Thursday, November 18, 2010

Trans-rational faith . . . say what?

Shortly after the Dawkins "God Delusion" book came out I knew I had to read it.  I definitely did not want to buy the book.  I wasn't going among the dollars that put a new pool in his backyard.  So I did the reasonable thing and went to the library and borrowed it.

I have to admit I was a little nervous.  I mean this guy is a genius and he is deconstructing faith.  About halfway through it, however, I was surprised to find that it was a little more than a rant about why he finds Christianity irrational and Christians themselves abnormal.  To be honest, the book had very little substance and I found myself surprised that he didn't take advantage of the attention the book garnered to put advance his ideas better.

In fact, there is one illustration that he uses that is a complete head-scratcher.  He tells this story of a moth that goes to and from its home at night using the moon as its navigational aid.  In this story, Dawkins theorizes that the moth uses moonlight to operate as it's constant allowing it to have an immovable object to get around.

Well, wouldn't you know, the moth stumbles upon firelight from a campfire and gets derailed from his lunar constant and focuses instead on the fire.  As a result the moth is drawn into a firey vortex mistaking the flames for his navigational aid.  This is his theory for why moths circle firelight.  It is also his parable designed to warn us of the human-generated flames of man-made religion.  The fires of myth are going to doom mankind because it takes us all off the evolutionary course that we are meant to be on.

I give Dawkins credit for creativity, but am I the only one who noticed that his parable actually argues the opposite of what he intends to say?

Of course I get that he is setting the constant of evolution and the dangers of human created myths.  But lets look very closely at the example he uses.  Now follow me on this . . . what was the poor little moth guilty of?

Was the moth drawn off course by a fiery sermon?  Was he moved to tears by a manipulative preacher? No.  He was just using his senses.

Think about that for a minute.  The moth was drawn off course by the senses that conveyed to his little brain an incorrect source of light.  It wasn't the fuzzy spiritualism of man-made theologies, it was the strict empiricism of science that led our little guy, the moth, off course.  Science killed the moth.

Science killed the moth because when all we have is reason, we are only able to understand things as much as the hardware we have to understand them with.  Moths fly into flames.  Dogs eat their vomit.  You don't even want to know what Monkeys do . . . and humans are not outside this great limitation.  

Yes, in the end, reason is a great tool for navigating through this world.  It is not, however, a good vehicle for things like truth beyond itself.  Sense and reason can tell you a lot about what is going on, but not why it is there to begin with.  

And yet there are so many Christians who get all excited about trying to make faith fit inside our little minds.  We take something like faith with all of its complexity and wonder and try to flatten it to fit inside our minds.  

This is not necessary, by the way.  In fact a faith that does not respect the bounds of reason is the most satisfying faith there is because it resides in its native environment rather than trying to jump through the hoops of sense and reason.  

So are you a skeptic?  It's probably because faith sounds ridiculous to you.  Yes, it is ridiculous inside the human mind because it continues to trespass over the line of logic to its native environment beyond the grasp of human logic.  Chances are you haven't even had the chance to reject faith as it really is - it all of its absurd glory.  Real faith is trans-rational.

1 comment:

  1. I'd say that point about the moth was that some things are in general helpful and even necessary for survival (listening to your parents) but when following it blindly there will undoubtedly be problems. (flying into the fire) It's the nature of going by something as truth when it is really unquestioned and unquestionable that's dangerous and limiting. Just because something is not rational does not mean it is trans-rational, for even the trans-rational includes logic. Not sure there is a point in commenting here as you seem to prefer things to "not respect the bounds of reason" but perhaps an alternate view for any who read your post, given this comment isn't just deleted...