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reason and faith

The commonly perceived contrast between science and religion is usually framed in terms of an irreconcilable dichotomy between reason and faith. Reason is accepted as the reliable function of the mind while faith is conceived as irrational belief. In fact, both are functions of the mind. Reason is the process by which conclusions are reached through the use of the intellect while faith is the process by which conclusions are reached through the values of the heart. Although these are commonly perceived in oppositional categories of incompatibility, they are simply dual alternative functions of the mind.

Both reason and faith are valuable tools for assessing truth and as such can be usefully employed as complementary processes. The heart and the intellect are meant to work together. They are best utilized by operating in balanced tandem rather than in conflict. It has been said that the mind can tell you how to know or do something, but only the heart can tell you what is worth knowing and doing.

All the various contrasts between reason and faith, or intellect and heart, refer to the two sides of the same reality, the material and the spiritual dimensions of experience. And just like you need to use different methodologies to accomplish different tasks, you need different mental tools to operate in the material and spiritual dimensions of life. Art, love, music, poetry, are the languages of the spiritual. Mathematics, reason, and logic are the languages of the material.

Reason uses logic, data, information, to reach conclusions while the heart uses love, beauty, and an inner knowledge -- that strong inner sense of the rightness of something–the inner compass that always points to your own “true north.” Categorical rejection of the values of the heart precludes the ability to participate in the wonders of the arts and of loving relationships with children, lovers, family, friends.

It is the heart that makes possible all the most valuable things in life. Even in the pursuit of science, it is the heart that causes one person to love astronomy and another to love marine biology. Sometimes people look at modern art and say “I don’t get it, what does it mean?” They are looking with their intellect instead of with their hearts.

A culture’s educational system trains the minds of its population to use particular mental processes to understand and operate in the world within particular parameters. In our culture, one believes science because it’s propositions are verified by those methods of thought which our current systems of education have trained us to use with confidence.

The mental processes we are trained to use and with which we are comfortable are left brain oriented, particularistic (as opposed to holistic), verbal, and sequential. On the other hand we have not received mental training in skills based on the right brain which favors holistic, visual, synergistic and cooperative modes of thinking.

We sometimes use the term “faith” to classify those conclusions which are reached through use of right brain functions. They seem mysterious and incomprehenisble because our educational systems have left us deficient in right brain mental skills. We use the processes we have learned to use. It is a matter of a comfort level within the system in which our minds have been trained to function.

Again, for a balanced capability in thinking about life, the universe, and everything, it is not a matter of either/or but of both/and. We can use both our left and right brain functions and perspectives to perceive and understand a wider range of ideas made available through the mental skills available through both.

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digital art
"measuring the spaces between us"

science and religion
reason and faith
secular atheism


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