Saturday, February 5, 2011

Does "Reason" Dress Dirty or Something?

One of the most frustrating aspects of religion is that it commonly claims truth through personal revelation.  For example, reading through the scriptures, god will "speak" to someone and they will "understand" something that they did not before.  It's interesting though ... I typically read non-sacred books and end up understanding things better too ... but not because a god spoke to me.  I rely on critical thinking processes and reason to compare and contrast ideas, evaluating the benefits and the disadvantages, the truths and the mis-perceptions of each idea.  Religious folk tend to frown on critical thinking in general and attribute any gain in knowledge to a god that they can't see, touch, hear, taste, or smell - to them, Reason is just the driving force behind questions like "Mommy, how did Methuselah live to be over 700 years old before antibiotics were discovered?" or "Daddy, if God's creation is perfect, then why did he/she create the Ebola virus, which kills you after uncontrollable vomiting and bloody diarrhea?"

Reason has long been the bane of the theologian's existence - constantly prodding; questioning; forcing religious leaders to re-think their magical explanations because, as it turns out, there's a natural force that seems to be lurking behind anything at which we turn our microscopes or telescopes.  Although it can sometimes seem that the religious kooks that *you* have to deal with every day are the most zeus-awful ignoramuses that ever existed, take solace in knowing that ignorant and inflammatory religious figures are nothing new - religion has been practicing their aversion to critical thinking for quite sometime.  In fact, one of the most well-known religious leaders, the one who provided the intellectual and emotional vigor for splitting off from the Catholic faith and creating what we know today as Protestantism, spewed some of the most ignorant and vile stupidness long before we had Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.  I give you the infamous words of Martin Luther, from Works, the Erlanger Edition v. 16, p142-148:
Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.
Doesn't that just make you proud to be a protestant?!  And know that this sort of misguided thinking is not out of an unbiased evaluation of the concept of critical thinking or reason.  Martin Luther had a clear agenda:
Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it 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.
Aren't you happy that we don't live in the early 1500s, with Martin Luther as a King? Imagine if he were alive today ... he would burn us all at the stake because of our acceptance of the internet, vaccines, and goodness knows the gays!

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