Faith VS. Reason
I believe that by definition faith and reason contradict each other, causing them to be incompatible. A person who relies on reason to interpret reality is using logic, probability, and induction to arrive at conclusions about the world. The use of faith, by definition, is to go against these principles. It is to believe in or arrive at a conclusion that is not the most reasonable option, thus why it is an act of faith.
Faith is not simply an alternative way of coming to sound conclusions, equal to reason but applicable in different situations. Faith is only plausible as a basis for beliefs if the use of reason is not a viable option. When a position is based upon reason, then the validity and adoption of that position is determined by the strength of the logic, evidence, and arguments that it consists of. When the reasons are strong, then belief should be strong; conversely, when the reasons are weak, then belief should be weak as well. The same, however, cannot be said for the use of faith. When a position is based upon faith, it is by definition arbitrary. To say your belief or conclusion is based on faith is to admit it is not the most reasonable or logically sound choice.
The majority of religions are a good example of faith, since many actually preach faith as an important virtue. If you say you can't understand why God would let innocent people die, or animals get abused, or anything else, they state you're not supposed to understand why. You're supposed to just believe, to simply take it on faith. Believe without reason, without evidence, and without understanding. Richard Dawkins, an avid supporter of the use of reason over faith went as far as to say: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” This is in direct contrast with reason; reason requires evidence to form a conclusion. It doesn't ignore or evade known facts. It is a process by which you try to formulate a conclusion based on an analysis of all the facts. It absolutely never accepts anything without causation or sound reason.
Another issue when discussing the compatibility of faith and reason is if you accept an idea on faith, it can conflict with the ideas you've accepted with reason. To comprehend and integrate the different ideas, you have to reconcile those beliefs. That means either discarding the ideas based on faith and staying true to reason, or more likely throwing out reason and sticking with the ideas formed by faith. Imagine you are analyzing a thought or theory with reason and the outcome of your analysis conflicts with your faith. If you ignore the contradiction and accept it anyway, you'll be undermining your reasoning process. Reason requires a logical exploration of the data, weeding out any contradictions it finds. If you allow the contradiction anyway, you'll have to suspend your reasoning ability. And that means you'll be accepting the new idea, not on reason as it very well might be justified by, but on faith. Faith grows, and reason recedes. If, on the other hand you don't ignore the contradiction, but accept it as valid, you'll use your reasoning method on incorrect facts. An example of this can be taken from critics of creationism. If you accept that the universe was created a few thousand years ago, as the bible says, then you have to start interpreting actual facts in this light. When you see the dinosaur bones, you'll have to imagine that god put them in the earth to trick everyone or another explanation that lacks sound reasoning. If you evaluate everything by use of reason, and remove faith from your thought processes, you will find your self closer to the truth on most issues.
I believe it is important to discern between religion and faith, and their uses. While I feel blind faith over sound reasoning has no place in today’s society, I do believe that religion does play a useful role. While I do not advocate subscribing to the faith aspect of religions, many do have very positive and uplifting messages that have helped many people. Perhaps this is why many are willing to suspend reason for faith. DNS