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Is Faith inherently irrational?

I would like to propose the motion that faith is inherently irrational.

I consider rationality (in a nutshell) to be:
'An accurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.'

I can think of no better definition of faith than the exact opposite of this:
'A grossly inaccurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.'

However, I invite those who have faith, and profess it as a virtue, to submit their definition of faith.

(EDIT 16/9/12: This is intended to be a discussion on the nature of religious faith, of the sort people cite when putting forward claims of the supernatural, of gods, of an afterlife etc.... This is not intended to be a discussion of the wider concepts of hope, loyalty, trust or monogamy, but feel free to mention them in passing, or in comparison to faith. ENDEDIT).

Joseph Dorrell


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    Sep 19 2012: Joseph,
    As one who has had spiritual experiences, I offer the following;
    The definition of the word faith has changed in the last hundred years. The 1904 Daniel Webster Dictionary defines "faith" as "the ascent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed." The ascent of the mind or understanding is not blind. It requires that we put it to the test and let the results speak for themselves. It is in the results, and not blind belief that my faith abides.

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for. When John Kennedy challenged the United States to put a man on the moon and return him to earth, that was a declaration of faith. He believed it was possible, but no one knew how to do it at the time. It took faith in action to make it happen. You may say that his was a faith in man and not God. But Kennedy was a religious man, and like most religious people, they don't separate the two. To them, God is where we derive our inspiration from. We believe that God will show us the way through inspiration, we don't believe that God will do it for us.

    What people believe today, and what people believed in a more spiritual people have no comparison. Allan speaks of contamination. He is on the right track. There is much contamination in modern religions. Jesus was declared "the Christ". Christ is the seventh energy chakra of Eastern philosophy. Most modern Christians have no knowledge of what this means.

    The Catholic church divorced itself from science after its attack on Galileo. In the 1904 dictionary, the word "theology" included a reference to "what God has revealed through nature and reason". Such a reference would deny religion the right to ignore scientific evidence. The modern definition contains no such reference.

    At the age of nine, I had a spiritual experience while meditating on God. I have found full compatibility between that experience and my training in nuclear physics. I find virtue and confirmation in that.
    • Sep 23 2012: Thanks for your reply. It's always nice to hear from scientists: One can be near certain of their respect for the importance of truth.

      It is interesting to see how the definitions of words has changes over the centuries. The Webster 1904 seems to be very much a product of Christendom of the time. It reminds me a little of P. Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy in which science is called 'experimental theology' in an alternative world. Webster's definition begs the question of the existence of a god, and would be completely stumped when it comes to the modern use of 'faith' as it applies to all world religions. Furthermore, it uses the metaphorical idea of ascending ones mind, referencing the idea that god is somewhere 'up' there. Are you suggesting this is still a valid or useful definition?
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        Sep 23 2012: To answer your question, God is not something "up" there as in outer space. The "up" of heaven and the "down" of hell is presented in a fundamentally different way in Eastern philosophy. It speaks of the lower and upper subconscious, the lower subconscious being an extension of the animal from which we evolved, the upper subconscious being the transcendence of intuition and inspiration. The lower subconscious is where the seat of the devil resides (all our fears and passions), the upper subconscious is where creativity is unleashed (acknowledging what the cosmic soup is capable of producing through our harmony with it). Thus to ascend, is to utilize the capacity of the cerebral cortex to overcome the brutish ways of the lower subconscious and to unlock the secrets of the cosmos through learning more and more about it.

        As far as God is concerned, the mystics never saw God as something apart from reality. They saw the hand of God as the collective driving forces embedded in reality. Today we call them quantum fields. God doesn't create paradise for us, God creates paradise through us. We are the instruments through which God works, because we are all part of God. There is nothing that exists that is not part of God. God is the collective whole. It fills the universe. It has jurisdiction over all that is possible by establishing the fundamental conditions that direct the unfolding of the universe over time. We are doing everything in our power to understand it, and it is producing phenomenal results. Organized religion lost sight of all of this a long time ago. We need to bring them up to speed.
        • Sep 24 2012: So... are you putting forward this definition of faith?

          "the ascent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed."

          and is it: "(The ascent of the mind), OR (understanding of the truth of what God has revealed)"
          or is it "The ((ascent of the mind to) OR (understanding of)) the truth of what God has revealed"
          or: "The ((ascent of the mind to) OR (understanding to the truth of)) what God has revealed"
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        Sep 25 2012: Your second reference is most correct.

        Eastern philosophy deals with higher realms of consciousness. The ascent of the mind is to awaken to higher realms of consciousness where understanding can take place. As to the truth, the truth reveals itself when you can understand what the truth is. Without understanding, one cannot know the truth. You can believe something, but if you don't understand it, you are incapable of explaining it to anyone else, nor are you capable of effectively putting it into action. Belief without understanding is of little value.

        According to the older definition, "the ascent of the mind" is synonymous with "understanding". As to the truth of what God has revealed, one can know it intuitively (through spiritual experience), or one can know it by examining nature to determine how it works (the scientific method). these two methods were included in the old definition of theology. The new definition of theology excludes any reference to nature and reason.
        • Sep 25 2012: Thanks for the clarification. I think what you have put forward is a terrible definition of faith.

          1. It begs the question of God's existence: It has an internal assumption.
          2. It does not cover all cases where faith is commonly used, e.g. belief in other gods.
          3. It leaves the open question of how we can test if something is a matter of faith. How do we know what god reveals? I have no problem with looking for evidence in nature, but what do you mean by 'know[ing]... through spiritual experience'?
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        Sep 26 2012: By knowing, let me give you a few examples.

        Einstein realized time dilation as the answer to how the speed of light could be constant regardless of the initial speed of an object in which light is being measured. This was a moment of revelation in which he knew without someone else explaining it to him. Later he referred to a cosmic religious feeling. He knew that this feeling was not in harmony with what religion teaches, but he also knew that it was an awareness that comes from within.

        Mozart wrote symphonies at an early age. No one taught him how to do this. He knew intuitively how to do it.

        Intuitive knowledge is what is meant by knowing through spiritual experience. I knew that everything in nature could be reduced to a common denominator at the age of nine. I would not understand exactly what that meant until eleven years later when I studied the unified field theory.

        These are examples of knowing without being taught. They are not common, but they are numerous throughout history. How one knows something is not always through the learning process.
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      Sep 25 2012: I really would like to be able to put these things as elegantly as you have.
      My own thinking is that if faith is irrational then everything is irrational. To quote Socrates, "The only thing that we KNOW is that we do not Know." Humans live entirely by faith in all things. We have to believe our senses in order to call something "evidence". Kudos to you sir !!
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        Sep 25 2012: Helen,
        Thanks for the compliment. You might like my book. You can find it in my profile. It took me twenty years to write it.

        According to modern science, the visible world (stars, planets, galaxies, all that we can see) only makes up 4% of the entire universe. To say that we know something based on observation still leaves 96% unaccounted for. How much do we really know? I don't remember who said it, but it is fitting; "he who knows, knows not. He who knows he knows not, knows"

        Faith is only the starting point. The apostle Paul to James says that faith without works is dead. If we don't put our faith to the test to see what happens, then how can we say we have any faith at all? Blind belief is not faith, it is stagnation. Many modern religions have been caught up in dogma, not faith. I see a great chasm between those who exercise their faith and have personal experience to back it up, and those who go to church on Sunday just in case. They are worlds apart even though they may be standing right next to each other. It is the latter lot that has turned many away from the church because they speak the language, but can offer nothing more.

        Your profile says to me that you have gone beyond blind faith. Good luck to you in where it leads.

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