Jamie’s latest email
[quoting Stephen] 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, it’s almost impossible to reason your way out again.
If what I’m saying is true — that the worldview (intellectual humanism or whatever) in which you are operating is a religion/cult/philosophical-system — then you, by your own definition, are in an intellectual black hole. You have a self-sealing pattern of thought which locks you in. You can’t see that what I’m saying is true, just like I can’t see that what you are saying is true. You are a true believer.
To answer your question, religion can be defined as “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance”, which doesn’t necessarily mean “worship” in the liturgical sense. And it seems to me that you ascribe supreme importance to logic and reasonableness. For better or worse, I would say that I use reason and logic as a tool (though perhaps I don’t use it well!), but I ascribe supreme importance only to God/Jesus. I think Rev. Dr. Incitatus got the point I was trying to make in his post on your page.
I get the sense that our dialogue is coming to a close. Thank you again for being so generous with your time. I hope that my perspective has given you blog fodder or arguments for your book if nothing else. I really do appreciate your thoughts and have already ordered one of your books.
Stephen now quickly responds:
Jamie, I don’t say reason is of supreme importance. I think it very important, but other things are at least as important, such as compassion, morality, etc. etc.
So, even by your revised definition, reason is still not my religion. Nice try though!
As for your suggestion that I am the one in the intellectual black hole (which I sort of predicted you’d say, of course), well, let’s go step at a time.
We both agree that reason is important (if not of supreme importance) and agree it is a very useful tool for getting at the truth, right?
Yet you insist on not applying reason to a specific subset of your beliefs – just because those beliefs tell you not to (rather, they encourage you to “have faith” – you must just believe).
That kind of view, I suggest, is a hallmark of cults – and of a rather insidious sort of mind-control. I am sure you will recognise that any, say, New Age cultist who agreed to turn their critical faculties off when it comes to the beliefs of the cult has fallen into an intellectual black hole, right?
But that puts you in one too, right? Perhaps you will agree.
Question is, why do you suppose I am also in such an intellectual black hole? After all, I am not the one sealing off a particular set of beliefs and insisting they not be assessed for truth in this way (just because they tell me not to!) am I? Hey, I even subject my reliance on reason to critical scrutiny!