30 Oct 2011

Faith Is Not Opposed to Reason

Religious 75 Comments

This short video is a great analogy for why religious faith is not at all a euphemism for “turning your reason off.” Watching this guy makes me consider going back to Catholicism.

A simple request: If you feel called to write things like, “I don’t believe in superstitious mumbo jumbo,” etc., please be clear on how you interact with other human beings relying solely on the methods you think are “scientific” when it comes to the question of the existence of God. I’m not saying such specificity is impossible for you to provide, I’m just asking that you do it, so we can move the discussion to a point beyond where the above video takes us.

75 Responses to “Faith Is Not Opposed to Reason”

  1. Yosef says:

    At 1:02 “And modern science is rational, it is empirically based, it is self critical, it’s self correcting, etc.”

    Focusing on the self correcting part, yes, that is an advantage of science of religion. This is because, unlike religion, science has no text which is considered impervious to error, given by God. The Old and New Testaments are by definition apart from any self correction, because they can contain no error.

    Take for instance Leviticus 20:15: “And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast” (KJV) [I believe that the Old Testament is incorporated by reference into Christianity]. This is pretty clear cut, the law of the Lord. How can you self correct that? My guess is that most people, even those who claim to be religious, would not want the death penalty for something like that, but that’s what it says.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Yosef, you are being silly. We have thousands of years of evidence of religions self-correcting. Aquinas, for instance, represented a massive re-self-interpretation for Christianity. Rabbinic Judaism is, again, a massive change to Judaism. The development of Buddhism caused huge changes to Hinduism.

      Obviously religions can self correct, because they have done it, and they have done it a lot.

      • Yosef says:

        Gene, religions have self corrected by either abandoning texts, or changing their interpretations of their text to fit whatever change true self correction required. If the only way religion can self correct is by changing the religion, then that isn’t really self correction inside religion.

        Take the quote I used before, how do you self correct that? Either you believe that bestiality should carry the death penalty, or you don’t. If you don’t, you’ve abandoned the religion.

        By definition you can’t correct the bible. It’s just keeping up pretenses to say ‘sure, this is the opposite of what this text meant before, but doing it this way now still counts as being this religion’

        Take divorce as another example: “5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

        10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.””

        Sure, you can say religion self corrected by eventually allowing divorce by reinterpreting this. But to me that is just pretense. You want the text to say something, so you reinterpret it to mean that.

        To me the Leviticus example is the most clear cut

        • Gene Callahan says:

          “If the only way religion can self correct is by changing the religion…”

          Blind prejudice is an ugly thing, Yosef, and significantly lowers one’s IQ on the topic in question. The only way science can self-correct is by changing science! In fact, it is hard to imagine what self-correcting could even mean if the thing correcting itself is not changed in the process!

          • Yosef says:

            Science self corrects by changing the theories inside it, not by re-interpreting the theories which existed before and saying they are still valid. When the theory of spontaneous generation was shown to be incorrect, people didn’t say ‘Well, what Aristotle actually meant was…”. With religion, when views on divorce change that’s exactly what happens “Well, Jesus didn’t mean no divorce if you read it like this.”
            Science says “geocentricity was wrong”, religion says “Leviticus is still right, but what it ACTUALLY means is…”

            That is the difference between scientific self correction and religious self correction.

            • Matt Flipago says:

              One, religion self correct itself by changing it’s philosophical back. Your quote of Leviticus is quite poor choice too.
              Religion self corrects itself in two ways. One when there is a logical error, and inconsistent views are eradicated(often heresies). And two, when a group has faith in a new belief. (Christ being God).

              Also science does the same re-explaining. Ohh newton mechanics is still right, but what it ACTUALLY describes are collisions at low speed. What happened was the facts we new changed, so do the theories surrounding it. Same thing with religion, it was known that Christ was lord, or Muhammad was a prophet, or that the Old law was not the full revelation of truths from a philosophical standpoint, but a combination of moral laws and punishments for the society at the time.
              Anyways self correcting is about taking in new information, when the old information changes, that’s what happens in science, both natural and theological.

  2. Major_Freedom says:

    So faith to this guy is (paraphrased):

    “God is a person, and when God the person speaks, faith is that moment of trusting what God says.”

    In other words, when you believe some invisible, undetectable man is talking to you, faith is when you trust what that invisible undetectable man says.

    In other words still, faith is believing that your own thoughts, which may not be consistent with reality, are true.

    I question people’s sanity when they claim to be able hear what invisible, undetectable men allegedly speak to them.

    This comment:

    “There is no other way, finally, to know and relate to a person other than faith”

    is wrong.

    What ultimately enables us to know and relate to other people is not “faith”, but our reason.

    Lack of knowledge of some aspects of people’s attributes does not mean that reason is in principle unable to discover it and that we must rely on faith instead. Faith doesn’t follow.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      MF, your views on God may or may not be right, but in this comment when you twice said “In other words…” what you should instead have written was, “If I ignore all 11 minutes of this video and assert the very thing the guy was trying to refute…”

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Yeah, except I did watch the entire video, and he did not say anything that explicitly contradicts those two “in other words.”

        He just introduced out of the blue the concept of “God speaks”.

        Speaking is a vocal action, comprehensible and meaningful sounds, made by in principle identifiable through empirical evidence physical things. What does “God speaks” mean, and how is it different from what someone happens to believe in their mind?

    • Parker says:

      I apologize for being critical, but I think you’re terribly missing the mark. God isn’t just some invisible man…. He became a person. He also doesn’t expect you to exclusively listen to some little voice in your head, but He has given us his Word through the Bible. In many cases, you don’t need a little voice talking to you because he’s clearly said it in the bible and you can go read it. You can also trust what he’s said because of what he’s done.

      For areas God might not have specifically address in His word, you can still understand His character and deduce his will. For example, there are plenty of things Robert hasn’t written about, but you know he would never say that inflating currency is the appropriate response. I don’t need a little voice in my head to tell me that.

      To address the second part of your post, I believe what he is saying is that you can never experience depth in a relationship without trust. Faith (trust) is making yourself vulnerable. It is often costly to be a Christian. Jesus instructed his disciples to “pick up your cross and follow me” and Paul said that if Jesus is not risen, then we are more foolish than everyone; instead we should eat, drink and be merry.

      Depth in a relationship with God comes as a result of faith that all He has said about himself is true and that He will do all that He has promised. In response, Christians (hopefully) follow Him at all times. Not just when it’s easy, but even when it is a great cost to yourself. In other words, we worship him and declare his worth above all else because even if everything I have is taken away from me, Christ is sufficient for the joy and salvation of my soul. That’s faith… and its essential if you ever want to have a true relationship with God.

  3. Polack says:

    Dostoevsky novels make me want to turn Orthodox. God bless you Bob, good video!

  4. Polack says:

    By the way, how do you come across these videos?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      It had nothing to do with the religion aspect. Somebody sent it to my business partner as an example of someone doing online videos that were free, which helped promote a website.

  5. Drigan says:

    So why did you leave Catholicism in the first place?

  6. Matt says:

    Hey Bob!

    Fr Barron is great. If you are looking for more like this, check out books by Scott Hahn. One called Reasons to Believe. Another called The Lamb’s Supper.


  7. Polack says:

    Couldn’t resist, earlier you asked why the Bible took pains to express the ancestors of Jesus through Joseph his step-father. I watched a lot of the guy’s other videos and he has a 7 minute one on the Genealogy if you are interested.


  8. Bala says:

    I did listen to the entire video. What I did find striking is the fundamental epistemological problem in what he was saying – How do we ‘know’ that something exists?

    When I say that a person exists, I rely on human (not necessarily mine) sensory perception. That’s the starting point of all knowledge of existence. I find it very strange that he talks of establishing the existence of God through ‘reason’, that too through deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning cannot (IMHO) establish the existence of anything at all. It can only posit the necessity of the existence of a thing in order for the rest of one’s knowledge (or even the relevant part of it) to be internally consistent. In simple terms, deductive reasoning can only tell us that something must exist. It cannot tell us that something exists.

    Establishing the ‘existence’ of something can only (once again, IMHO) be by direct or aided sensory perception of the ‘thing’ that exists. To do so using deductive reasoning comes across to me as a perfect case of epistemological inversion.

    Given this, I am unable to accept his explanation on what faith is. Even in his example, the woman you get to know exists. You come to the conclusion that she exists because you sense her presence. Your sense organs receive impulses which your cognitive apparatus puts together to help you recognise that ‘she’ is another specimen of that class of entities that you have classified as ‘human’. The rest follows that basic recognition. The same does not apply as an analogy to how you come to know God.

    Hence, I am forced to conclude that to ‘know’ God as he puts it, one has to actually invert ones epistemology and say that that which one ‘deduces’ does indeed exist.

    p.s. I also find it interesting that he chooses to pit science against faith and not reason against faith. Sort of becomes convenient to say later that faith is reason and more. Sounded like a fairly poor argument to me.

    • Brian Shelley says:

      “Your sense organs receive impulses which your cognitive apparatus puts together to help you”

      There is a circle here. How do you know that your sense organs and your cognitive apparatus exist without an a priori presupposition?

      Just because you have willingly chosen presuppositions that happen to eliminate the logical conclusion of God, does not persuade me.

      • Bala says:

        “How do you know that your sense organs and your cognitive apparatus exist without an a priori presupposition?”

        Is the statement “I exist” a presupposition, a priori or otherwise? Either I am an existent that is conscious of itself and of other existents or I am a disembodied consciousness floating in a sea of consciousness with nothing to be conscious of.

        To be conscious presupposes two things – a conscious being that is conscious and the thing of which the conscious being is conscious.

        How do you even use the words “you”, “your” and “me” without presupposing that you and I exist? Just trying to show that there is nothing you can do without basing yourself on a certain metaphysics. Mine is reality. I do not know what is yours unless you make it explicit. And unless you do, it will be difficult to have a discussion.

        • Brian Shelley says:

          Sure, I presuppose that I exist, and I presuppose a reality outside of myself. However, I’m comfortable with the uncertainty of a not quite constructivist epistemology, but a pragmatic one. Empirical observations are useful tools, not boundaries to my experiences and beliefs.

          • RS says:

            “Empirical observations are useful tools, not boundaries to my experiences and beliefs”

            A “pragmatic” epistemology is one that provides you with true and certain knowledge about reality. If your experiences and beliefs are not bound by reality then your epistemology is anything BUT pragmatic.

            Your consciousness is your faculty of perceiving that which exists. If the things that you perceive do not exist then on what grounds can you claim that such knowledge is “practical” let alone a means to knowledge a such?

            • Brian Shelley says:

              First, my vocabulary is probably getting loose with standard usage, so forgive me on that, and let me restate.

              I don’t have to be certain about anything to achieve enjoyable ends. I can be approximately correct. I believe ideas that bring me joy or that work as tools for me to accomplish joy. If two ideas conflict I’ll resolve them by dropping one of course, but where there is no conflicting evidence, there is no reason to drop an idea.

              I suspect most everyone acts in the same way, but denies it. They bind themselves by some epistomology and deny themselves the joy of some ideas because they can not “prove” them.

              Can I prove that my children love me? No, but it gives me joy to believe that they do. Can I prove that God loves me? No, but it gives me joy to believe that he does. Why would I trade these joyful thoughts for the “certainty” of knowledge?

              • RS says:

                “I believe ideas that bring me joy or that work as tools for me to accomplish joy”

                Yes, but this begs the question as to what ends qualify as “joyful” and thus enable you to identify the means to achieve it in practice.

                In other words, how do you know that acquiring “X” will bring you joy? The presumption is that you just “feel” it so the standard of identification is emotional rather than rational and while this allows you to indulge your emotions in the short term it does not give you any practical guidance as to what ends “accomplish joy” in a long term sense. To take a very simple example, you may find short term joy in eating ice cream or chocolate or having a cigarette but most people know that rational judgment must supersede these emotional indulgences if they are to enhance your life rather than end it prematurely. The application of reason applies even to short term pain as most people know that ignoring a tooth cavity to avoid the pain of a filling is an emotional indulgence that will result in less joy over the long term.

                The point is that reason is your primary tool to acquire joy, not emotion. The fact that you feel “joy” when you believe that god loves you does you no good, in the long term, if it requires that you subordinate your reason to your emotions and as far as epistemology goes, there is no surer way to stunt your reason and cut it off at the root than to accept the idea that knowledge of what exists can come from anywhere so long as it does not conflict internally with one’s other beliefs. This is the same short term emotional indulgence as before, only applied to the content of one’s consciousness rather than to the content of one’s breakfast. Whatever you want to believe is true, is true, so long as it brings you “joy” and if it conflicts with reality then what decides which one gets thrown out? Emotion or reason?

                But, you might be thinking, as most theists and agnostics do, that a belief in god does not conflict with reality, since, it is argued, that his existence cannot be disproven. But this is a logical fallacy. Existence is what “proves” the “things” that exist, god, if he exists, would necessarily be provable. To posit the existence of god is to posit the existence of some evidence so the burden of proof is upon those who make the claim not upon those who demand its submittal.

            • Brian Shelley says:

              Prove to you, that should say. I have experienced many things that point me towards God, but they aren’t things that would fit into your epistomology.

              • Bala says:

                That’s a little below the belt by trying to say “it wouldn’t fit into your epistemology”.

                Of course, my epistemology would reject such ways of ‘knowing’, but the way you present it, it almost sounds like the problem is with my epistemology and not with your choice of deciding to consider your ‘experience’ as a tool of cognition. What you call ‘experience’ is your interpretation of what you sensed and is hence prone to all the errors of interpretation that you could commit. It is epistemologically equivalent to emotion and is hence not a proper tool of cognition.

                All this means that the problem is not with my epistemology but with your attempt to hold your ‘experiences’ as a means of knowing.

          • Bala says:

            “Empirical observations are useful tools, not boundaries to my experiences and beliefs.”

            Oh sure!! But then let’s be clear that it would be difficult to label beliefs not stemming (ultimately) from reality as knowledge. What they would be called is ‘fantasy’. It’s one thing to abstract attributes and relationships from reality. It is a completely different ball game to talk of knowledge of something beyond the reality that we can ever sense (aided or unaided).

            So, the concept ‘God’ as you seem to use it fits very well in the world of fantasy and not in reality.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          Objectivist alert!

          • Bala says:

            I never made a secret of it. So no marks for ‘guessing’. What I would appreciate is arguments.

  9. Max says:

    To be honest, Bob, I don’t get it. Again (like in Minerva). I’m fascinated by you god-faith-people, because I can’t explain it. Some of you seem very intelligent and otherwise completely ‘normal’ (avoiding the word rational here because I don’t think it is the opposite of faithful).

    But I don’t understand what this guy’s saying. Faith is believing stuff you can’t (yet? ever?) verify? This in no way seems to have anything to do with god. I believe lots of stuff I can’t verify, you could even call that faith I guess, but what does it have to do with god? I believe that my car will not explode the next time I drive it. I have no clue about car mechanics, so I could be totally wrong and can’t verify it. I believe that g is 9.81m/s/s, but how the fuck would I verify that? I could look it up, but I’m too lazy. So far, I don’t see any reason not to trust those science guys (on that part).

    What does any of “believing stuff that you can’t verify” have to do with god?

  10. Bartlomiej says:

    == Definition of faith ==
    Faith is a really badly misunderstood concept today, because the definition of faith has changed. Today, faith really means a BLIND faith. But what did it mean in the ancient world?

    The word faith in New Testament is pistis and it was used as a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof.
    Examples of this usage are found in the works of Aristotle and Quintiallian, and in the NT in Acts 17:31:
    “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given ASSURANCE unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

    Therefor, the word faith has the connotation of certainty and truth, and is grounded in reality.

    But is more than that, because faith in biblical terms relates to a person, Christ Jesus. We see the definition of “faith” in terms of loyalty to, or trust in, a deserving patron. Pistis here is a matter of trust in a God who has demonstrated His ability to be a worthy patron, and the examples are those of clients who, knowing this ability, trust in God’s record as a patronal provider.

    So people who define biblical faith as BLIND faith are engaging in a logical fallacy known as equivocation(because meaning of faith has changed).

    == The science vs faith issue ==.
    I will define Science as “knowledge obtained and tested through scientific method(observable, repeatable etc) [and] concerned with the physical world”.
    First we must understand that definition of “Science” is not scientific, it is not scientifically provable, because definition of science is not part of physical world. It is an abstract concept that is applied to(concerned with) physical world. If you disagree, you can always scientifically prove to me that scientific method is true.
    So on what foundations do we claim that science is true?
    For a Christian it is faith(biblical one): as God made the world to be understood, thus we can actually comprehend the world that we observe. And that God upholds the world with His power, thus giving us a reason for uniformity in nature. Christians have a firm foundation for science as it is grounded in our patron.

    We can answer questions like:
    How do you know, that what you observe through your sensors is true? How do you know your sensors are reliable?
    How do you know, that you can comprehend what you observe?
    How do you know, that nature will not change itself in the future(like laws of nature)?
    Those must be asserted for science to be true. I like to ask unbelievers those questions. It always get them to think on what ground they stand on.

    Conclusion: For Christians science is based on a firm foundation. On what foundation does an unbeliever base his faith in science?

    == Science is better because it is self-correcting issue ==
    Correction – The act of correcting, or making that RIGHT which was WRONG;
    Of course Bible is not self-correcting. Bible is right, because God is always right.
    In contrast is science which can be wrong, because science is made by man, and man can be wrong. Even if self-corrected later it still was wrong. In fact, claiming that science is self-correcting is proof that science is FALLIBLE.

    Conclusion: God is right, science made by man is fallible.

    == Some references for further study ==
    What does it mean to become a Christian in simple terms: http://www.tektonics.org/intellitract3.html
    Faith video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itsk944bufI
    Faith: http://www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html
    Science and the Bible: http://www.answersingenesis.org/media/video/ondemand/nuclear-strength-apologetics/nuclear-strength-apologetics


    Thank you for reading:

  11. Kyle says:

    Mr. Bob Murphy I am very excited that you are considering going back to the Catholic church! I greatly encourage you to listen to EWTN radio, especially Catholic Answers which is from 5-7pm central.

    Stations throughout the USA can be found here. http://www.ewtn.com/radio/amfm.htm

  12. Michael says:

    So…faith is trusting something that someone tells you about themselves that you could only know because they tell you? Why can’t you just assign a probability to the accuracy of that statement and update according to further evidence? You know…rationality? Where does faith enter into it?

    As far as I can tell, all he’s saying is that faith is assigning a probability of truth to an arbitrarily special source of information. It’s obviously not something he would have decided to do if he were not trying to justify his religion.

  13. Michael says:

    If faith is not opposed to reason, then what is it for? What does faith allow us do to that reason doesn’t? Why would any religious person talk about faith if reason were sufficient to justify such beliefs?

  14. knoxharrington says:

    This is sophistry on stilts. The presentation here is not unlike Andy Stanley’s in his video series “It’s Personal” where he says, essentially, if you require proof such that your intellect is satisfied you will never get it – you must be open to a relationship and then god will reveal himself to you. For Stanley, this usually comes in the form of tragedy – a child dies and god reveals himself by comforting you or the like.

    In this video, Father Barron says something which is essentially the same. God is a person who will reveal himself to you and this will overcome any intellectual arguments to the contrary. At the core, both arguments are that subjective experience with god is all – objectivity is a stumbling block. The analogy of the woman revealing herself to you with that of god doing the same is question begging of the highest order. I’m not sure much else needs to be said on that.

    This is why the discussions related to Bob’s religious posts bear little fruit. I, among others, have pointed repeatedly to the deficiencies in the Biblical account of god using objective facts and in the end the response is usually some attempt to explain away the facts, referring to some “authority” as to why Christianity really is true, or to fall back on the believers subjective experience as some sort of trump card. With all due respect to Father Barron and those who think like he does – your subjective experience doesn’t mean god is real. I’m sorry to break that news to you. I know you want it to be true. I know you find comfort in it. I know you feel that it makes you a better person. Bullly for you – but that is just wishful thinking and special pleading. I’m happy that you find comfort in the arms of your imaginary friend but that in no way means I need to listen to what your imaginary friend has to say and I find it increasingly difficult to sit by while you follow your imaginary friend’s orders – insofar as it directly impacts me.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      KnoxHarrington wrote:

      With all due respect to Father Barron and those who think like he does – your subjective experience doesn’t mean god is real.

      Again, just like MF, it’s not merely that you are skirting the position Fr. Barron took, it’s that you are assuming his stance is the exact opposite of what he said. He didn’t say the existence of God is something you need to take on faith. Remember his digression on Thomas Aquinas?

      Do you guys even understand the woman analogy? You can say it doesn’t work, and then please list the reasons for your position. E.g. I have lots of “rational” reasons for thinking I had two grandfathers, not least of which is my understanding of biology. But 95% of what I “know” about them, comes from direct revelation from my parents. I have no way of verifying this information, yet I am quite confident in the character and nature of my dead relatives. I am taking on “faith” that my parents aren’t lying through their teeth about it.

      • Max says:

        But if “faith” equals “believing without having proof”, then what does it have to do with religion? Whom do you believe that god exists? And why?

        Where’s the difference between “faith” and “blind faith”, or what the priest in the video calls it when people assume “the other kind of faith which is opposed to reason”?

      • Michael says:

        Here “faith” is defined as “lack of absolute and total knowledge.” Apparently believing anything with less than a probability of 1 requires “faith.” This sets up a false equivalence between belief in God and belief in something rational, like what you probably believe about your grandparents. As if believing in something with evidence against it being true is the same as believing in something with evidence for it being true, since both require faith.

        • Gene Callahan says:

          “This sets up a false equivalence between belief in God and belief in something rational…”

          God, being rationality itself, is THE most rational thing one can believe in.

          • Bala says:

            How is God rationality itself?

      • RS says:

        “I am taking on “faith” that my parents aren’t lying through their teeth about it.”

        No, you’re not. All knowledge is contextual and within the context of your knowledge what you know of them is true so long as nothing else contradicts what they have told you. If you drop the contextual nature of knowledge then everything, including certainty and truth, becomes a matter of faith because you are in effect demanding omniscience and since people are demonstrably not omniscience then faith is presented as the only alternative to skepticism. It’s a false dichotomy which is only made possible by dropping the contextual nature of knowledge.

      • knoxharrington says:

        The better question, Bob, is do you understand the woman analogy? I see the woman, I Google the woman and find out facts but when I begin speaking with her and develop a relationship with her through asking questions, etc. I get to know her. How does the woman in the scenario equal god exactly? The Bible is no means of “knowing” god for reasons we have gone over ad nauseum before many times. So, while I can see, hear, touch and interact with the woman I can do none of these things with god – I can have a relationship with an imaginary friend but I can’t introduce you to him – I could introduce you to the woman, you could hear from her directly, etc.

        And let’s be clear – your parents recollections of their parents are better testimony than ANYTHING in the Bible. Your a generation removed from your grandparents and you have the eyewitness testimony of your parents who, hopefully, have shown trustworthiness to you as a child. That is a firmer basis for “faith” as you seem to be using the term than an oral tradition three generations removed from the events described by non-eyewitnesses. You can see the difference right? On the one hand you seek out contemporaries who knew your grandparents like their brothers and sisters, your aunts and uncles; you could find birth certificates and other records like military service records to attest to the stories you heard and so on. No such luck with the Bible. It requires less faith to accept knowledge of your grandparents than to accept god as being real.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Knox wrote:

          It requires less faith to accept knowledge of your grandparents than to accept god as being real.

          Since I’m a fair guy, I’ll give you a chance to retract that statement. Do you realize that you just conceded Fr. Barron’s whole point? If you admit that there is a sense in which it takes “faith” (albeit less) to believe in stories of my grandparents, then all of a sudden you validate my blog post title. Notice that most of the other people on “your side” here aren’t even conceding what you just did there. They want to say that “faith” as such is categorically opposed to scientific rationalism.

          So, like I say, I’ll give you a chance to recant from what is obviously to me a perfectly fine statement you made.

          • knoxharrington says:

            Given the sentences leading up to that statement I thought there was an implied “you” in there as in “It requires less faith (for you) to accept knowledge of your grandparents than to accept god as being real.”

            I am not going to concede “faith” as an epistemological tool as Father Barron attempts to use it. Your subjective experience of “god” does not mean I have to believe it – especially given the grandiosity of the claims made by believers. One cannot “know” because of faith. I have “faith” that my car won’t explode when I turn the key because of my experience to the contrary. I might have less faith in that proposition if I were Whitey Bulger but you get the idea. My experience and the probabilities lead me to believe X – is that faith or derived from a reasonable expectation based on various experiences? Once again, I think there is more heat than light in these discussions. As with most things we are quibbling over definitions. The faithful want to believe that the certain things happened based on, in Christianity’s case, a dramatically flawed book and subjective “experience” – I don’t think that is supportable by history, science, logic and so on while believers do.

            Anyone who has watched The Walking Dead TV series (I know you don’t own a TV Bob) can see the scene created in Jerusalem at the crucifixion of Jesus as depicted in Matthew – the tombs opened and the saints walked the streets. I have faith that the zombies in the show are fake and yet I have no faith that the Bible is accurate in this regard. Which faith is right? The one based on experience, probability, etc.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            What if I refuse to accept anything my parents say about my grandparents unless they can show me, through logic and empirical evidence, what they claim is true about my grandparents?

            More generally, what if I refuse to accept anything anyone says at all, unless there is logic and/or empirical evidence for it?

            Can I then say that faith is inimical to reason?

            • Gene Callahan says:

              “More generally, what if I refuse to accept anything anyone says at all, unless there is logic and/or empirical evidence for it?”

              You never would have made it to adulthood. You would not believe cyanide is poison without trying, that getting hit by a car is dangerous, that the Atlantic Ocean is deep, etc. etc. The idea that anyone could possibly do what you propose here is mind-bogglingly dumb.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                False on all counts.

                Cyanide is poisonous, getting hit by a car is dangerous, and the Atlantic Ocean being deep, are all propositions that I accepted on the basis of there being logical and/or empirical evidence for them. None of them were taken on faith.

                One does not have to personally climb mount Everest to know through empirical evidence that mount Everest has been climbed.

                Your reasoning is absurd, which is not surprising.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        He didn’t say the existence of God is something you need to take on faith. Remember his digression on Thomas Aquinas?

        But that’s just a naked assertion that is unbacked by any supporting arguments.

        Aquinas made 5 attempts to prove the existence of God, and ironically for you, he rejected the ontological argument from Saint Anselm, which is the very argument Fr. Barron utilized when he claimed that reason alone is sufficient to prove the existence of God!

        • Tom Woods says:

          This is incorrect. When Fr. Barron says reason alone is sufficient to prove the existence of God, he means reason alone as opposed to reason coupled with “faith.” He does not have to mean by this the ontological proof. St. Thomas clearly believed God’s existence could be proven by reason alone, albeit reason informed by experience.

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Whatever, Woods. You don’t even know Thomas Aquinas ever existed. Try reproducing him in the laboratory.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              The supernova of 1054 AD doesn’t need to be “reproduced in the laboratory” before there is sufficient empirical evidence that it took place.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                I know. Since (in my opinion) you guys aren’t even trying to understand the whole point of this post, I have given up too.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Dang, I thought I was trying.

                Guess when I’m told I’m not, I’m really not.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                You honestly don’t understand what I could mean, if I say, “I can’t rely on just reason and empirical methods when it comes to my relationships with other people”?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Wait, I thought you said that reason and empiricism were not necessary when it comes to empirical claims about God, and God speaking.

                Now you’re talking about reason and empiricism being necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, when it comes to your judgments of people and your relationships with them.

                I don’t know what’s being argued any more.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                What would it mean for reason to be “unnecessary” to evaluating a claim? Is that like Jack Nicholson in “As Good as It Gets” saying he creates female characters by first picturing a man, then taking away his reason and accountability?

                OK let’s start from scratch: There are things you can know about some random woman that are discoverable through empirical investigation, in the scientific sense of that term. But then there are things about her that you could only know because she tells you them. E.g. you can know what her birthdate is without having any “faith” in her character, but you can only trust that she won’t stab you in the night because you get to know her etc. There is a qualitative difference between the two ways of knowing. If you don’t like me calling it empiricism vs. faith, OK call it A vs. B.

                Now the Fr. Barron is saying when it comes to God, there are types of knowledge that fall into A and into B. E.g. he thinks, and so do I, that there is quite obviously an intelligence behind the structure of our reality. There is no reason mathematics should be like it is, etc. etc., unless there was an intelligence that designed our reality (in my opinion, I know you disagree). But when it comes to my belief that there is a God who loves us and sent His son to die for us, that kind of thing obviously is only discoverable because (I believe) this intelligent Creator decided to communicate with us.

                If you now claim that you can’t even conceive of what I am saying–or that I am somehow denying the importance of reason or claiming reason is “wrong” in certain places–then I submit you aren’t even trying. You can say, “Yes I get the distinction you are drawing, I just think you are erecting a house on sand because there is no such ‘person’ who created the universe.” OK fair enough. I just can’t believe you really don’t even get what Tom and I are saying.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Thanks for taking the time to elaborate.

                The reason I am not “getting it” is because I think you are conflating knowledge and expectations of future events, which are unknowable.

                I can know that a girl exists, and I can know her birthday. But I cannot know whether or not she will stab me in the back tomorrow. To believe she will or she won’t is an expectation of the future that is unknowable to me.

                At no time would I ever conflate that expectation with empirical knowledge and reason.

                Furthermore, there is a complete disconnect between that stuff, and your argument on God “communicating” to you. What does that even mean anyway?

                Either it’s empirical knowledge, derived from observation, or it’s a belief based on something other than empiricism. It is claimed not just as an expectation of the future, like a girl stabbing you in the back, but as a fact of reality in the present, like the fact that the girl exists, and her birthday.

                I don’t see the distinction of A and B when you’re talking about God. All I see is you using method “B”. You have put forth no empirical evidence, or logic, you just put forth a belief you have.

                What is the difference between “God actually communicates to me and here’s the proof” and “I believe God speaks to me and I don’t need to prove it to you”?

                From my perspective, they are exactly identical. So no, when it comes to God, there is no knowledge through A, because that would imply you have empirical evidence of it, when in reality you just have a belief in it, through B.

                Unless and until you can show KNOWLEDGE of it, through empiricism, since God is an external to you empirical concept that requires observation before it can be claimed to exist, then you cannot claim you have knowledge of God. You have a BELIEF in God, which has zero connection to A.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Today I learned that “reason alone” really means “reason plus something else.”

            • Bob Murphy says:

              How could you have learned something from what a person (Tom) merely reported to you? I won’t tell Richard Dawkins. Oh wait, it wouldn’t matter if I told him–he wouldn’t draw any conclusions about you from a mere verbal report.

              • Bala says:

                Richard Dawkins is precisely the wrong person to refer to when taking on atheists. He has it all wrong by pitting science against faith. Science is a process of seeking knowledge while faith, as an epistemology, underlies the method. The real battle is between reason and faith as competing epistemologies. To know by faith is to abandon knowing by reason. So telling Dawkins wouldn’t make the slightest difference. I am sure he wouldn’t know what you are talking of either.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                How could you have learned something from what a person (Tom) merely reported to you?

                Today I also learned that Murphy doesn’t get sarcasm.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              MF I see you want to do this the hard way. OK sure:

              I can “know” a girl’s date of birth through empirical means, in the way you like the term.

              Last week the girl ran over her ex-husband. That is a “rational” fact because we have it on tape, we can scientifically explore how video recordings work, we know the telltale signs of a doctored video, etc. So “science” tells us she ran over her ex-husband last week.

              But, she assures me it was an accident and that she would never kill somebody on purpose. I “know” she is telling the truth, because I have faith in her character.

              Some DA puts me up on the stand and cross examines me, wanting to lock her up for murder. He asks how can I “know” it was an accident? He wants me to prove it to the jury using rational, empirical means.

              Do you now get how I might be really confident in something, even though it wouldn’t hold up in court or in the laboratory?

              I think I have to stop this discussion. If you still don’t see the distinction, then I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s not just about expectations versus knowledge.

              (And anyway, science leads me to “know” that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. But is that just mystical expectation on my part, and not knowledge? I get the distinction you are bringing up, but that’s not the important one here.)

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Do you now get how I might be really confident in something, even though it wouldn’t hold up in court or in the laboratory?

                Yes, I do see how could be confident about something being true, that won’t hold in court or in the laboratory.

                But that is because you are know the ex-wife’s past actions, which is an empirical based knowledge, not faith.

                What you are really saying is that you want to claim as knowledge the notion that past behavior of the ex-wife somehow “proves” the existence of a constant causality to her future actions as well, for example when she drove over her ex-husband.

                Congratulations on violating THE core tenet of Misesian praxeology, which is that there are no constancies in human action that enable you to make such an inductive conclusion.

                Just because I ate hamburgers everyday last year, that doesn’t mean I am going to eat another one today. Just because the ex-wife acted peacefully in the past, that doesn’t mean she will act peacefully today.

                I mean come on, you are an Austrian are you?

                Being confident that something is true, is not the same thing as having knowledge that it is in fact true, the way you have knowledge of the fact that she ran over her husband.

                The fact is that your claims regarding the ex-wife’s “character” of whether she actually did so on purpose or not, IS NOT CONTINGENT ON YOUR BELIEFS. Your beliefs are irrelevant to the knowledge of whether she did or did not do so on purpose.

                You may think I am being purposefully difficult here, but I am only trying to insist that you are only starting and staying in the “I believe” realm, the “B” realm, and that you are not showing any KNOWLEDGE at all in the “A” realm. The only knowledge in the A realm you have is the ex-wife’s past actions. She was peaceful for many years, and then she ran over her ex-husband.

                The fact that you are now putting “know” in quotes is probably your subconscious admitting that Fr. Barron’s and your faith that God exists, is not knowledge, but a belief, albeit a strong belief.

                I will not relent on this, as much as you will not relent on believing in invisible men in the sky and the necessary requirement of doing so, which is conflating faith and reason, knowledge and belief.

                So this alleged distinction between knowledge based on reason and evidence, and knowledge based on faith, is nothing more, NOTHING MORE, than you trying to smuggle in through the back door the crazy notion that a belief can turn into knowledge if you really really really really believe it is true.

                The analogy of the ex-wife is poor, because there you at least have past historical data of her actions, which are empirically verifiable. I’m still waiting on the recording of “God speaking.”

                Oh, that’s right, I forgot, how “naive” of me. That is just “silly” science and evidence. God speaks to you directly from beyond the outer dimension, and if only I mumble more chants on arbitrary days of the week, I could hear the voice too.

                This kind of thinking is the thinking that made priests murder people who had evidence that the Earth orbited the Sun, and based their knowledge on that evidence, as opposed to the “beliefs” of the priests that the Earth was the center of the Universe on the basis that “God created man in his image, and so of course he would put humans at the center of everything.”

                It doesn’t matter even if your beliefs end up being right regarding the ex-wife’s motivations. We can’t KNOW that your beliefs are consistent with reality until there is some logic and evidence that enables acquisition of such knowledge. I cannot say “I have faith that Bob is telling the truth that the ex-wife is telling the truth” and claim that my beliefs are KNOWLEDGE.

                At any rate, the prosecutor, assuming he’s in a non-terrorist court, would not be able to get a conviction of the innocent ex-wife if the standard of the court is based on my worldview and not yours. If your standard of “faith” were used, then the judge and jury could lock her away forever because they “believed” she was possessed by the devil, was a witch, and would eat their children.

                I still see ZERO explanation for what “God speaks” means. All I see is an attempt to claim that beliefs are ipso facto knowledge.

                I will not expect you to understand the mind of someone who is not religious, but I can tell you according to my actual knowledge, and not just my beliefs, that one cannot claim they know anything based on faith. This is not a proposition based on faith. Faith does not, and will never, connect the human mind to reality and thus create knowledge. My having faith that there exists flying pink unicorns does not mean that I have knowledge of such things. Faith is a grasping at straws. Faith is opposed to reason, contrary to the good Fr. Barron.

              • Bala says:


                You raised a very important point when you said

                “All I see is an attempt to claim that beliefs are ipso facto knowledge.”

                I’ll just it (what I think is) one step further. I think a lot of this confusion stems from accepting the notion that knowledge is a set of “justified, true beliefs”. This issue cannot be resolved unless we first resolve the issue of what constitutes knowledge, what its attributes are and how we acquire knowledge.

      • Bala says:

        “Do you guys even understand the woman analogy?”

        I think I do. The problem with the woman “analogy” is that it is not an analogy. I “know” that the woman exists because I can sense her. I do not “know” that God exists because the “knowledge” that God “exists” does not come from direct, aided or indirect (third party) sensory experience of God.

        And I think you have not understood the contrary position that deductive reasoning is not a way of “knowing” that something exists. It can only be an inference whose truth is contingent upon the truth of its underlying premises and the validity of the reasoning process that brought forth that conclusion.

        Fr. Barron is committing a fundamental epistemological error and you are just endorsing it.

  15. Scott says:

    That was a great video.

    Thanks Bob!

  16. Parker says:

    I agree entirely with what he has said. As I Christian I believe by faith that God loves me, has justified me, and I can now stand before him pure and holy in his sight because he has placed the punishment that I deserved upon his son. I am now born again and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. I know this is true because there is no way that I could have transformed my own heart in the way that God has. I also believe by faith that he will continue to sanctify me and make me more like Christ until I die and am with him forever.

    I believe all of these things by faith because of both what God has said (through his word….the bible) and done (he loved me so much that even when I was sinning against him, he gave up his one and only son so that I might live).

    As it was explained in the video, you don’t have to check your brain at the door to believe all of this. Rather, you should investigate to determine whether or not all of this is true. There is a tremendous amount of evidence! (Try reading “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller or “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell)

    If you would like a place to start…. let me make a suggestion. Did Jesus really rise from the dead?!?! Who in their right mind bases his entire credibility upon being able to raise himself from the dead after being crucified on a cross? Jesus said this is what he would do repeatedly. If it didn’t happen, feel free to disregard everything that he said. BUT….. if he actually did rise from the dead, then you have to ask yourself some very important questions. Is Jesus GOD…. and is everything he said TRUE?

    A huge portion of the world believes that he is God and that everything he said is true. Enough so that millions of people have willingly been put to death rather than refute their Faith. If you were one of Jesus’ disciples, would you have willingly been crucified on a cross upside down like Peter if you didn’t believe that Jesus was actually raised from the dead?

    I think it’s worth your time to investigate.

  17. Eli says:

    Fideism is very convenient for those who don’t want to test what they believe in so deeply.

    One of my favorite scriptures is from Hebrews. Its author states that Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead before sacrificing his son to God. Hebrews 11:19:


    Another Christian Anarchist, Leo Tolstoy, compared Faith (as contemporary Christians use the term) to madness in his book, What I Believe.

    Evidence of things not seen is still a positive claim about evidence. seems to rebuke empiricism as

  18. marris says:


    You may enjoy this talk by David Chalmers at the Singularity Summit. The talk is about simulating consciousness.

    I think there are many parallels between the questions he raises and the theological questions you raise on this blog. I think the idea of an “intelligent Creator” may become more plausible as we start creating cooler things which cannot “see” us.

    It probably won’t turn any atheistic into a religious person, but I think I think agnosticism will become a very “scientifically plausible” point of view.

  19. Jake says:

    But could not one appeal to Plantinga’s argument concerning the analogy to other minds? We might know there is a body in space via perception, but reaching beyond that to the existence of a mind goes beyond mere sense-perception. When Father Barron refers to the woman “speaking”, the sounds heard are not just incoherent ‘babble’ but, presumably, some kind of coherent, meaningful, and intelligible utterance.


    Just a quick thought.

  20. Joe says:

    He f*$&ing nails it at 9:30 and on. I felt that so much was missing from my life for the period of time that I renounced my faith.

  21. K Sralla says:

    “He does not have to mean by this the ontological proof. St. Thomas”

    Just a small correction to Tom Woods statement. St. Thomas did *not* accept the ontological proof. He championed the cosmological proof (the unmoved mover), and tried to show why Anselm’s proof fell short. Later, Kant tied the two together, asserting that the cosmological proof ultimately relied on the ontological, and then asserted both were flawed.

    Fr. Barron! Bravo. Well said. I have recommended this work before, but it is relevant to this post. The radical rationalists should study Personal Knowledge by Michael Polanyi to get a deeper exposition into some aspects of the ideas highlighted in the video.

  22. K Sralla says:

    Maybe I misread Tom Woods statement. The period confused my reading. I think I get what Woods meant. When a smart person talks, it takes the rest of us a minute to keep up.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      K Sralla right, Tom wasn’t saying Aquinas used the ontological proof. MF had simply assumed that, in an attempt to show how contradictory I/Fr. Barron was.