christian school faith bad reason
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When atheists condemn how religious indoctrination teaches kids not to think, this below is exactly what we’re talking about.

christian school faith bad reason
Oh, God! (Durán, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

In a May 17 tweet on his Twitter page (@hemantmehta), The Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta reported that a Christian school apparently told its students to respond to him directly in criticizing one of his nonreligious blog posts. He was stunned by the intellectual naiveté and self-delusion of the responses he received.

“How do I politely tell these kids their school has failed at teaching them how to form coherent arguments,” Mehta tweeted.

Don’t ‘lean on reason’?

One student argued:

“I believe the point here is that God rewards those who don’t completely lean on reason, those who have hope in Him despite the odds are not in their favor, despite the fact that reason would’ve concluded that they are going to die, despite the hopelessness of their situation. God doesn’t need to prove he exists, because that evidence is abundant, those that don’t see the evidence unfortunately refuse to believe in something that lies beyond the blindfold of reason.”

Mehta said this below was his favorite passage from the stack he received from the school:

“The only factual writing in your article are the quotes, and they appear to be there to make your claims seem more factual and used for your own agenda.”

Remember Augustine, et al.

When I look at these quotes, I am reminded of seminal leaders in development of the modern Christian religion such as theologians Augustine, Anselm and Martin Luther, who frantically condemned the use of reason to understand existence.

“Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has,” Luther once wrote. “[I]t never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”

Augustine wrote, “I believe in order to understand,” and, quoting scripture (Proverbs 1:7), that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

The website Ligonier Ministries explains:

“The meaning of this statement has been debated for centuries, with many people believing that Augustine gave faith a logical priority in the relationship between faith and reason in the Christian life. Augustine’s view, however, was more complex. He actually saw faith and reason operating in a reciprocal manner in Christian thinking.”

‘Non-overlapping magisteria’

Except that, faith is emotive, not logical, and as scientist Stephen Jay Gould famously coined, faith and reason (i.e., science) are “non-overlapping magisteria,” the realms of facts vs. values, so cannot be argued in tandem. However, atheists argue that the “magisteria” of supernatural religion is imaginary, not real, unlike the concrete realm of tangible facts.

What both Luther and Augustine were saying is that, first, you have to choose to have faith in what your senses cannot confirm, before you can enable yourself to ultimately understand the divine.

I have always used mystics and yoga masters as a metaphor for how this works. Through deep meditation, these practitioners of vigorous self-abnegation mentally distance themselves from present reality to the point that various psycho-chemicals are activated in the brain, producing a euphoric effect. This is the sense of being “one with the universe” or “in the presence of God” that mystics, yogis and college students on acid all say they experience.

But it’s internal emotion, not external practical reality, and says nothing about whether it’s even possible to meld with the universe, or whether a God actually exists to feel the presence of. Otherwise, what, exactly, is being felt?

So, Christian church fathers and other leading popularizers of supernatural ideas have successfully perpetuated into the modern era the idea that critical thinking — using facts, logic and critical skepticism to understand material reality — is the enemy of faith.

That is exactly the kind of thinking these kids responding to a post in The Friendly Atheist are not doing.

They see facts and reason not as windows into the actualities of existence but as a “blindfold” against God.

Well, God help us (so to speak), if very many kids think this way.


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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...