A Powerful Defense of Reason … or Maybe Not

In wrestling with the issues of faith and reason and how they should be used within society, I asked for input from an experienced pastor.  Here’s his reply.  I’ll let you evaluate it yourself.

I want you to know that I do not shun controversy.  On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be.  You have asked me how I feel about reason.  All right, here is how I feel about this important matter.

If, when you say reason, you mean the arrogance that rejects faith, that would have us discard what we know to be true more deeply than sterile logic can express; if you mean the heartless drive to dethrone the innocent widow or precious child from their cherished beliefs; if you mean the pernicious force that shakes the faith of the honest Christian man or woman in almighty God, what Martin Luther called “the devil’s bride” and “the greatest enemy of faith,” what the greatest minds in Christianity have made a slave to faith, then certainly I am against it.

But if, when you say reason, you mean the tool that gave us medicine, the fruits of which are antibiotics, anesthesia, vaccines, and the distant memory of scourges like smallpox and plague; if you mean the technology that teaches us of our glorious universe and that landed men on the moon and brought us the vibrant world we live in today; if you mean the rejection of ancient superstition in favor of scientific explanations; if by reason you mean our ability to analyze and dismantle foreign religions and reveal their legendary origin, and to reject beliefs that are merely pleasing rather than correct; if you mean God’s greatest gift, the gift for which we must stand in judgment for using wisely, the very tool that gets us safely through each day, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand.  I will not retreat from it.  I will not compromise.*

Rev. Phineas P. Stopgauge

Photo credit: Wikimedia

*Alert readers will recognize this as an homage to the 1952 “If by whiskey” speech by Mississippi State Representative Noah “Soggy” Sweat, Jr.  (No kidding—that was really his name.)

38 thoughts on “A Powerful Defense of Reason … or Maybe Not

  1. ” the arrogance that rejects faith, that would have us discard what we know to be true…”
    That’s the problem! He does NOT know it to be true! He only thinks that it is true, but with no evidence. I just can’t accept something without good evidence for it being correct.

  2. Sounds terribly schizophrenic to me, how can you be in favor of reason because it is disproves ancient superstitions and foreign religions and then reject it for the arrogance that disproves your faith for those very same reasons? Reason cannot be activated out of convenience, that only makes you a hypocrite.

    “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.”
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

  3. Nice Bob!

    If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
    But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
    This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.


  4. The “If by whiskey” article is fascinating. Talk about talking out of both sides of one’s mouth!

    I googled the pastor’s name and Google directed me to Phineas Gage, a man who was the victim of a railroad-building accident in the 1800’s in which an iron rod was shot through his face and brain. This was a famous medical case, and I recall a PBS TV documentary on his life from several decades ago. He was not killed by the accident, and he could still function on superficial levels, but his personality was negatively and profoundly changed by the accident, and as Alan Alda says here, he was “unable … to make up his mind:”

  5. Very engaging and entertaining dialog unfolding here. I no sooner began reading the copy when two things struck me; the remarkable eloquence of the speaker, and a few points from scripture connected to the subject. The first being: come now, let us reason together says the lord; and the second being…use your senses to make a value judgment as to what leading God is offering you.

    No question about the schizophrenic appearance of the argument. I propose that this sort of quagmire cannot be avoided in arguments revolving around God when a particular element is removed from the equation. That element is by definition who and what God is. This is implicit where God invites reason. God is not proved by in bantering about words but in the demonstration of his power, which is what he is (the other name for Jesus is the power of God). Hence: let us reason together, though your sins be as crimson, they shall be made as snow…from the Old Testament. New testament version: Jesus said; so you might know that God has power to forgive sins I tell you who are a cripple form youth till now, arise from your affliction, take up that bed wherein you’ve been laid up and afflicted, and go home in perfect soundness.

    Reason can help you explain what God did consistent with scripture; beyond that, words that lack force, and are inadequate to the purpose. Being power, God is to be demonstrated not apologized that’s why he said where there is the presentation of the gospel the mighty works of Jesus must follow to validate it; but more atheists are behind the pulpit than you can imagine. Jesus lamented: when I return, will the son of man find his kind of faith on earth? You decide, you see any Lazarusses walking around lately?

    • Does God demonstrate his power? I haven’t seen evidence of this.

      I have no interest in presupposing that God exists and then trying to find support for that hypothesis. Rather, I examine the facts and find that they don’t support the God hypothesis.

      On the topic of nonbelieving pastors, the FFRF has organized the Clergy Project for such folks.

      • Therein lies the fault. It is not with you, it is with we who say we believe. I grew up in the present church culture which I now outright reject as doing things assbackward; sticking their heads in the sand and living is blatant denial and galactic ignorance of what should be as plain as the nose on their faces. I cannot abide another second of it. That which you would know, God has committed to us but we have tossed it away and apparently no one I know has the stones to own up to it but are forever making excuses to cover their wallowing in viscous moral cowardice. More concern for making excuses than honoring the truth.

        I totally respect what you are saying, that is actually the original plan of God, and I done complaining about our failings so I’v been toiling at the solution for a while now. It will soon be ready, and when presented, it will be as evident as the sun rising tomorrow morning.

        I have a great deal of respect for your particular position and those who hold them but that in no way to be interpreted as condescending pity, that you have no use for; but I thing providing what you ask for could get us somewhere.

        Nice biceps, are those real?

  6. I forgot to put LOL at end of message so as not to appear somewhat snippy. Sorry if it reads that way. Your point is admittedly well taken, and I am very serious about advancing for your scrutiny such proof as you require and God commands.

  7. I think of our current times as the painful evolution from superstition (read faith) to understanding from reason. I feel for people like the pastor and I hope I am not being patronizing, I don’t intend it. I have myself gone through this painful and fear laden awakening but have arrived on the other side to a garden of richness, kindness and love that has surpassed any of the fear based garbage I believed for too long.

    The pastor seems similarly tortured, first lauding magical thinking as unassailable, only to follow with the fruits of logic and science such as eradication of disease and exploration of science. This cognitive dissonance is difficult to maintain.

    My only real beef with the guy is the lack of internal consistency, another hallmark of the cognitively dissonant. So quick is he to assail the ‘foreign religions’ that he forgets that his religion is the foreign one to a larger population of the planet.

    • It is perplexing that many Christians imagine the life of an atheist as empty or cold somehow. Weird.

      (And BTW, that letter was a parody. I do hope, however, that it accurately captures the contradictory thinking of many Christians. And note that it parallels an actual speech that was identically contradictory.)

  8. “No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.” JFK

    “This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.” JFK

    If you were to ask man 100 years ago: do you think men will ever walk on the moon? You would immediately rise to the top of a short list with the dubious distinction of king/queen of village Idiots. Ask that Question today and the answer returned would be: why,…….. haven’t you heard! The knowledge gleaned within the window of a hundred years made the difference between scoffing at an idea and touching the stars. When God says something to us and we don’t understand it; inability to understand a thing is not reliable ground for dismissing the reality of it, or ignoring the consequences of it.

    “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?…We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too” JFK. In 1961 when Kennedy made his now famous pledge to land a man on the Moon, the USA had only 15 minutes piloted spaceflight experience and only 5 minutes of that was in space while the Russians had already completed missions in orbit. Kennedy in the face of virtually impossible odds due to limitations in technology and know how pushed NASSAU beyond their limits of planning a mission to fly around the moon and return, to landing a man on the moon and return; coming form behind the Russians to achieve higher than expected mission goals.

    The difference between limitation and liberty is knowledge. If confronted by limitations, the best course it to seek the know-how. By knowledge you shall be liberated form constraints; whatever the form. When confronted by limitations, if our first recourse is to concede, yield, and embrace them; we might well be going to sleep under a Russian moon, and flying a British flag for a national banner. Limitations by their varied and sundry forms are all the brood of ignorance; wherever found they should be banished. “Ignorance is not so damnable as humbug, but when it prescribes pills (as does the wisdom of men) it may happen to do more harm”— George Eliot. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    It would serve us well to listen to JFK stir our nation to it’s feet at darker times in our history, to avert the real threat of Russian dominance in the outer space.

    LINK BELOW: (the features a transcript of the inspirational speech, and an audio recording plays in the background)

    I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, it is the power of God to be delivered from all things which we could before not be delivered from. We seldom discern the wisdom of men which makes void the power of God; because by appearance it often seem wiser than even God’s council which is utter foolishness among men.

    We should raise our awareness to the things that God has said and done, and the world is yet unaware of it. The way the Bible describes brainwashing is stated in (Isaiah 25:7—the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.) This covering, this veil that overspreads the whole world is the wisdom of man. The only way to overcome this is to receive the gift of the mind of Christ whereby by realize that all things are possible with us. If all your lives you are told one thing, in this case the wisdom of man; even if the truth is in front of you, you will not see it because of this veil that covers the face of the world.

    Take this 20-second AWARENESS TEST and see what I mean.

    God has written to us of the great things of his law, but we have counted them as foolishness. Mark 9:23—Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Luke 18:27—The things, which are impossible with men, are possible with God. Matthew 17:20—. …and nothing shall be impossible unto you. After Jesus rebuked the storm, wind and tempest tossed sea, the disciples looked at him in wonder and asking each other; what manner of man is this. Jesus asked them, where is your faith? He expected them to do the same things he did; Jesus wasn’t the only one that walked on water, Peter did for a short while; this is so symbolic of the short period of time the church got it right after Jesus departed.

    There are two parties identified here with whom it is said that all things are possible, with God and with men who believe. This is the righteousness of God, it transfers to man all the things of God that are given to men by believing, even God himself as the gift first given to Abraham, and promised to we his seed in Christ is transferred to man by the faith of God, that man is supposed to have. Between the impossible and the possible is the knowledge that makes it tangible and real, such knowledge is with God; he gives it to those that fear him.

    • God has written to us of the great things of his law, but we have counted them as foolishness.

      Don’t you count the things of Zeus to be foolishness? And the things of Quetzalcoatl and Shiva and Thor?

      Why is Yahweh any different? Yahweh looks like just another created god.

      There are two parties identified here with whom it is said that all things are possible, with God and with men who believe.

      It’s odd that, since both of these things supposedly exist, society has seen no convincing demonstrations of this great power.

      • Ok Bob, I going to say this again real slow, your contentious objections are noted, and entirely justified for the time being; we the community of believers in God have dropped the ball on a galactic scale. For now, that allows brutally honest, keenly investigative people like yourselves to gawk at the hole in our representation and do your mischievous shin kicking; but that won’t last for long. This is not God’s fault; personally I’m owning the fault here. I was born into this faith, which I discovered much as yourself to be untenable on so many fronts because the foundational proof you and any discerning mind, I surmise would require has been draconianly eviscerated from the guts of the faith by the very people it was supposedly committed to, apparently without their being even capable of realizing what has happened or discern the severity of matter. I have, I trust sufficiently extricated myself form the sorry spectacle they present the world to raise up the up the standard to men that God intended. Cool those superheated jets of yours, would you. The preening of your beautiful minds is approaching the threshold of their expiration date. Even Fabio has to walk away from the mirror every now and again.

        By definition God is power; power to do all the things Jesus did and instructed us to do as the extension of his life on earth, the visible image of the invisible God. I’m kinda satisfied with the power Jesus expressed from God as proof, but that’s me. There has been rare historical replications of these; albeit unfortunately none immediately available for the inspection or your all-important fleshy orbs.

        Zeus never raised nobody form the dead, you amiable shin kicker; he may have sent some of them there, but that was it; besides we’re talking about what’s real……………OOOPS, just pushed another button.

        • If you mean by that that you intend to share more details of your Christian faith, that won’t be necessary. If you have a defense of Christianity or a compelling argument in favor of it, that would be welcome.

        • NGR:

          I poked around at your blog for a bit. Two questions:

          I was very impressed by your photos–where do you get them?

          Also, if you have a post of yours (or perhaps a favorite you’ve seen on the web) that you think offers a powerful apologetic in favor of Christianity that you wouldn’t mind my critiquing, point it out to me. I like to respond to someone else’s thoughts (instead of start with a blank sheet of paper).

        • Oh, I’m a blank sheet of paper, huh Bob; no offense taken. Usually flattery would get you nowhere, but in this instance, it will get you only some of the answers. You poking about my blog, that’s about the highest compliment I’m likely to get from a guy of such exclusive taste, and paper real biceps to boot.

          Blog Photos:

          I usually research them across the net for each post. If they clearly display copyright infringement protection, or I don’t get a positive reply to request to use them, I just walk away; otherwise I consider them public domain. That’s the way I see photos I’ve taken or some of the images that I either create in some cases. The post’s title images are a collage of several of these images usually. If you are interested I can help you do some for your blog without any charge. Just send me the images, tell me what you want and I’ll get to work on it. I really enjoy that kind of stuff. Doing it for free is considered entertainment….better than staring at blue screen.

          My favorite post for Christian apologetics:

          My finding does not reflect any thoroughly exhaustive search. Below is the link to one that I have indicated to the author is just about the only one I found at that time that I could actually navigate without indigestion. Mind you I’ve only read one perhaps 2 of his posts but liked them.

          There is another, which I think you would really love but simply cannot find the link. When I do, I will forward it to you.

          I am not unaware of your last caution against my running off at the mouth to you about my belief system concerning God; but I humbly beseech this last extension of license. If I may posit my personal opinion of apologetics; I put no more weight on it anymore than I would National Grid’s explanation of power, rather than the supplying of the power they are to bill me monthly for….unless you are just looking for explanations. I can’t imagine anything more practical. If a person might speak for himself that is what God made known of his nature, it may not be known by the words that explain him, since fundamentally he is power (the Almighty). Power is only a theoretical concept unless applied to a task. Explanations he refers to as, line upon line, precept upon precepts religious instructions which will in his opinion end you. That’s what churches are doing globally for the two millennia and getting the same result: the definition of madness—doing the same thing over, and over and expecting a different result, nothing like Jesus; in fact is makes you twice the child of hell as the apologist who himself doesn’t manifest Jesus for you to believe. So when you tell me to shut up you are exactly right…..it’s not in words. I should be prepared to demonstrate him….Saint Francis of Assisi quote – Preach the gospel at all times — If necessary, use words. Even he didn’t get it; he produced no Lazarus that I know of.

          I do applaud your unrelenting, dogged pursuit of truth.

        • I passed nicely, but that was only because I’d seen a similar video before. (If I hadn’t been primed, I probably would’ve only noticed what I’d been told to notice.)

        • What is this nose I see poking through my screen, could it be a liar on the other side?

          That’s the whole point of the exercise: we’ve been primed to see all this rubbish about God from earliest times, much to the contrary of what he essentially is and does.

        • I prefer plain talk and am a bit confused. Are you doubting my statement? Attend The Amazing Meeting a few times and you’ll see Michael Shermer’s gorilla video.

          We’re taking different lessons from the video. My lesson: if you blithely accept what you’ve been told about religion, you’ll be easily deluded. But a little education into what to look for, and you can see the man behind the curtain.

        • Am I hearing you right? You prefer plain talk? You should give what you expect, don’t you think?

          If you mean that you’ve seen similar videos already, I do not doubt you in the slightest that you have. I’m pretty sure similar videos are out there and you’ve most likely seen them already. You strike me as a veritable search engine unto yourself, on par with google, yahoo, bing. Are’nt all Atheists required to be, less …..well, they miss something and have to say something to the guy in the red suit, come time….lol…????

        • Bobby is a liar, Bobby is a liar, Bobby is a liar

          Bob, I am convinced 1000% that you are an honest to goodness straight shooter. Frankly I am quite fond of your caliber magnum straight shooting pistol.

  9. It just occurred to me that I hadn’t said this yet; but your blog is one of the nicer ones I’ve had the pleasure of browsing. There that may be the last nice thing I’ll say about you.

  10. Pingback: Word of the Day: Poe’s Law | Galileo Unchained

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