss faith as being the opposite of knowledge. I remember having lunch one day with some mutual friends. The discussion turned to matters of belief and one girl immediately said that we couldn't really know truth at all, to which I objected, saying that there are a lot of things we can know. We know 2 + 2 = 4, the earth circles around the sun, and Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. She immediately objected and said "that's not truth, those are facts!" I answered, "Well, are those facts true or not? What makes the statement 2 + 2 = 4 a fact and 2 + 2 = 5 not a fact? Isn't it an idea known as truth?"

As you can see, this girl was trying desperately to draw a line between matters of faith and things that fall in the category of math and science. She was trying to say that faith is merely a personal choice, like which ice cream flavor is best. But God either exists or He doesn't. Jesus of Nazareth either really lived, really was crucified, and really rose from the dead or He didn't. These statements aren't nearly the same as liking a particular ice cream. They are questions of history and of existence. That means they can be investigated and facts can be discovered. Reasons for their truth or falsehood can be offered. And if it's found that there are good reasons for believing in these claims, then we are only unreasonable if we refuse to believe them.

So reason and faith are not opposites. The Christian faith rests upon the reasons we have for believing in things like the resurrection. In our Proverbs passage, God says that we are to cling to "the words of the wise"; we are to cling to "excellent things of counsels and knowledge." Wise words, counsels, and knowledge are all objective terms; words are only wise or knowledgeable if they are true. And if something is true, then it must be rational to hold to such as belief. That's why God says we can know the certainty of the word of truth. To do anything else would be irrational!


1. The most prolific of those that would contrast faith to reason are the so-called "New Atheists" such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. In his book The God Delusion, Dawkins writes that belief in God is "a persistently false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence"(p.28) which is tantamount to shutting your eyes and denying what's in front of you.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's the Conflict between Faith and Reason?

We constantly hear that faith and reason are opposites; if you have faith in something, you’ve left reason behind. Do Christians follow a "blind" faith? Is reason the enemy of faith? In our most recent podcast, Lenny shows why there is no real conflict between faith and reason.  In fact, as its history has shown, Christianity is an inherently reasonable faith.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Worldview Definitions: Rationalism and Naturalism

The worldview of theism powered humanity for much of its existence.  Even in primitive cultures, people looked to their gods as well as the world around them and tried to make sense out of both. But without divine revelation, they often got things wrong (expecting rain after performing a certain dance or something of that sort.) Christianity, with its foundations in the Jewish faith, taught strongly that God revealed Himself in two ways: through His creation and through His Word.1

Something happened, though, as Christians began to investigate God's world.  They started to discover more and more things in nature they had assumed were a result of a divine agency were really responding to laws of nature and biology and by altering the circumstances or the variables they could change the outcome of those processes. At the same time, they made great advancements in mathematics and they reawakened to the philosophy of Plato and the Greeks, which emphasized logic being the ultimate guiding force of knowledge.

Because so many achievements were coming from men thinking hard about their world, philosophers began to conclude that the ability to reason was all they needed in order to know everything there is to know about the world. Many believed God existed, but they felt that God's revelation was unnecessary for discovering truth.  They assumed that given enough time and thought, man would figure it all out on his own.  God was removed from being the primary source of truth as people became convinced that they were smart enough to discover anything with enough thought and analysis.

Naturalism: "God Doesn't Count as Knowledge"

The removal of God as the primary source of truth was a huge shift in thinking for the world. If all people need to discover truth is to identify facts and reason through them with a good mind, then focusing on nature becomes more important and focusing on God less so. Thus the Grand Story in western society shifted from God to Nature itself, just as Romans 1:25 warned. Therefore, since God wasn't needed to understand the ways of the world, many educated people took the next step and denied Him altogether.  If God doesn't offer any explanations to the ways of the world, why assume one needs to worry about Him? The worldview adopted by those who think this way is called "naturalism". The world is seen in purely mechanistic terms: this causes that just because the laws of the universe work that way. 

Naturalists, because of their worldview, now seek to explain everything without pointing to God at all.  Even in big issues, such as the origin of life on the earth, God cannot be accepted as a cause, because it violates their notion of "really" explaining things. Therefore, Darwinian evolution becomes the capstone in the search for a purely mechanistic way to explain how the diversity of life arose on the planet.  In fact, to say "God did it" is seen as a cheat; naturalists would object to anyone claiming the involvement of a divine being saying the person hasn't thought hard enough about the problem. They define knowledge of God as false knowledge.

You can see how important it is to understand worldviews!  Since naturalists are committed to not accepting explanations that involve God, their minds are closed to the existence of God before you even give evidence. The bias of naturalism is plainly seen everywhere today, even in popular culture.  Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, held to this view, and one of Star Trek's recurring themes is the evolution of man to his betterment.2 No religious belief system is  ever in view for the show's protagonists. Roddenberry believed reason alone would catapult mankind into this new utopia and his popular franchise has continued to preach his message ever since.


1. This idea of dual revelation is taught explicitly in Scripture.  Psalm 19 and Romans 1 declare how God reveals Himself thorough His creation, an idea known as "general revelation". But since all of creation is warped by the fall of man (Genesis 3:16, Romans8:22), it is an imperfect revelation. Therefore, God provides us with the more clear word of Scripture "for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)
2. See Bronislaus B. Kush' article "‘Star Trek' franchise an homage to humanist philosophy" in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette
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