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Friday, January 26, 2007
Theological duel, last time around (?)
Bring the theology, baby! [No, that's not the right tone ... let me start over.]
In your last post, I think you eloquently sum up, and defend, the Harris position that you have to make an irrational leap (of faith) to embrace the tenets of any religion. But my intention was never to pick a fight with that view.
My point is that, instead of the excellent recent reviews in TNR, which pitted agnostics against atheists, I hungered to read a clash between someone who holds your views and someone who believes that there is nothing -- nothing -- irrational about religion. By now, I'm persuaded that you think no one holds such a position -- or if they do, they're making a sort of Philosophy-101-level logical error.
The Catholic line of argument, however, on display in a publication like First Things (I just happen to read it more than actual Papal encyclicals!), is that reason alone will guide you precisely to the truths God has revealed through Scripture and the doctrinal writings of the Church. Reason alone will persuade you of God's existence, of the existence of miracles (it is reasonable to believe eyewitnesses, observes the Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne), of the afterlife, of the Resurrection, and so on. You will get to the truth most quickly if you unite reason and faith -- as you correctly point out the Pope himself advocates and embodies -- but, by definition, reason and faith can't conflict (because revealed Truth is, indeed, true).
When Sullivan starts making that argument it strikes you as hopelessly woolly. It bugs you. Exactly! That collision is where I think the action is -- or, at least, the action that's most relevant in, as Harris puts it, a Christian nation.