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Faith or reason: Do we need to choose?

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Joseph Pearce - published on 05/19/23

When I began to take an interest in reality on a deeper level, I began to question whether rationalism was in fact rational.

As a young man, immersed in the secular spirit of the age, I thought I needed to choose between reason or religion. One couldn’t choose both because one contradicted the other. We could have the comforts of religion but only by abandoning reason, or we could accept the demands of reason which precluded the belief in any religion. Accept the cozy lie or embrace the cold, hard facts. That was the choice facing all of us.

It wasn’t until I was older and began to take an interest in reality on a deeper level that I began to question whether rationalism was in fact rational. It seemed to me that nobody could know that God didn’t exist. Atheists seemed to accept their atheism as a matter of faith, not reason. Most of them didn’t want God to exist and so chose to deny his existence. This is not rational but was merely wishful thinking.

Then I started to wonder how we could explain the existence of the things which we knew existed. How did trees come into existence? Or, more radically, how did anything come into existence? How did nothing become something? Even a speck of dust was something. How did it come into being?

And then it seemed to me that the efforts of atheists to answer these questions were entirely inadequate. They were not answers but merely efforts to explain away the questions. They did not ask Pilate’s question, quid est veritas? (what is truth?) from the perspective of a question which needed answering but from the perspective of a question that was unanswerable and therefore not worth asking.

Stumbling upon the works of G.K. Chesterton and then C.S. Lewis, I discovered two writers who showed that reason points to faith. They were not merely being logical in their reasoning, they were being logical in their discussion of the theological. Chesterton and Lewis led me deeper, or further up and further in as Lewis would say. They led me to the great philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. These were amongst the greatest minds in the whole of history and they all believed in God!

I came to realize that we did need to choose but that we didn’t need to choose faith or reason but faith and reason, both of which were indissolubly wedded and inseparable. I am now wedded to that reality, which is why, at the age of 28, I was received into the Catholic Church.    


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

Faith and ScienceThe Human Being Fully Alive
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