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Rethinking faith



I understand why some people are fed up with religion. When people use it to deem their righteousness while condemning and judging others, I understand this hypocrisy. Religious fundamentalism is dangerous, but we shouldn't forget that most religious people are not hate-mongering miracle-glorifying exclusionists. Just as secularists are not always wise, loving, enlightened humanists.

This dichotomy came to mind after hearing a man denigrate people of faith. Then he said he follows the light of proven science instead. He misses the point. Reason and faith are not mutually exclusive. Even atheists need faith.

When Jesus said, "If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move a mountain," He wasn't making a claim about a religious belief system. The parable is about accomplishing great things, if we have faith.

Where would we be if we had no faith in what might be possible? Where would we be if Gandhi had no faith in the Indian people, himself, the Divine or the power of nonviolent civil disobedience, the same kind used by faithful American Civil Rights leaders?

Faith fosters motivation and helps us take unproven inspiration seriously. Faith helps when things turn difficult. Reason, though, helps us navigate life's issues. It can help maintain justice. It should be a moderating ideal. It is the explanatory glue that helps make sense of things. Reason can be like a compass. But humans need more than what can be proven.

How reasonable would it be for a poor abused Hispanic girl to believe she can rise to the top of her chosen field, given her oppressed beginnings? What science can anchor her hope that such an unlikely goal can be achieved? I don't think she'll make it without faith, at least in herself and a universe of possibilities. Once faith is manifested, she'll need reason to help her realize the goal. The two work together. They are not opposed. Furthermore, no group can claim exclusive rights to reason or faith.

Yet, I understand religion is more (and less) than faith and belief. The deeds that follow are not always loving and understanding. And yes, certain perspectives of blind faith have been over-glorified.

If religion becomes the source of hate and divisiveness, it would be better to go without it. But if science becomes the source of violence and war, wouldn't it be better to go without it? Was it reasonable to create a weapon that could annihilate human existence? Should we throw out each baby with the foul bath water? Shouldn't we find balance?

With the Enlightenment came a thousand ways to attack religion. Since then, a thousand more have surfaced. And there's much to cast out. But instead of growing divisive in the shadow of fundamentalism's obvious idiocies, we would be better served by investigating the intrinsic value of spirituality and science for the good of humanity.

We need to learn a lesson. Faith and reason are not the problems. We are.

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