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Spiritual Beliefs Vs Human Reason Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 2885 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Philosophers and scientists have constantly attempted to explain concepts divine processes described initially. They always sought for a scientific or logical explanation for a phenomenon explained through religion, or not explained at all. Scientists believed natural laws govern universe. As a result, a quest for explanation of events, which seemed illogical, began. The first philosophers “speculated that beneath the ever-changing natural world was an unchanging matter” (Matthews & Platt, 46). They also believed in rationality. Thus, any explanation of a natural concept seemingly unrealistic was questioned. This mindset progressed throughout Western history, and presently, there is the attempt to prove the role of God, and the existence of God through human reason. My opinion is human reason should not preclude the existence of God. Spiritual beliefs and logic should be separate spheres of human existence. Humans beings have two paths to knowledge

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During the time of the Greeks, there was a myth claiming Apollo drove his chariots across the sky, which was responsible for the rising and setting of the sun. This myth, though illogical, was held high and any opposition to this myth would have been called, in modern terms, blasphemy. The belief was held as firmly as the monotheistic religions believe in the existence of God through faith. Later science was able to prove false the reason for the rising and setting of the sun the Greeks believed in. Even in the case of Galileo Galilee, the church’s theory was that the sun revolved around the fixed Earth: Geocentrism. Galileo’s attempt to prove otherwise, scientifically, was vigorously fought-against. They forced him to recant his theory because it went against their theory.

In their explanation for the cause of rain, Ancient Greeks believed Hera’s cries fell as rain whenever she found out Zeus, her husband, had gone after other women. These concepts, clearly unscientific, were assumed true. As history moved from the Greek civilization to the modern era, a number of myths were dogmatically believed. Later science and rational thought refuted most of these myths or concepts, while others,-especially those related to spiritual realm, such as the existence of God-are difficult to prove.

The Greek civilization was perhaps the foremost place where the tension or dispute between faith, religious thought, spiritual belief; and science, natural philosophy and logical thought began. Philosophers such as Thales, Pythagoras and Heraclitus believed in rationality and the fact that the universe operated on natural laws. Such philosophers believed God or their religious deities had no effect on the natural order of things.

The Greeks of the Archaic Age believed the muses were responsible for creative inspiration. Muses were the goddesses of artistic inspiration and claimed to stimulate every work. The monody, lyrical poetry, is based on the personal thoughts of the poet. Then how did the goddesses inspire a work that was based on the poet’s personal thoughts? In spite of the irrationality of the explanations, the Greeks believed in the explanation of concepts that involved the deities. Philosophers in later civilization asked questions, probing the credibility of the beliefs which resulted in several proofs that opposed myths and religious dogma. Philosophers, since the Hellenic Age have been inquisitive; they questioned divine or illogical explanations to concepts in the universe.

Still in the Archaic Age, the idea of believing in concepts, despite the lack of logic behind them, was a key element in their religion. It carried over to later religions in the modern era where religious dogmas are still held. An example of such is the hypostatic union. It is the claim Jesus was both divine and human while in his physical form on earth. To me, the reason the search to understand the natural order of things started, was that everything in the Archaic Age was attributed to the deities. The deities determined the inspiration for works of art, the survival and prosperity of the Greeks, and their cultural accomplishments. Embedded in the Greeks was the belief that “as long as they recognized the divinities’ power and did not challenge them…they would survive and often prosper.” (Matthews & Platt, 41). The initial philosophers were able to ignore the beliefs (or dogma), because they thought of a world that was controlled by natural causes and deities had no effect on the world.

However, explaining concepts illogically, which actually are scientific, has been a part of religion, even from the Egyptians. This is not to say that religions knew the concepts were of natural causes, but scientific proofs that came later on would not cause the religions to waiver in their initial beliefs. An example is the tale of the beginning of the world. Scientists claim that the world was formed because of an explosion- The Big Bang. Scientists would then question the tale of Christianity: how did God create the whole world in seven days? Many have tried to answer this rationally or scientifically, but in my opinion, it is almost impossible to explain. Yet, Christians still hold on to this belief firmly. So many cultures, as well as science, have their own speculation about the beginning of the universe. The Hebrews’ belief of the beginning of the world then became the accepted Word of God thus making it seem as if other beliefs are wrong. This undermines the credibility of religious beliefs, but does not mean the Hebrews’ version is false. Take an instance where a murder is commited and three witnesses give entirely different accounts of the details. However, because the three of them gave separate accounts of the murder, does not mean that no version can be the correct one. In fact, the real version might be a combination of all three accounts.

I disagree with the attempt to use reason or rational thought to predetermine if God has effect on the world or if He exists. A logical claim I could make is God creates the natural order philosophers try to understand. An example is the recent science discovery refuting the effects of God on the parting of the Red Sea. Scientists found out that the biblical account of the splitting of the Red Sea might have actually been due to natural causes. In the Bible (Exodus 14), God caused the Red Sea to split, allowing the Israelites to pass on dry ground and then the sea “caved back in” and drowned the Egyptians. However, according to science, the wind from the East (East Wind) could have been so strong as to push the water up several streams for a certain period (for the Israelites to cross) and then cease, to cause water to return to the sea (to drown the Egyptians). It could have been possible that God caused the East Wind to drive the Red Sea up the tributaries at the time the Israelites wanted it, and then caused the river to fall in when the Egyptians were passing through it.

The desire to prove the role or existence of God has persisted through centuries. There is such a strong belief that human reasoning can prove the existence of God, if He exists. But if God cannot be proven, then He does not exist, and He is just a fiction of the imagination of monotheists. I disagree with this perspective because the existence of God has to do with the spiritual realm. The existence of God has for a long time, been questioned, and therefore has troubled philosophers and scientists who always seek to explain every concept, but these two theories (mention the name of the theories), in my opinion, should be completely separate spheres of human existence.

“To Ockham, faith and reason were both valid approaches to truth, but they should be kept apart so that each could achieve its respective end” (Matthews & Platt, 261). I agree with William of Ockham in this statement because the fact that the first philosophers believed “there is regularity in the universe and that human reason can ultimately understand the natural order”, does not imply the use of reason should preclude the existence of God. Just as Thales was wrong about the fundamental substance being water, so also could the Milesian school be wrong about using human reason to prove or try to verify the existence of God-that is if God falls under the ‘natural order of things’.

William of Ockham lived from about 1300 to about 1349, during which many things in the physical world have been invented or discovered. Up until now, the spiritual realm remains a mystery. Apparently, there is a great disparity in achievement between the use of reason to explain things in the physical world and to explain things of the spiritual realm. William of Ockham accepts reason as a valid approach to truth, but he also includes faith as a valid approach to truth. He explicitly says reason alone cannot question the existence of God. Instead, he suggests the existence of God can only be accepted by faith and the divine mysteries can simply be understood by faith. John Duns Scotus concluded, “The theologian and the philosopher have different intellectual tasks, [therefore] theology and science should be independent fields of inquiry” (Matthews & Platt, 261).

To elaborate on John Duns Scotus’ conclusions, as a Christian, I tried to prove the concept of the Trinity to a Muslim, using only logic. No matter how logical my answers were, they still involved spiritual beliefs and faith. Scientists who have attempted to measure the efficacy of prayer have obtained rather conflicting results. How can one attempt to solve a physics problem by reading a literature book? How can scientists make an effort to verify the spiritual beliefs using human reason? According to Ockham, human reason cannot produce any meaningful knowledge about the spiritual realm (Matthews & Platt, 261).

Furthermore, there are several religious events recorded in the Bible or Qur’an that are unfounded; for instance, how Noah was able to get all types of animals into the ark and prevent them from eating one another. One cannot answer this question because it does not make sense logically, so humans have to use another form of inquiry, faith. “Only faith can explain the divine mystery.”

William of Ockham asserted, “Reason, senses and empirical evidence could enable human beings to discover and hence understand the natural world”, stoicism-a philosophy in the Hellenistic Age-offered a seemingly contradictory point of view. The Stoics “believed that reason and the senses could be used jointly to uncover the underlying moral law as well as God’s design [or effect] in the world.” The Stoics accepted that a spiritual being had effect on the happenings of the universe. An issue is does God have any effect on the universe. The Stoics acknowledge the effect of a supernatural being, William of Ockham does not. The Greeks/Mesopotamians/Egyptians believed that the

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More importantly, the use of faith to explain spiritual beliefs or religious dogma caused tension between religious thought and rational thought. From the Hellenistic Age, philosophies and religion have offered conflicting answers to unpredictable events and those beyond human control. Concepts, which could not be explained initially, were attributed to God or religious deities like the myth of rain: Hera. The inclination to leave the happenings during their time to the hands of the deities had a strong impact began with the Mesopotamians, who believed they were created to serve the deities. They probably held an even stronger dogma than modern times, because they believed human destinies were in the hands of the gods, and there was nothing they could do about that. Whatever the gods did with their lives could not be questioned. Also,

the Hellenistic world had a section of people who believed in Fate. Fate, in that era, meant there were non-physical beings that controlled the natural events. They felt human reason could not understand the natural order of things. The Greeks who began to put humans at the center of the universe fortunately altered this pessimistic approach to life. Their mindset led them to question divine explanations for natural events.

The disagreement between materialists and idealists could represent the early dispute between rational thought and spiritual beliefs. Materialists in the Archaic Age believed that the world was made of some basic physical element whereas the idealists reasoned that the physical world was deceptive and that there was a spiritual force or metaphysical power being the physical world.

Also in the Hellenistic Age, the clash between these two paths to knowledge has been so significant; they can be found in other works of art. Dramatists wrote plots that dealt with divine law versus human law.

Evident in Age of Synthesis (1000 to1300 CE), the tension or dispute has been carried through civilizations. Thomas Aquinas in this Age, tried to resolve the dispute by stating that human beings have two divine paths to truth or knowledge: reason and faith. He refers to divine paths, which indirectly means that the paths are God-given-a spiritual being exists that determines the limit to what we know. However, perhaps the period when the gap between philosophy and theology became the widest was in the Baroque Age 2 (1600 to 1715CE). In this Age of Scientific Revolution, the scientists and philosophers “questioned divine explanations”; they “countered faith with reason, dogma with skepticism, and divine intervention with natural law.”

Nonetheless, scientists and philosophers have the tendency to assume that if divine concepts or events cannot be explained scientifically or logically, then these concepts or events never happened, or do not exist. This supposed misconception probably came about as a result of the actions of ancient civilizations. These civilizations produced explanations for things beyond their comprehension, which led led religions in later civilizations to explain other concepts divinely. Science has proven some of these concepts false and as a result, this has fuelled the constant dispute between religious beliefs and logical thought. Nevertheless, because some accounts were wrong does not mean all other explanations are. For the reason that Thales was wrong about water being the fundamental substance, did not mean that his belief-there is regularity in the universe-was wrong. Consequently, the use of reason cannot and should not preclude the existence of God.

Religious dogma started on earth in Egypt and has manifested in different religions in history. Religious dogma is a belief without proof. Starting from the Egyptians, they believed that “the king as god on earth embodied the state.” Likewise, there have been several civilizations, which have provided different explanations about the beginning of the universe or life after death. Religious people believe in one holy book or another. The Christian version of the history of the universe is the biblical account. However, just like every tribe has a different story of the creation, the Hebrews had their own, and their version then became the accepted version by Christians-the word of God.

Another concept for which several civilizations provided different explanations is life after death. The Egyptians, according to their religion, believed that if they remained faithful to their gods, they would be rewarded with a new life after death. About a thousand years later, the Hellenistic world held similar beliefs. Mithraism followers believed immortality awaited them after death. This concept of immortality is similar to the Egyptians ‘new life after death’.

Philosophies in the Hellenistic Age attempted to explain life after death. According to Epicureanism, “the atoms that made up the soul simply separated from the body’s atoms and united with other particles to create new forms.” This way of life made its followers believe that there was a happy life after death.

Couples of centuries later, Christians are made to believe the same underlying perception of life after death as did the Egyptians and the Epicureans: if they remain faithful, there would be paradise awaiting them. All through Western history until this date, science has never been able to refute any of these beliefs. Rational thought, or human reason, has not been able to come up with a description of life after death, which would refute these beliefs. Only spiritual belief has helped in understanding life after death. This suggests human reasoning or science is has a limit to which it can understand certain concepts in the universe. Restating Ockam’s concept, “no useful knowledge can be gained through reason or the senses about the spiritual realm”. To further the achievement of the Greek genius, human reason, as well as spiritual beliefs can understand concepts of the universe



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