Is reason a religion?
I am going to respond to just one thing here – which is your comment (in comments on previous post) that reason is a religion too.
Hmm. What is a religion? I think it must involve worship, right? Well, I don’t worship reason. It’s just that reason and observation are the only tools we have for getting at what’s true. So I use them. So do you, of course, constantly.
Think of your head as a basket towards which many beliefs are tumbling. There are all sorts of nutty beliefs out there that you might adopt – from the the thought that the Antarctic is populated by crab people to the belief that the Earth’s core is made of cheese. These beliefs will quickly fill up your head if you don’t filter them.
We apply reason as a filter, to try to keep as many of the false ones out as possible. Of course reason is not 100% reliable. But it is (and this is a key point) truth-sensitive. Subject beliefs to rational critical scrutiny and you are much less likely to end up with a head full of nonsense. Those who don’t apply this filter will quickly end up with a head full of false beliefs.
Now the thing about many religions is, they encourage you to turn the filter off. They know their religious beliefs are unlikely to get through, so they try to inject them early, while you are a kid and your critical defences aren’t properly built up, or they tell you, later, that reason has its limitations and that you should therefore, in the case of this particular religion, turn it off.
Well, reason does have it’s limitations, I think. I don’t suppose it can necessarily answer every question. But it’s the best tool we have if we want to dig out the truth.
Very many cults – from the great religions to wacky New Age movements, suggest, in one way or another, that you turn your filter off and just accept that THEY KNOW – they have access to THE TRUTH.
But should you? Should you just go with what they, or their book, tells you – setting to one side the issue of reasonableness?
No matter how well-meaning and sincere they are (and many are, of course), the answer, if you want to believe what’s true, has surely got to be “no”.
You rightly use reason every day of your life. Indeed, you constantly trust your life to it.
That doesn’t make reason your, or my, religion. Reason is not a religion – it’s just an indispensible tool if you want to believe what’s true. In the same way that my legs are an indispensible tool for getting around, which I rely on constantly. The fact that I do rely on them doesn’t mean I worship my legs, or that they are my religion.
Any belief system that insists that, while you may use reason in every other area of your life, you should turn it off when it comes to these beliefs, should, I’d suggest, be approached with great caution. For this is one of the hallmarks of an intellectual black hole.
Many religions, cults, etc. are designed – or, more accurately, have evolved – to be intellectual black holes. They encourage self-sealing patterns of thought which effectively lock you inside. Get sucked in, and it’s almost impossible to think your way out again.
Suppose you have fallen into such a black hole. To outsiders, you look like just one more credulous victim – but of course, to you on the inside, everyone outside seems profoundly ignorant of THE TRUTH to which you now have special access! Indeed, to you as an insider, it seems that you are the one that is now free, and the outsiders are the ones that are trapped!
I am sure that, when you look at New Age cults, etc. you recognise that this is, indeed, how they operate. Is it possible that Christianity is much the same sort of black hole, only a particularly powerful, and of course rather more longstanding, one?