Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

The irrationality of believing

Yesterday I came across hard evidence for something I've been alluding to in my writing for several years but had difficulty pinning down. It was a three-sentence passage in a speech carried in the most established newspaper of Great Britain's liberal left, the Guardian, the mother country's equivalent of the New York Times or the Washington Post. Though quite serious and never humorous, the speech was made by one of England's best known comedians, Rowan Atkinson, known also by millions of Americans as "the Blackadder," the namesake of a BBC series of serials that appeared in the States on PBS. Atkinson was speaking to the British government in support of an exception for comedians in a proposed law banning "hate speech" and written attacks against religion. Though it's only with great effort that I resist the temptation to "go there," this article is not about that kind of laws (which liberals throughout the western world are promoting to impress their special interest voting blocks) but rather about something Atkinson revealed about liberal (humanist) attitudes toward religion in general. Here are his enlightening three sentences:

It is absolutely right and reasonable that religions should be protected from threatening language, behaviour and written material but I support the amendment to retain the right to abuse and insult, because of the essentially irrational nature of religious beliefs. That is not to dismiss them: indeed, I'm a great believer that the most important and most sustaining things in life are essentially irrational. Love, beauty, art, friendship, music, spirituality of whatever form, these things make no rational sense yet they are more important than any qualities that are rationally measurable.

The New Testament and the Christian church have always insisted that the faith (and traditional Judaism, as well) is based on historical events and that belief in those events, and in the God who willed them, is more reasonable—more rational—than believing there is no God and that Jesus never lived or gave His life to save His people, or rose again in victory over death and sin. Most liberal writings attacking Christianity or reports on attacks on Christianity like those opposing Intelligent Design, show ignorance or contempt toward this teaching. The rational aspect of our faith is emphasized in the ancient liturgy of the church by St. Basil the Great (329-379), a bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, one of the theologians who led the church to its understanding and proclamation of the Holy Trinity against the Arian heresy. He refers to the rational faith in a Prayer of Thanksgiving that is still part of the lenten worship services of thousands of churches:

O thou who art, Master, Lord God, Father Almighty adorable, it is truly meet and right, and befitting the magnificence of thy holiness that we should praise thee, hymn thee, bless thee, worship thee, give thanks unto thee and glorify thee, the only truly existing God, and offer unto thee with a broken heart and the spirit of humility this our rational worship, for thou art He that hath bestowed upon us the knowledge of thy truth.

And the church father Basil is echoing the words of St. Paul in Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable [rational] service."

Some apologetic teachers describe the view of religion as irrational, as Atkinson calls it, as "an upper story leap," or, to use the words of Francis Schaeffer, as an "escape from reason," which is the title of one of Schaeffer's first books. Called "the missionary to Europe's intellectuals" in a Time magazine article and described as one of the most influential teachers of the evangelical church in the past century, Schaeffer lamented that even most evangelical Christians tend to separate their "Sunday lives" and their "everyday lives" into two unrelated realms; sacred/profane, supernatural/natural, grace/nature, and so on. Thus many people who profess on Sunday that Jesus Christ is Lord of lords, King of kings, and ruler of all, nevertheless have no problem with propositions like "God and politics don't mix" or "science and religion must be kept separate." The latter proposition is no less than confessing that "God is only a figment of our imaginations" and the "spiritual" is ever divorced from the material world.

But the material world is the world God created. And if it is not, there is no God.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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