intellect versus belief

intellect versus belief cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
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  • All I am saying is give peace a chance.

  • faithlessinfatima

    I lean to the left.

  • We drawn!
    And even “emotional integrity” can go on the left.
    The Belief-Juggernaut sacrifices everything in its path.

    [oh, that is a cartoon waiting to be drawn. But understanding a particular Hindu festival may make it obscure – darn!] πŸ™‚

  • Gary

    It’s a shame that belief and intellect are forced into battle so often. I do not believe they need to be.

    Good one David.

  • Syl

    Been there, done that.

    Intellectual integrity eventually won this struggle. Integrity – wholeness rather than dis-integration, honesty rather than the most fervently desired “will to believe”, and peace rather than spiritual, emotional, and mental gymnastics and contortions finally won out. Once I realized that without my personal, spiritual, intellectual, and ethical integrity no amount of faith or “right belief” would matter, the fear and turmoil began to subside. I don’t expect those who haven’t been there to understand, but there is more trust, more genuine faith in the grace of God, in not only asking honest questions but in seeking and insisting on honest answers, and then facing those answers (whatever they may be) with unafraid open eyes. Even if what is found throws into question the very existence of God, there is a of peace that can only come from embracing what is seen through open eyes. If a God worthy of the name indeed exists, and my understanding is incorrect, he is big enough and wise enough to know – and will honor – my decision to embrace integrity.

  • The Lord giveth faith to whom He will. Faith is so much more than belief in something. It is trust in Someone. And this is not dependent upon our intellect, but it is a gift of God.

    Our intellects are great, and we don’t have to check them at the door of a church (or shouldn’t, anyway).

  • If a belief requires me to sacrifice my intellectual integrity, then it is wrong. Christianity is not opposed to intellectual assessment. Some churches, of course, are, but then I would question whther their beliefs can be called Christian.

  • faithlessinfatima

    Steve, I can’t help but agree with you. When I read your posts, it’s quite apparent that yr faith and yr intellect have rarely met.

  • Becky in Florida

    One of the joys of being in a mainline denomination (I’m an Episcopalian) is that faith and intellect are rarely at odds. In the circles I’m part of, we relish “living the questions.”

  • Jacob

    My 2 cents worth. I kind of agree with Gary. But allow me to babble a little: Paul/Saul, according to scriptures, was the top dog/ buff at his game of intellectual religion at the time. Heck he even thought killing believers was a favor to God! So what made him give up his position of power and authority to become the very victim of what he was dishing out previously? A lack of intellectualism perhaps? I don’t think so. Maybe we’re defining intellectual integrity by the wrong measure. And perhaps we’re defining belief with the wrong plumb line too. I don’t have the answer, but it’s not where we’re searching at the moment. if we’re ‘made in His image’ and ‘have the mind of Christ’ we’re looking at this wrong. Perhaps…

  • faithlessinfatima

    When I was a young believer, I convinced, or at least tried to convince myself that my faith/beliefs were intellectually respectable.Now,after many years, I realize that it was all a “house of cards”…and we know what inevitably happens to those structures.

  • katiepearl

    Very true. I’m one of those who has to keep striving for answers, has to keep asking questions.

    Yet there comes the point when we can’t strive intellectually any further, and we have to be content with trusting that somehow, somewhere, there is a level where it all makes sense.

    Some people are happy not to make any intellectual effort at all, which would be fine if they didn’t see that as virtue instead of laziness.

  • Richard

    Intellectual integrity and belief can co-exist in the same person and the same church.

  • Jake Enns

    I used to have this battle in my mind, until I found that both sides are different versions of pride. Now that war is over, though to be honest the odd skirmish still occurs when I begin again to think that I am the centre.
    You see, I am no longer struggling (caterpillar life), I have been transformed.

  • John

    I like the butterfly pajamas.

  • faithlessinfatima

    Granted, we are meaning-seekers, but also and maybe more importantly, are we not the meaning-makers? Can we point to anything discussed or proposed here or elsewhere in our lives that suggest anything but human construct?

  • Gary

    There are those that suggest that faith is simply given by God and therefore has little or nothing to do with individual reasoning. While this thought may bring comfort to some, to me it represents a cop-out defense by those who are, as katiepearl suggests, simply too lazy to think. I think the notion that faith requires an absolute belief is harmful.

    The history of the Christian church is full of atrocities committed by great “warriors of the faith” who had unquestionably absolute beliefs. Yet as we look back through the lens of history we can see that their “faith” was totally inconsistent with the teaching of their belief system.

    I think any declaration of faith spoken in absolute terms reveals a lack of intellect. I do not believe faith and intellect must be opposed…but I do believe an absolute faith leaves no room for intellect.

  • I’ve been gone awhile. Working on some very cool stuff. I had to comment on this one, though.

    I love this one. Almost everyone relates to this problem and would like to find a solution. No one likes it, regardless which side they choose. But who sees that THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE PROBLEM?

    I know this is long. Hey, it’s me; what did you expect? But follow me through and YOU’LL NEVER THINK ABOUT THIS CONFLICT THE SAME WAY AGAIN. Promise. If not, I want to hear about it, please.

    The conflict is a SHAM, a false flag. It only makes sense given a notion of “belief” that ASSUMES irrationality is involved. Eliminate irrationality from “faith” or “belief” and the conflict doesn’t even make sense.

    “Believing” applies to things that we cannot understand. There’s nothing irrational about that. We do it all the time. Philosophers do it, scientists do it, and mathematicians do it, too. They just call it by different terms like “premise” or “tenet” or or “axiom” so that most of us don’t realize that they too are believers. Without underlying, basic beliefs, reason simply can’t function. Period.

    We understand so little, we don’t have to go far before we hit the limits of our understanding. Past that boundary, the only way we can operate is to believe or “have faith.” We do that all the time, too, WITHOUT A SINGLE EXCEPTION IN THE HUMAN RACE, NOW OR IN THE PAST.

    We believe every time we trust, and most of what we do can’t happen without trust. Especially the MOST IMPORTANT things we do require a lot of trust. In fact, trust is the most important element of love, commitment, devotion, loyalty, etc. The very things that make life worth living are NOTHING without trust. As soon as trust disappears, so do they. WE ARE ALL BELIEVERS. Some of us are just in denial about it.

    Assuming that some things CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD is RADICALLY different than admitting that there are lots of things we don’t yet understand.

    Theoretically, EVERYTHING can be understood given adequate information, at least by SOMEONE, even if that happens to be a divine being.

    NOTHING is “not understandable.” At least God “gets” everything. Even atheistic scientists believe (or at least have high hopes) that we CAN potentially understand everything we need to understand. That’s what motivates science in the first place.

    We actually have LOTS of evidence to support the belief that everything will eventually be understood. We also have Biblical assertions to the same effect. God plans to disclose everything.

    If everything is understandable, then everything is also ultimately rational. The universe is a SANE place, much saner and safer than many of us believe.

    When we understand something, we don’t need faith to deal with it. Faith is necessary for things that we don’t understand, aren’t aware of, and don’t know. The fact of our ignorance is NOT good enough reason to believe that those things are unknowable or irrational. Our ignorance tells us nothing about them, which is why we call it “ignorance,” so what is our basis for making the claim that they are irrational? I’d like to hear suggestions on that.

    Saying “WE cannot understand it” is WORLDS apart from saying “IT cannot be understood.” At any point in time, our wee capacities to understand things leave PLENTY of them out there in the dark beyond our comprehension. That simple fact says lots about us and means that we have NOTHING TO SAY about those things, not until we get some information about them and start to understand something about them. In other words, not until we are less ignorant about them.

    “It can’t be understood” and “it is irrational” are baseless and patently arrogant beliefs, asserted from positions of ignorance. We can’t “know” about things we’re ignorant of, which includes MOST of the known universe and MOST of our inner conscious and subconscious workings.

    “It can’t be understood” is the basis for irrationality in FALSE FAITH. It’s false because we can only engage in it by violating rationality. If the universe is sane and rational, there is no place for irrationality. False faith is a trick of the mind. You can see this easily, because it requires mental gymnastics and mental conditioning (aka. indoctrination, brainwashing, self-delusion) to pull it off.

    REAL faith is NOT irrational. It comes naturally and automatically once we are convinced about something. It’s what we REALLY believe, even in spite of what we think we’re SUPPOSED to believe or really WANT to believe.

    We were fed such a steady diet of the lie that “faith” includes irrationality, we can hardly conceive of an alternative. Many people can’t even understand the alternative when someone describes it to them.

    The ENTIRE so-called conflict between intellect and “faith” or “belief” MAKES NO SENSE unless faith and belief are DEFINED to include irrationality. Definition is prescriptive, not descriptive. It happens BEFORE description, rational deliberation, or verification. We need to define our terms before we can even talk.

    So, definition is a choice. We have alternatives. “Faith” doesn’t have to be defined as “false faith.” We could define it as real faith.

    The supposed conflict between reason and faith vanishes in a POOF! simply by replacing the popular definition of “faith” and “belief”–the one that includes irrationality and James calls “dead faith” in his letter–with an alternate definition that does NOT include rationality and that James calls “living faith.”

    Whichever we choose, it’s a choice, and we’re responsible for the choice.

  • @Richard: AMEN!

  • John Sennett

    The Bible is not a science book. It is many books in one of faith people. It’s got history and great teachings. If people keep it that way it would be much better to accept. It a person really wants to be a biblicist or fundamentalist they are also should accepting that the Earth is flat and the plants and stars rotate around the Earth. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t tell us the earth is round. Now that is something he would also be killed for.

  • Kris

    As someone with an extensive scientific background and a Christia/Agnostic, this divide disturbs me. It should be noted that Darwin was a man of theology before pursuing the natural sciences and that priest developed the big bang theory.

    Science explains the mechanics of the world around me. My faith tells me how I should act in terms of my behavior and treating others. My brain will never shut down when I open a Bible or listen to my pastor. That is how cults are formed.

    People miss the point of the Bible and don’t realize that there are many types of literary forms in it, including myth. I don’t literally believe in Adam and Eve but I can glean some truths from it: God created the world and everythig in it, we are responsible for taking care of the earth, we make mistakes and they have consequences but God still loves us.

    Even within the historical books, there is legend and parables to get a message across. Understanding that was never a threat to my faith and the anti-intellectualism I see is scary. It’s not about knowing it all, but we do need to learn how to process ideas and that facts are facts, not opinions and that science has helped people.

    The same people eschew intellect and see science as evil are the same ones wanting to keep their loved ones on a respirator when that only prolongs the inevitable and there are no signs things will improve. That respirator was created by science, the treatment they are receiving to prolong their life was created by science. The doctors who treat their loved one use science in their management of taht individual.

    I think when people get this, the craziness that comes from trying to find the Garden of Eden or implement laws based on Fundamentalism will cease.

  • I really do not see the need for this battle at all. I am Catholic, and one of the reasons I am is because the Church encourages people to think. That goes against stereotype I know, but just read St. Augustine or St. Aquinas. These were some of the most intelligent people in history. It was the Church that gave us universities, hospitals, even the scientific method. There is no need for a battle between faith and intellect, especialy since God created both.

  • Gary

    “I am a Catholic, and one of the reasons I am is because the Church encourages people to think.”

    Yeah…and they have even apologized to Galileo now too. πŸ˜‰

  • faithlessinfatima

    For me,the “integrity issue” is not the abstract metaphysical question of whether there is a God or not, or whether it’s rational or irrational to believe in such a being, but the strongly held belief that a particular series of books ,written and compiled by fallible creatures ,are the Word of God.I say nonsense.

  • VanPastorMan

    Everybody believes in something. It depends on their world view. On the Ben Stein video about evolution he pressed Richard Dawkins on how life could come from non life. Dawkins after being pressed said it most likely was aliens who seeded our world. Now just think about this. He doesn’t believe in God because his world view won’t let him. But he can believe in aliens he hasn’t seen. This takes faith on his part. As I said before everybody believes in something. I believe Jesus is the Son of God,born of a virgin,lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death on the Cross, was buried, rose again, and will come again as he said. It’s part of my world view.

  • faithlessinfatima

    The point is that these beliefs belong to the Iron Age and need not to be taken literally Whatever you believe the NT to be, it’s certainly not objective journalism.The clues are in the books themselves…or in other words, a Jesus of history behind the Christ of faith.

  • This cartoon reminded me of a blog post I wrote in 2008:

  • faithlessinfatima – actually, they do meet most of the time. One of the reasons that I am no longer in the church is that to remain there, I had to not express my views on certain areas.

    It is possible to stay in church and retain your intellectual integrity, I believe. But not for everyone, and there will always come a point where there is a choice.

  • Bruce Newman

    It’s a false dichotomy, though many church environments promote it.

  • Keep my intellectual integrity! πŸ™‚

    I think, except for the following that I still think but when it hits the limit of my brain, I just surrender…believe in God, the Angels, the Prophets, the Book, the Day of Judgement, the pre-destined and the prescribed measures.

  • faithlessinfatima

    @ Steve…my post wasn’t directed at you, but the other Steve Martin, whose posts cause me to wonder if I’m reading the thoughts of a real, breathing human or maybe a PSA from the mind of his pastor.Sorry for the mix-up.

  • Greg from Utopia

    This is me, whenever I dare to attempt intellectual integrity.