There are many arguments concerning the notion of faith versus reason that should be discussed in a conversation about religion and it’s role. The problem with some of these arguments, coming from a person of faith, is an inherent misunderstanding of the difference between faith and reason; faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof, while reason is the power to comprehend, discern, and think rationally. For a person of reason, there is no battle between faith and reason. That is as ridiculous as saying there is a contest between astronomy and astrology for which has a better explanation for reality. There are two specific aspects of the argument of faith vs. reason that I would like to go over briefly and then relate to the roles of religion.
One argument stems from an individual who denounces faith and claims to employ only reason. For this person there tends to be a great deal of confusion concerning why another individual would ignore the basic truths about our world and choose to have faith in something that is not only unprovable, but in many cases has been shown to be false. There is a claim that the problem for those who hold faith over fact is their basic lack of intelligence that those who employ reason do not lack. The question that must be asked at the end of that line of thinking is: is that a choice, or is the ignorance of evidence a deeply ingrained aspect of their taught belief system? The answer must be somewhere in between.
The next argument that sheds some light on the first comes from the side of those who believe in the ‘power’ of faith: there tends to be an assertion from them that those who claim to employ only reason are in fact indulging in faith just like those who openly claim to have faith; faith that what the scientists say is true, faith that there is no god, etc. A concept that should be addressed concerning this issue and that can be applied to this type of thinking in general is that: the people who have a specific belief system are looking for a similar set-up in the schemas of others, meaning that: an individual who believes that the bible is the infallible written word of the Abrahamic god is looking for that same structure of belief in other people. This type of person cannot imagine a life not based entirely around a specific concept to the point of not being able to recognize the other ways of thinking at all. People who recognize the importance of scientific research and theories are not taking the words of a single scientist to be the infallible word of all things. The findings of scientific research are discovered via the scientific method, and theories are hypothesis that have proven to be true as well as being able to be applied to other phenomena that were not originally thought to be connected, these findings are also peer reviewed. These basic scientific terms are generally not understood by the people who are espousing their triviality, for example: “evolution is just a theory.” This is a flaw in thinking so fundamental that as people who may want to help educate others we cannot dismiss it as simple stupidity.
The roles that religions play in the societies of today vary according to who is talking about them. In general from a person of faiths perspective their religion (decidedly NOT the religions of others) is capable of saving them, and all of us, from eternal damnation and delivering us to the eternal love of their deity. From a person of reasons perspective, all religions are promoting ignorance and hindering people in life, life being our only available experience. Religion can be seen as a preoccupation with death and the afterlife that makes learning about the physical realities of our world, our minds, ourselves and each other not only meaningless to these individuals, but a viable threat to their belief system-the only thing that will save them from hell and send them to heaven. The conclusion that can be derived is that fear plays an undeniable role in the act of willful ignorance. Fear of punishment protects the belief system of the individual who lives under the fabricated and terrifying microscope of their deity. The investigation of reality could be seen by their deity as a an affront. After all, all the information the deity wanted his creation to have was put down in it’s holy book, right? A person who believes in hell, and believes that their god is watching them at all times may consciously and subconsciously put up a wall to investigation and information out of fear for their immortal soul.