Embracing the Irrational?

Life_of_Pi-1I finally got around to watching “Life of Pi” this week.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the statement that it was beautifully filmed. It is clearly a great picture, and deserves to be praised on those grounds.

But I completely reject the central message.

Just to get it out of the way, this isn’t because the lead character “practices” several contradictory religions. Yes, that is impossible, and promotes a certain relativism about religion that is far too popular, but I wasn’t too surprised by that.

In fact, the story really got to the core of that position.

That is, it promoted the idea that it is belief itself, not the truth of our beliefs, that matters.

This is a certain kind of fideism. That is, faith as many atheists like to define it (“belief without evidence”). While such belief can give us hope and a sense of purpose (neither of which should be underestimated), it divides our minds further into the distinct compartments of intellect and emotion.

Those that take this view of spirituality are double minded. On the one side, he believes, but on the other, he knows he has no rational reason for that belief. On this schema, which side is dominant is the only difference between the passionate believer and the passionate atheist. Both are deeply committed to half of themselves, and one is suspicious that the impatience each has with any who disagree is something more than impatience.

Rather, this type seems always to be arguing with the half of himself that he doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Any philosophy worth living needs to be more holistic than that. It needs to to be both grounded in reason and speak to the real issues of life. It needs to reunite the warring factions of the mind.

And that brings me to my definition of “faith”: the coming to personally accept and live out the logical consequences of what one claims intellectually.

Whether one calls this practice “faith” or not, this is the approach we need. Neither bold fideism nor demanding evidence while living relativism is a path to what Jung called individuation. It is a path from, rather than toward, enlightenment.

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2 responses to “Embracing the Irrational?

  • Mark Hamilton

    I have to agree. When I was younger it always frustrated me that faith seems to be popularly defined as “believing something without (or dispite of) the evidence.” I hated it so much when some character on a TV show or in a movie would say something like “Even though you can’t know, you still got to believe. That’s what faith is all about.” Ugh!

    It was a breath of fresh air when I discovered C.S. Lewis’ description of faith in his book Mere Christianity. “…my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anaesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.” I knew I had found the true definition of faith at least. Faith isn’t about believing in what you know isn’t true. It’s about trusting that what you rationally know is true really is true when the chips are down.

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