Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reason, Emotion, and Faith

This post is mostly meant as a preface to a post I'll be doing later on Glenn Beck's little shindig and I thought that explaining my more general views in advance would be helpful.  It's also meant to better explain a discussion I had earlier on the DiA blog about trying to reframe the debate between faith and reason, which I don't think is a good opposition because many people arrive at faith through reason.

What I do think is in opposition is reason and emotion as starting points.  Reason leads to questioning everything, through this questioning things worth believing in and having faith in are found.    This faith and belief is always being refined and is never a static set of beliefs, there is an understanding that further questioning will lead to the further evolution of these beliefs as more about the world is discovered.  Reason leads to faith in systems or processes, it is the approach and the honest questioning that is necessary to make sense of the world around us.  Of course this process can lead to emotional attachments but this is an end and not a beginning.  This form of faith is both robust and flexible, since it was found through exploration of the world this faith changes and grows as the world is experienced so change is often seen as an affirmation of faith rather than a threat to it.

Emotion is different.  Starting from emotional attachments leads to a different way of engaging with the world.  Truths are felt, not reached through questioning.  Questioning and reason become a means of discovering how to get the world to evolve towards these emotionally held beliefs, not a way of discovering these beliefs.  Emotion becomes tied up with identity, identity is not something that is built but something intrinsic to be protected and valued.  There remains evolution through this approach but it is an evolution of how the world is engaged with through this emotional principles rather than an evolution of the principles themselves.  This approach leads to a faith not in the system of questioning but instead a faith in the principles that are a starting point for questioning and understanding the world around us.

These approaches lead to very different kinds of faith.  It is the second type that is generally being referred to as faith in the faith vs. reason debates.  However, this is inaccurate because faith can be as easily found through reason as it is through emotion but the starting point leads to some very different ways of expressing both.  This can also be applied to political ideology.  My next post, likely tomorrow will take up that topic.

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