Religion Roundtable: How would you respond to Benjamin Franklin, who said, “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason”?
Oct 04, 2013 | 2394 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive

Faith and reason are not opposing forces in some war fought over human conscience. Sadly, a large part of our culture has come to think of science, reason and logic as somehow incongruent with things like religion, faith and spirituality.

Part of this issue lies with religious fundamentalism that excludes most — if not all — ways of thinking that may be contrary to an over-literal interpretation of its scriptures or contrary to traditionally held beliefs that may not have any actual grounding in its scriptures. For example, anyone who holds to a literal interpretation of the creation story in the book of Genesis from the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible will reject any alternative explanation for creation (i.e. “Big Bang,” evolution, etc.) no matter how rooted in scientific fact such an explanation may be.

Another part of the issue lies with those who reject any religious or spiritual understanding of human existence due to a lack of “proof.” These individuals look skeptically at people of faith because there seems to be a lack of scientific or historical evidence supporting their beliefs.

In the end, however, faith and reason are two important parts of the human experience. We ought not to exclude one for the sake of the other. I’m reminded of a quote from St. Anselm of Canterbury: “Faith seeks understanding. I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.”

Chris Thomas, First Baptist Church of Williams

The faithful are not asked to suspend disbelief

A careful study of the Quran does not agree with this quote from Franklin. The basic faith of Islam is simple and reasonable: Unity of God, necessity of humans’ acknowledgement of God, revelations of God and the finality of God’s revelation to Muhammad in the form of Islam; resurrection after death and life in the hereafter, and the principles of social justice.

The Quran addresses intelligent beings that are capable of observation and reason. It does not ask its readers to suspend their critical faculties in embracing the faith. The Quran’s approach to observation and reason in relationship to faith is one of balance. The use of observation and reason helps build faith on sound foundations. The Quran also praises those who believe in the unseen. Hence, believers are still expected to have faith in matters that are beyond direct observation.

However, this faith is now grounded on a foundation of observation and reason. The Quran has been the force behind the scientific and experimental methods of research by Muslims. Intellectual and rational guidance from the Quran is the reason that for centuries Arabic books on medicine, physics and chemistry were translated to Latin and English.

Getting lethargic, dogmatic or giving up rational faculties resulted in the downfall of Muslims. In the Islamic context, Einstein’s saying is more appropriate, “Religion without science is blind and science without religion is lame.”

Muhammad Haq, Anniston Islamic Center
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