A student response to popscience in the news
by Br Brendan Matthews, LC
Does being analytical make you lose your faith? This is what the title of a recent article written published on ScienceMagazine.org seems to suggest. I would like to briefly point out the main error behind this article, namely, the confusion between thinking and believing. First let us look at two main concepts the article offers us. The first is intuitive thinking “which is fast and effortless”; the second is analytical thinking “which is slower and more deliberate.” Based on this distinction, the author draws some pretty hasty conclusions.
The article starts by saying that loss of religious belief can be caused by prompting people to engage in critical thinking. Yet the surveys of this article do not show that. These surveys instead confirm that some people tend to think more critically than others; and that those who think more critically also happen to be less religious than those who answer intuitively.
One’s faith and one’s way of thinking, however, are two different realms. One can influence the other but they do not ultimately determine each other. The surveys do not deal with cause and effect relationship. It was not that some of these people did not believe because they were analytical. Furthermore, the article does a dangerous move of jumping from the particular cases to universal statements. Just because a handful of people turn out to be intuitive and religious does not mean all people are religious because they are intuitive.
An important point overlooked is the virtue of faith. Religious people believe in God; they don’t think out his existence (although God’s existence can be proven in various ways). A person of faith doesn’t try to explain away life’s mysteries such as suffering, death, etc., using his critical thinking skills.
However a deep truth lies behind this article. It can sometimes happen that trying to think everything out with the sheer use of reason can make a person fall into a certain type of skepticism. It does not always seem logical that there is an all-knowing and all–loving powerful God when we see war and violence all around us.
What can we learn from this? St. Thomas the Apostle wanted to see the markings of Christ’s wounds in order that he may believe, and this desire to see lead him to doubt. Faith and not our reason should dominate in our religious beliefs.
Yet the question remains, if all believers intuitive thinkers, then why are some of the greatest analytical thinkers throughout history (e.g., St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas or even our present Pope Benedict XVI) also considered great men of faith?