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Faith vs Reason

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First I believe I'm within in the correct forum, if not please don't flame just critique.

I'm working on a brief paper (700-800 words) for my English class and have created the following thesis, so I'm looking more so for critiques on my logic more so than answers.

Within populations, morals must be created based on a foundation of reason and not faith. While morals supported by both faith and reason can have similar objectives; when faced with a crisis or situation where faith can be lost so can the morality tied to it. The idea being that anything tied to that faith, now is called under review and if supported solely by faith is likely to falter. However if a population's morals are strongly based in reason, within those times of crisis where faith can fail reason can still stand (relying on the minds of the population to maintain a rational mindset for survival and not an emotionally driven one).

This isn't my exact verbatim thesis from my paper but the general idea I'm running with.

Also I should note that my paper is structured as an argument so please critique my logic. Anyway I can create a stronger base the better.

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“Within populations, morals must be created based on a foundation of reason and not faith.”

Alright, you don’t have much word space to work with and you’ve only posted a small chunk here even of that, so maybe in the full version you deal with this more, but the first thoughts I had reading this sentence here was as follows: 1) Only within populations? Morality wouldn’t be needed if one was alone? 2) Any population? So, populations of antelope have this apply to them too? :P (I know most people would assume you meant human populations, but discussing why we wouldn’t apply morality to other animals helps show an important point about why our morals are formed as they are.)

The main objection I have to the rest of your thesis as it is is that I expect many people could take away the message that the real problem is losing faith, that they need to keep their faith stronger and then everything is all fine and dandy, so the real evil is those people trying to erode at faith. Also, at non-crisis times, faith is fine and dandy especially, which is most of the time. In fact other people may argue in times of crisis is when they would take solace in faith most strongly, so no problem there, no need for them to worry about falling apart from loss of faith.

Why we human beings need morals and why reason is our proper primary tool of survival to be guided by based on our nature and that of reality is the thing that you’ll need to address to get rid of that “So I just need to be strong in my faith then!” option.

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I like the overal premise.

Two points:

1) morality is not created, its discovered.

2) dont give "faith" any credit for ethical norms. In other words dont just say reason is better than faith, make it clear that faith as a means to knowledge is not even possible.

in reality there is no such thing as faith, theres only reason and pretense.

I look forward to the final result of your thesis, but before more speculation on what advice I might venture, I'd like to hear your definition of "Ethics".

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Another possible objection could be basically “So what?” Religious-based morality will be abandoned if faith is abandoned, but reason can be abandoned too. If they both accomplish “similar objectives,” then what does it matter? I'm not sure your thesis tells us what the difference is, because the only difference you named was that faith can be lost, but as seen above, so can reason (in fact, that's part of the problem of civilization.) Even for the idea that reason won't be abandoned, you rely on the population to have a rational mindset, then can't the same be said about relying on the population to simply keep their faith? What consequence does either one have?

Is the only hazard in losing all morality, either faith-based or rational? But it can be objected that everyone has a view of morality because humans cannot escape acting based on some motivation, even nihilism is a moral theory.

After all, yes the Dark Ages with their religious morality was terrible, but now we know that “God is dead” and philosopher X, Y, or Z came up with a subjective secular morality that justifies sacrifice and can replace religion. Or philosopher X, Y, or Z proved that reason is just inadequate to proscribe ought from is, so reason can never replace faith, and everyone ought to act either on his personal whim, or on the collective whim of society.

At some point you have to point out that any subjectivist code of values is no alternative to the intrinsicist code of religious values because they are essentially the same. You have to make the case of why a rational morality should replace religion and why subjectivist moralities just continue the same failings, and the difference of a rational morality versus a faith-based or subjective one, which is that reason is our only means to knowledge and therefore also our only practical guide to action.

On the positive side, if the main point of what you are trying to say is looked at through a Nietzschean sense of “God is dead, nihilism stands at the door,” you are actually describing the current state of Western civilization. Religious faith in God no longer plays the kind of role in society as it did prior to the Renaissance, and due to the failure of philosophy to provide a rational answer to the question of human values, Western civilization no longer has any clear sense of purpose or of what matters in life, what is life aiming at, what ideals to pursue in the absence of God, etc. If God served as the basis for truth and morality, then is an existence without God meaningless? Since a morality based on religious faith will necessarily be inadequate to the practical conditions of life and happiness, unless one does have a rational code of values to replace religion to guide one's choices and actions, then one will have to be "emotionally driven," because that is the only alternative to reason.

And that reflects the moral vacuum of the current Western culture. Feelings, faith, intuition, instincts, social conventions, have been all that the dominant Platonist-Kantian schools have been able to offer as a justification for any morality since the collapse of religious domination over Western society. So the historical analysis supports the thesis that given that civilizations rise and fall based on their philosophical views, what we require is a morality discoverable by man's reason and conditioned to the requirements of man's nature for practical survival here and now in this reality.

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“Why we human beings need morals and why reason is our proper primary tool of survival to be guided by based on our nature and that of reality is the thing that you’ll need to address to get rid of that “So I just need to be strong in my faith then!” option.

My counter (although still a weak one) is that even with a strong faith, the religiously instilled values only pertain to those whom believe. Along with the idea that within numerous religions a breach of their code of ethics can be forgiven through either prayer or service, no matter how great the immoral act.

Meaning that the disincentive for an immoral act in a religious society is based on spiritualitty and not something concrete. Whereas the disincentive for an immoral act among individuals of reason is a concrete concept that can be applied within the realms of reality.

2) dont give "faith" any credit for ethical norms. In other words dont just say reason is better than faith, make it clear that faith as a means to knowledge is not even possible.

This is where my requirements for the paper cause restrictions. I'm required to give an opposing argument and then state my case. However I agree completely though. You cannot create something real from the unreal. Knowledge is concrete and can be supported with facts, observations, and most importantly rational critiques. However when putting faith through the same criteria, it falters immediately. Faith can't answer questions such as "why?" or "how?", all it can state is that "something is because it is".

Another possible objection could be basically “So what?” Religious-based morality will be abandoned if faith is abandoned, but reason can be abandoned too. If they both accomplish “similar objectives,” then what does it matter? I'm not sure your thesis tells us what the difference is, because the only difference you named was that faith can be lost, but as seen above, so can reason (in fact, that's part of the problem of civilization.) Even for the idea that reason won't be abandoned, you rely on the population to have a rational mindset, then can't the same be said about relying on the population to simply keep their faith? What consequence does either one have?

My answer would be that within a time of crisis individual's of faith look upwards for answers and direction, whereas individuals of reason look inwards for answers and direction. A community of believers would seek for a solution to arrive from a non-real entity, whereas a community of rational individuals would create the solution needed.

That doesn't really argue what you're stating, but it's the best I can come up with. If you have some input it would be greatly appreciated :thumbsup:

Is the only hazard in losing all morality, either faith-based or rational? But it can be objected that everyone has a view of morality because humans cannot escape acting based on some motivation, even nihilism is a moral theory.

At some point you have to point out that any subjectivist code of values is no alternative to the intrinsicist code of religious values because they are essentially the same. You have to make the case of why a rational morality should replace religion and why subjectivist moralities just continue the same failings, and the difference of a rational morality versus a faith-based or subjective one, which is that reason is our only means to knowledge and therefore also our only practical guide to action.

Are you equating morality with motivation? I was slightly confused, and may have just interpreted what you said in the wrong context. But if so, could every moral be structured as a pro and con, or are morals absolute values. If morals are interchangeable with motivations, then morals have a set of both incentives and disincentives. You could rationalize violating a moral if the right incentive was there (assuming we are equating morals to motivations).

I'm also interested as to how nihilism can be viewed as a moral theory. How can "something" be "nothing". Isn't the absence of morality part of nihilism?

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I like the thesis. Religion-based values are good to the extent that they are derived from reason, and fickle when they are merely based on faith. So, it is good to hold these values not because my religion says so, but because they make sense.

In addition to values that could be derived by reason, religions always come with values that are clearly not derived from reason -- at least not within the context of modern times. So, the Hindu edict of "don't eat beef" makes no sense. Keeping these values, and seeing them as injunctions (rather than as cultural norms that one may follow from habit) actually creates conflict between people of different faiths (and even among groups within faiths).

Edited by softwareNerd
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Religion-based values are good to the extent that they are derived from reason, and fickle when they are merely based on faith.

I think I understand the point you're making, but what would then be defined as Religion-"based" values? If they are derived from reason, they could correctly be considered reason-based values - Right?

I still like how Rand puts it in her Q&A with Playboy in 1964.

"
...You must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
"

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I think I understand the point you're making, but what would then be defined as Religion-"based" values? If they are derived from reason, they could correctly be considered reason-based values - Right?

Right. I meant "religion-recommended" values: all the values that are based on reading the holy books of a particular religion, including the ones that are reason based, and those that aren't.

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My answer would be that within a time of crisis individual's of faith look upwards for answers and direction, whereas individuals of reason look inwards for answers and direction. A community of believers would seek for a solution to arrive from a non-real entity, whereas a community of rational individuals would create the solution needed.

Actually, your thesis seems to be addressing the statement "there are no atheists in foxholes." Perhaps that will be a valuable approach to this assignment. People who say this likely mean that faith is important in a time of crisis, so important that even atheists would find solace in believing in god at such times. I think your response to JayR highlights the point you are getting at much better. Maybe you can get through a time of crisis through faith, but a person dedicated to reason will find better solutions. One cannot find solutions in faith other than mere acceptance of certain ideas. What would an atheist dedicated to reason do in a foxhole? Probably figure out a way to fix the problem themselves rather than submit to some outside authority. A person of faith would likely pray and wait; what other way could faith help anyway? At best, faith is a way to conveniently cover up and avoid personal action in fixing major problems. As you said, individuals of reason look inwards for answers and direction. Small point about that: you should emphasize inward to oneself. Some people may say "look inwards to find faith." I like your word choice of "upwards" there, really emphasizes that it's a matter of going "above" oneself.

Edited by Eiuol
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