Is Reason My “God” In Whom I Have “Faith?”

A Christian friend recently told me we all have faith and that reason was my “god” in whom I had faith.  Reason is not a “god” in whom one has faith. That’s just false. Reason is a set of cognitive processes that are potentially truth-conducive. That’s IT. We are all, as rational beings subject to its demands of logic, evidence, honesty, etc. That does not make it a “god” but the only authority in matters of truth we have. That’s not a matter of faith, that’s a rational inference.

If you try to dispute this inference, you can only do so in one of two ways: by reasoning with me (and in doing so, you implicitly acknowledge the authority of reason) or by just stubbornly declaring that I’m wrong. If you choose the latter, you don’t acknowledge the authority of reason or the need to give reasons. But then why do I have to listen to you?  If you offer no reasons then I have no reasons to listen to you.  It is the reasons you give that give me reason to consider what you have to say.  

Who would have to listen to anyone who just declares things with a stomp of the foot and no reasons? Most of us usually don’t (and none of us should) listen to people who want us to do or think things “just because they said so.” If they don’t have compellingly good reasons, none of us are obliged to obey or think like they do. But if they do have compellingly good reasons, then all of us are.

That’s how reason works. Without it, it’s just a bunch of people stomping their feet at each other. We all need reason.  It’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of our essence as humans and the essence of how we think and act in human communities.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.