An Old Absolute Newly Discovered – (A series of 5 articles)
Part 2 – REASON AND THE NEW PHILOSOPHY OF THE NON-RATIONAL
By way of introduction, the objective in this second part in my series on rational atheism is twofold. First, it is to demonstrate that, regardless of the position one takes, be it religious or not, every person without exception faces a common dilemma with respect to finding rational meaning in existence. A number of questions are involved in this quest: Why is the universe here? Why are we humans in it and conscious of it? What is the reason, if such exists, for all the adversity that human beings endure? Or is our coming into life, our suffering through it and, in time, our slipping away into the oblivion of death totally meaningless?
The second aspect of our objective is to show that just as we all without exception face a common dilemma of ultimate rational meaning, we all face an unavoidable reliance on faith to give us such meaning. Faith is not the exclusive domain of religion. For example, rationalist scientists and rationalist atheists have historically put faith in human reason and empirical science. They trust-i.e., go on faith-that reason and science will in time explain everything and satisfy all human needs. This has not happened yet. But the rationalist has faith that someday it will.
The atheistic and irrationalist postmodernists, who are discussed below, likewise go on faith that their philosophy of nihilism is the final conclusion to the dilemma of ultimate meaning. By putting their faith in nihilism, they believe that the ultimate meaning of existence is that it has no meaning. This absolute negation has not been proven with objective or scientific certainty. Subjectively, however, postmodernists have faith that their philosophical conclusion is correct.
As for the Christian, everyone knows of their faith in God. For them, God is the meaning of existence. In this and the following parts of this series, I will speak about these three ways of faith-rationalism, postmodernism and Christianity. I will attempt to show why of these three, a well-informed, healthy and mature Christian faith is the most hopeful, relevant and congruent answer not only to find the meaning of existence but to discover the true nature of reality.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE NEW PHILOSOPHY OF THE NON-RATIONAL
The philosophy of the non-rational is a philosophy only in a loose, non-technical sense and can perhaps be better described simply as a way of understanding or looking at human and all universal existence. The philosophy of the non-rational simply says that all of life and the events it experiences and all that has being in the entire universe is in the end (or the final analysis) non-rational at its core. This conceptual non-rational is such a universal and dominating absolute that no type of human rationality (or reason) and no theist or atheist of any class or variety or combination thereof can change it.
On the contrary, it is the absoluteness of the non-rational that eventually changes and humbles all things to itself and sweeps off the face of the earth every human and animal life in the death that is appointed to all. As such, the non-rational is a dilemma that rich and poor, foolish and wise, sage and barbarian, theists, atheists and nihilists all face without exception. There is absolutely no discrimination here. The big question is how we individually cope with both the unavoidability and inevitability that the non-rational brings crushingly into our conscious life.
Considered in view of this backdrop, rationalist atheism is the simplistic, hopeless, drop-bottom dreg way of coping. Seeing the apparent irrationality of rancid religion’s way of coping, and not realizing that such apparent irrationality is but the non-rational working its way in religion, rationalist atheism simplistically concludes that in the face of such non-rational religion and other non-rationality in life and the universe, the god or gods of religion simply cannot exist.
But, paradoxically, atheistic, irrationalist nihilism is a hopeful step toward rationalism’s return to religious faith. Nihilism is rationalism in despair. To the extent that it exists, nihilism represents rationalism’s final despair and abandonment of its futile, foolish and hopeless utopian quest for a reasonable and rational world and universe. So while rationalist atheism is still hung up and bogged down with Unreality 101, which is the fossil of methodical human reason and logic as a cure-all for the world, the nihilist post-modernists have already advanced to Reality 102, which is one step closer to the Christian philosophy of the non-rational. Despair over one’s foolish self-delusions has to set in after all, before one is prepared to give second thought to the stability overlooked while rushing hell-bent in a heady, reckless and foolish pursuit of the impossible and unreal.
So much for summary, now for the details:
In our secular realm, when it comes to determining what is true, reasonable, and good, we live in a time when relativism has increasingly become the authoritative norm. Everything seems to be approached pragmatically. If your lifestyle or beliefs-whatever they may be-seem to be working for you and it makes you happy, good for you. Stay with it. But don’t think that your way is the only way. Others may find contentment doing or believing something else. And if your lifestyle is causing you problems, you just need to find something that works better for you and makes you happy. In either case, you’re on your own to figure out and determine your own happiness.
The appeal of this point of view is the high degree of libertarian freedom and tolerance for diversity that it promotes. It encourages every individual to make up their own “truth” and reality. The downside is that such a culture has no firm moral center around which the community as a whole can unite. Everything seems to float in a void that promotes a destructive form of individualism. The end result is a gradual drift-seemingly by default-toward an ever lowering of the quality of life and behavior, a prevalence of narcissism and loneliness and a pervasive brokenness in the human community.
Before this culture of relativism came on the scene, the dominant culture was that of rationalism, a philosophical movement that rose out of Christian culture beginning with the Enlightenment period in the 18th century. This historical period was the so-called “Age of Reason” that gave birth to the idea that through the systematic, logical thinking of human reason alone, ignorance, superstition, and tyranny could be abolished and a better, reasonable and rational world could be built. This was the rationalist belief back then and it remains the rationalist belief of today among rationalist scientists, scholars and atheists. Two centuries past its birth, this modern notion is still searching for its elusive, liberal and “progressive” rationalist utopia.
Rising as it did from Christian culture, rationalism retained the Christian belief in universal authority and universal truth. It also retained Christianity’s social moral rules. But it rejected belief in God as that which determined these things. Instead of God and his revelation in Scripture, rationalism saw universal authority and universal truth attainable through methodical and systematic logic and reason, and through science as the product of such logical reasoning. In this connection, rationalism rejected as well the Christian belief in a mysterious existence.
Christianity has believed that existence as a whole can never be totally explained or understood in human, rational terms. As such, there is for Christianity unavoidable mystery in life. But it copes with this non-rational dilemma by trusting, quite optimistically, that God is behind all such mystery and in control of everything with everything planned for an ultimate climax of good to those who will put their faith on this hopeful religious view.
Rationalism also retained the Christian optimism, but only in the aspect of believing in ultimate order and ultimate meaning, though based solely on the presumed power of human reason and rationalist science to provide this. In other words, it did not involve the Christian belief in mystery of existence that only God can know or in God’s ultimate climax of good for those who will trust in his abiding goodness as a reality, in spite of the non-rational in life that they see.
According to rationalism, reason and its science would explain the so-called mysteries of existence, as well as its order and its truth. So this new optimism of Enlightenment rationalism, as opposed to the prior-existing one of Christianity, became one that refused to see existential mysteries as mysteries in the ways of God but as challenges that reason and scientific knowledge would eventually explain and overcome.
As for social morality, the values which rationalism retained from Christianity were especially those that are of concern to human relations and the maintenance of an orderly and peaceful society. The presumption was that such a moral order was inherently reasonable and possessed a self-evident necessity which did not need religion to legitimize or explain.
But as we now are witnessing, rationalism was but a passing phase in culture. Eventually, it was itself set aside by thoughtful people emerging from its ranks. The result is today’s relativism, or what is now being called “postmodernism.” Postmodernism is discussed with more detail in a future part of this series. In this and the next part, I will focus on the die-hard fossil of rationalism.
RATIONALISM: AN ENLIGHTENMENT RELIC
In what follows below, numerous references will be made to words such as rational, rationality, rationalists, and rationalism. For the purpose of this discussion, that which is rational is defined as anything that is seen as logical or reasonable, after the manner that human beings have generally conceived of this. Rationality will stand for human reason, and rationalists are those who practice and adhere to such rationalism. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines rationalism as “the practice of accepting [human] reason as the only authority in determining one’s opinions or course of action.” We will go with this basic definition.
When rationalism made a break with the Christian faith and took control of the secular culture it created, it naively assumed as inevitable the unfolding of a new and progressive social order. Starting with the Enlightenment period, the Grand Age of Rationalism and of Newtonian science, religion, perceived as the enemy of progress, would be marginalized. Empirical science and reason, not God, would be both the authority and the salvation of humanity. Hunger, illiteracy and poverty would be banished and a golden age of peace among nations would emerge.
The First World War (1914-1918) marked the beginning of the end for this heady optimism of Enlightenment rationalism and its liberal/progressive philosophy, though not the end of rationalism itself. You will find a lot of academicians, scientists and atheists still clinging, as to floating remnants of a shipwreck, to the dying, futile and foolish progressive dream of rationalism. Such irrationality experienced in World War I in so widespread and brutal a scale all but wiped out the then existing Enlightenment optimism and its faith in the supremacy of reason and the inevitability of scientific progress.
The Second World War, following close behind with a greater irrational ferocity, became the final blow for many who had entertained the foolish rationalist dream. Thus, while rationalism itself survived (just barely) the headiness it received from the Enlightenment period is hardly to be seen anywhere. Moreover, quantum theory, now slowly getting to be known by the masses, continues to have a profound sobering effect on many rationalist scientists and academic scholars who are exposed to its findings and their dramatic (if not shocking) philosophical implications concerning the nature of consciousness and of objective (or external) reality.
By the end of the Second World War, the foundations for nihilistic postmodernism were already in place. The movement burst dramatically into the open with the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, bringing to an end (within rationalism’s secular culture) the “traditional” social values upheld by both Christianity and rationalism. Nonetheless, having in its beginning left behind the authority of God and Scripture, the empirical or scientific method guided by reason continued to be upheld by rationalism as that which would determine what is true, real and believable. Faith in a supernatural order was put on the same level as superstition. This was the atheistic rationalism of Sigmund Freud, who appears to be one of the last major champions of the now antiquated, rationalistic Enlightenment philosophy.
A main objective in this part of my series on rational atheism is to begin a demonstration that will put into more doubt the grandiose, historic claims of rationalism, with those of modern, atheistic rationalism particularly in mind. As already noted, these rationalist claims have involved the belief that human reason with its methodical logic is inherently capable of finding correct answers to the riddles and difficulties of life without the need to rely on anything else-definitely not religion or religious faith.
In this rationalist assumption is the naÃ¯ve and totally unfounded belief that, with certain safeguards, reason can be wholly objective. As such, reason is seen as being capable of operating free from subjective bias or pre-disposition, thus necessarily yielding truthful conclusions. A great number of thoughtful people, not necessarily all religious, no longer believe this. But for the sake of die-hards who still hang on to the foolish and futile dream of rationalism, I will here give more reasons why the pursuit of utopian-minded rationalism is a fruitless, dead-end pursuit and those who follow this relic of the past have either been conned or have deluded themselves to believe such nonsense.
I will begin my demonstration by employing what I call “the principle of non-rationality.” Explaining non-rationality in the context that I do is particularly important since it addresses practical issues of life to which everyone can relate.
THE PRINCIPLE OF NON-RATIONALITY
The principle of non-rationality involves the Christian belief that existence as a whole does not make sense to human reason. Existence is, in other words, non-rational. Parting company with modern rationalism, atheistic postmodernism has reached the same Christian conclusion. So, in this respect, postmodernism is in agreement with basic Christian belief, though not with Christianity’s faith in God as the solution to this rational dilemma.
The objective in what follows is to demonstrate graphically why Christians believe as they do with respect to the non-rational in existence. It is also to show the limited nature of human reason and rationalist science in their ability to cope with the non-rational.
Given this objective, two possible responses will become evident. One either comes to believe pessimistically, as postmodernists do, that existence is irrational at its core and there is therefore no God to explain it. Or one comes to believe optimistically, as in Christianity, that all apparent irrationality in existence is but a reflection of a non-rational God working his non-rational ways in creation, paradoxically yet purposely; moreover, that we can happily participate in this work of God and that we can do this by means of a faith (which is itself a non-rational human faculty) that trusts in God’s abiding goodness as a reality-notwithstanding the non-rational-while it seeks a serene and peaceful blending with his non-rational ways in creation.
In passing, we may note that, in its pessimism and negativity, postmodern philosophy is a philosophy of hopelessness and alienation. Having come out of rationalism, it is rationalism finally throwing up its hands and quitting in despair. No longer believing that ultimate, rational meaning can be found in universal existence, this rationalism of the past has ceased from seeking it. But in so doing, it has alienated humanity, setting it adrift from the rest of the universe to which it belongs.
Such alienation of postmodernism raises a question: Why should anyone think, as postmodernists do, that human beings are so special they can stand alone and apart from the universe, of which they are but a minuscule part, and pass judgment on this universe as being irrational? This is not a case of a humanity that is rationally pure standing up against a non-rational universe. Human beings are not so unique. If universal existence is non-rational, which I make the point that it is, then so are human beings since they are but a part of non-rational existence. Thus Paul, referring to the non-rationality he saw in himself, reflective of all human beings (particularly in how one’s moral actions can betray [or not follow perfectly] one’s ethical beliefs), exclaimed, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want [i.e., that which I believe in ethically], but I do the very thing I hate” (Ro. 7:15 NRSV).
Like it or not, as an integral part of the universe, the universe is in us as in everything else. As such, it forcefully carries us along, enveloped and immersed in a non-rationality of our own, to share its destiny. Thus, unlike postmodernism, Christianity blends in and makes peace with this non-rational universe by seeing and accepting its non-rational workings as the workings of an invisible, non-rational God that is both within and beyond his non-rational creation.
Furthermore, Christian faith goes on to trust that this non-rational God has revealed his will to us and is carrying everything toward a peaceful ending for those who put their trust in him. Historically and empirically, this revelation, embraced by a duly informed Christianity, began with the revelation God made to the Jews in Old Testament history. Christianity, viewed as a Jewish religion on the basis of its beginnings, therefore pins all its hopes on the empirical historicity of Jewish Old Testament history. If it can be proven that such Jewish history is an empirical hoax, then and then only will Christianity be proven to be a hoax as well.
We now turn to enlarge on the nature of non-rationality to show why rationalist belief, atheist or non-atheist, is in error; why and how, in other words, every human being is inextricably locked in a universe that for human rationality is unchangeably and perplexingly non-rational.
IRRATIONALITY AND NON-RATIONALITY
The principle of non-rationality touches the life of every person. As I expand on this, we will see why some would rather call this principle the principle of irrationality. I prefer to use the term “non-rationality” because of the nature of the phenomenon to which the word refers.
Both irrationality and non-rationality refer to that which is not rational-that is, anything that fails to make rational sense. In this essential aspect, non-rationality seems no different than irrationality. But the two become quite distinct when we consider that irrationality, on the one hand, presupposes that everything that fails to make rational sense is therefore without meaning or purpose. Such a facile conclusion is an anachronistic throwback to worn out and decrepit Enlightenment sentiments and presuppositions.
Non-rationality, on the other hand, does not say that those things that fail to make rational sense are without meaning or purpose. It simply says that such meaning or purpose may exist as a mystery, and, as such, beyond the ability of human rationality to grasp and know. Hence, for non-rationality, what appears rationally senseless or absurd is not for that reason irrational; rather, it is simply non-rational. Several concrete examples of non-rational events are identified and discussed below.
While its recognition and acceptance can become for many a necessary prelude to a healthy faith in God, the non-rationality principle will not of itself necessarily lead anyone to such faith. It all depends on how an individual interprets the principle in its concrete manifestations and acts on that interpretation. When non-rationality is interpreted simply as irrationality or absurdity, it may quite easily be a prelude that leads to postmodern, agnostic or atheistic unbelief. For this reason, the principle of non-rationality is for some actually meaningless. Among these we will find atheists who are categorized as belonging to a formally recognized school of philosophy referred to as “irrationalism.1”
More is said below concerning irrationalism as a philosophy. For now, we need to examine some relevant aspects of human reason (or rationality) so as to clearly understand what non-rationality involves. We start with the universal human quest for happiness. The words “utopia” or “utopian” will appear repeatedly below (perhaps a redundancy for some) in reference to this quest.
RATIONALITY AND THE UTOPIAN QUEST
The opposite of the non-rationality principle is rationality or reason. Rationality or reason is practiced by human beings-at times in opposition to non-rationality when seeking orderly to overcome its domain and at times in cooperation with it when it sees it has no choice but simply to alleviate its harshness and somehow cope with it in humble acquiescence.
In view of these two conflicting opposites of subjective human reason and objective non-rationality, which in the mind of rational humans, are constantly at odds with one another, we are ready to move on and say that total or universal existence as we know it can be viewed as consisting of two spheres, the rational and the non-rational, rationality and non-rationality. The sphere of rationality is limited to the boundaries of our brain-more precisely, to that of our conscious mind. This is the only place it exists. So we say that human rationality, being only in the human mind, is a completely subjective sphere in universal existence insofar as human beings are concerned.
On the other hand, the sphere of non-rationality is comprised of everything that exists outside the human mind. Further along we will see in what way non-rationality also invades the mind while remaining distinct from rationality. But, for now, we will refer only to non-rational existence outside the mind.
The non-rational sphere outside (or external) to the mind would include our bodies with all their physical structures and chemical processes. It would also extend to everything else that exists in our world and universe. Consequently, whereas rationality is subjective, non-rationality outside the mind is, in the most complete sense of the word, a truly objective sphere in universal existence, that is, relative to the subjectivity in our minds. In this sense, such objective non-rationality is what it is, a mysterious and largely unpredictable, absolute reality and absolute truth. This describes what I have been referring to as the non-rational absolute, which from the Christian perspective represents, or is another word, for the immanent God in creation, a God who at the same time is also transcendent or above all creation, thus avoiding the error of pantheists.
As far as we can perceive, no other creatures in the world possess the subjective rationality of human beings. Animals seem to possess what on superficial observation may appear similar to human rationality, but it is actually something of a different order. It is a type of consciousness that is so bound to instinctual forces it possesses little freedom. By and large, animals are driven slavishly by their instincts. Applying their instinctual “rationality,” for example, birds will build their nests, beavers their dams, and other wild beasts will find caves or holes in which to protect themselves. No one has to teach them these things.
With this same instinct-bound rationality, animals will maneuver themselves predictably as they engage in mating, feeding, attacking, fleeing, or playing. It is because these behaviors are for the most part instinct-driven that they are in their manifest forms largely predictable and unchanging for each species.
Only humans, on the other hand, have a conscious rationality that possesses such creative freedom and freedom from blind instinct that it is capable of questioning its own existence and behavior. The superb creative freedom and power of rationality enables human beings to be innovative, seeking and finding new and better ways to improve their comfort, happiness, and safety. Human rationality creates science and technology with which it constructs marvels that are tangible monuments to the wondrous uniqueness of rationality.
When we consider the drive in human rationality toward an ever improving condition of life, it is not too difficult to see that inherent to human rationality is an implicit drive for utopian existence. For our purpose here, we define utopia as a state of being where the living environment is free from anything hurtful, threatening, disappointing, or frustrating.
At a level everyone can understand, the utopian drive in human rationality was manifested and eloquently articulated in the song, “If I Ruled the World,” from the 1965 musical, Pickwick. Following are a few lines from that song:
“If I ruled the world, every man would say the world was his friend. There’d be happiness that no man could end. No my friend, not if I ruled the world. Every head would be held up high. There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world.”
Would not this utopian world from Pickwick be a reasonable and rational world? Who in all sane rationality would reject such an environment? Thus it is clear that human rationality and a quest for utopian happiness are inherently inseparable. Such separation, in other words, is totally impossible. To possess rationality is to possess a utopian drive.
But the arts are not the only place where we have seen the utopian drive of rationality manifest itself in history. We have seen it expressing itself in major political movements driven by a misguided (if not evil) Enlightenment rationalism seeking to bring about a golden era for humanity. Thus, the Enlightenment-inspired, socialist movements that in the end culminated in Marxist communism are a most dramatic example of this. Marxism was a highly rationalistic movement that exalted science, denigrated religion and looked forward with the most profound naÃ¯vetÃ© to an eventual state of economic prosperity and personal satisfaction where everyone would happily contribute according to their ability and be certain to receive according to their needs.
The utopian drive in healthy human rationality can be a real blessing. It motivates people to improve their lot in life through diligent application of resources at hand and through creative innovations. On the other hand, human rationality and its utopian drive can become problematical when rationality becomes absolutized.
How do we absolutize rationality? We do it when we become so enamored and fixated on the importance we place on our rationality that we lose sight of its subjective and therefore limited or finite nature. Under such a mental state, we delude ourselves into assuming that our rationality is not merely a subjective principle limited to the confines of our mind and brain. Rather, we believe it is a principle that should rule everywhere in objective or external existence. For instance, every dictator and despot, such as Stalin or Hitler, and every dogmatic rationalist atheist, such as Marx or Freud absolutizes rationality.
We absolutize our rationality when we project it outside our brain seeking to remove anything in objective reality (or non-rationality) that our reasoning considers irrational. In this way, we delude ourselves into believing that our rationality should prevail over anything in objective reality that gets in the way of our utopian expectations.
Under the same delusion, we also curse and pass judgment on objective reality when it refuses to fall in line with the wishes or sentiments of our rationality. This becomes so individualized that the rationality of all other human beings can at times be perceived by each of us as irrationality. This happens when others fail or refuse to think or believe as we do. As such, each of us carries in our subjective rationality our own individualized utopian agenda.
The utopian drive in our rationality is so intense that we have a naturally low level of patience when it is frustrated, humbled, or otherwise rebuffed. At times like these we may do well to just let things be and accept that the greater reality that rules in existence is not our subjective rationality with its utopian cravings. It is non-rationality. In such moments, non-rationality becomes a principle which, like it or not, inevitably subordinates to itself human rationality with all its utopian ambitions.
NON-RATIONALITY AS HARSH REALITY
We have noted that the principle of non-rationality involves the view that, in its fundamental and total understanding, existence as we know it and everything that takes place therein, never has and never will be explainable in human terms; human terms, that is, which depend on human reason alone to explain and make sense of it. In the words of Roquentin, the hero of Sartre’s novel, Nausea, “The world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence.”2 Under this Sartrean view, which is a precursor to postmodern thought, all our rationalist philosophers, atheists and empirical scientists have engaged in a futile search for a final rational explanation of existence.
Sartre, of course, the brilliant and perceptive irrationalist atheist that he was, is but one among other thinkers in the past who have reached the conclusion that, rationally speaking, existence as a whole is ultimately irrational and absurd. Joining Sartre in this belief have been such thinkers as Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Albert Camus.
But one does not have be an irrationalist atheist to arrive at the conclusion that life as it appears to subjective human rationality is governed by non-rational forces. People of religious faith, such as Blaise Pascal and Soren Kierkegaard, have in their own way reached the same conclusion. This general way of looking at existence has been articulated by enough prominent thinkers in the West to have earned itself a label as a school of philosophy in its own right; this is the philosophy mentioned earlier and referred to as “irrationalism.” Pascal and Kierkegaard have been included in this school of thought.
It is understandably consistent that atheists such as Sartre have been included as irrationalists. But, based on the distinction I made earlier between irrationality and non-rationality, the inclusion of people of biblical religious faith as philosophical irrationalists is consistent only in the sense that both atheistic and religious irrationalists would agree that, in its totality, existence makes no sense to subjective human reason. Beyond this, they would, of course, part company on the issue of purpose and meaning. In this disagreement, the religious irrationalist would then be more correctly defined as someone who espouses non-rationalism rather than irrationalism.
Non-rationality in existence manifests itself in more than one way. In human existence, for example, it manifests itself in all the tragic and seemingly absurd events that take place adversely affecting the lives and environment of human beings. When considering the fact that these things happen, some will simply say, “It’s just that we live in an imperfect world,” a remark that betrays how innate to human rationality is the concept of utopia, such that it is capable of making this relative judgment of objective reality, seeking to differentiate itself as distinct from and opposite to such reality.
But if there is no God to give explanations, as the postmodern will say, why should the world be perfect? Moreover, who says and by what authority, that such a world should make sense? Only the rationalist, utopian thinking that human beings possess could arrive at this. But why does the human mind possess such a rational inclination when the rest of existence is non-rational? Is such a mind a freak of nature? Rationalists in their naÃ¯vetÃ© have not grasped the existential significance of this disparity and how it calls into question their belief in the superiority of the mind’s subjective and utopian rationality.
The postmoderns can only declare that this confirms their belief that life is absurd. So why take life serious? From this point of view, it is all the more reason why we should not be concerned about what is right or wrong. There is no such thing. So why not just “do our own thing.” In the meantime, non-rationality rolls forward undisturbed by all these subjective sentiments and conclusions. Such are the ways of the non-rational God, who rolls on to accomplish his non-rational ends, totally unmoved and appearing indifferent to all human subjectivity.
So where is truth? Why the great disparity between subjective utopian rationality and objective non-rational existence? For the Christian, such a conflicting phenomenon between human subjective rationality and objective, external, non-rational reality indicates that there is within human beings a rational, divine element that is capable of standing distinct from objective non-rational existence through faith, and through that non-rational faith also understanding the true nature of non-rational existence as the workings of the immanent God. Such a rational, divine element is not overcome by non-rational reality, but dwells persistently within its midst. This divine element is the human spirit, a spiritual being which had its origin emerge from the very being of God, who, as Eternal Father, originally gave it birth (He. 12:9).
The fact of rationality is then for Christianity concrete evidence that God exists. Since rationality-which is of the spirit-came from God, it is understandable that its nature reflects, however imperfectly, divine sentiments, of which are the utopian longings we speak of. Viewed in this light, existence as a whole is not as simplistic as rationalist scientists and atheists have wanted us to believe, nor is it absurd as postmodernists have pessimistically declared. It is simply the creation of a non-rational God.
In what follows immediately below, and for reasons of making my point with respect to rationalism, I speak at the level of rationalism-that is, as if God was not around and for that reason the concept of God being irrelevant to explain the dilemmas of life. In this context, we see non-rationality external to our minds frustrating our utopian-driven rationality when human beings experience tsunamis, earthquakes, famines, plagues, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other destructive forces in nature that come with little or no warning, creating heavy destruction and loss of human life.
We may know something about the forces that causes such things as tornadoes and earthquakes, but objective non-rationality fails to give us an apparent reason for why these things happen when they do. They simply just happen. Those who are affected and survive are simply left stunned and grieving over their losses.
The grief over natural catastrophes becomes all the more intense for us humans because our rationality can only operate in utopian terms. Unlike instinctual animals, we grieve not only for the pain and destruction such devastations cause in our lives but also because our incurably utopian rationality finds itself violated by such sudden catastrophes. When thus denied, rationality cries out, “Why?” “Why does it have to be this way?” “Why does all this have to happen?” The sense of tragedy deepens when, in response, non-rationality appears as a stone wall, relentlessly and ruthlessly cold, silent and indifferent.
We also see non-rationality rule in world politics. In our utopian rationalism we naively expect that national leaders will care for the interests of the people they lead. Instead, we find corruption and self-interest rule. As a result, people are exploited and at times subjected to various forms of mass deception, denials of basic human rights, torture, and death by self-serving despots and regimes. In many such instances, the so-called civilized nations fail to interfere because of self-interests of their own.
We see non-rationality in our cities in so many ways. We are driving on our rationally designed highways in a rational way expecting in our rational utopian thinking to get to our destination peacefully. Suddenly, a drunk driver runs a red light and slams into our car. Or we go to a store to buy milk. Suddenly, someone with a gun enters and scares us or does something worse as the person proceeds to commit a robbery. On a peaceful Tuesday morning in the month of September, we take the elevator to reach our office in a modern downtown skyscraper that was designed by the finest rational engineering. Suddenly, waves of passenger aircraft flown by members of a rancid form of religion crash into our building and destroy it, cutting off the life of thousands of our fellow human beings. Non-rationality has thus intruded into our lives.
Or we drive through a slum area and see deterioration and decay of all sorts: graffiti, empty lots full of weeds with wrecked, rusted, and partially dismantled vehicles lying abandoned. These were areas originally built by utopian driven rationality. But, in time, non-rationality prevailed.
We work hard to get ahead, but inflation keeps driving prices up so fast that it defeats us. Now we can’t buy a new car or a home of our own. It all seems so futile. But even the rich do not escape. Sooner or later, non-rationality comes knocking at their door in the form of old age, illness, or death. Thus the world was stunned to see Diana, Princess of Wales, killed in the prime of her life in such absurd circumstances.
At times, non-rationality comes to the rich and famous in the form of tabloids looking for scandal to sell to readers who can’t get enough of it. And so it goes. And so it has gone throughout human existence. Sooner or later, even if for a time it has given in to our rationality in a utopian way, non-rationality always returns, knocking at our door, dominating, humbling, and subduing us everywhere and in everything.
Closer to home, we see non-rationality ruling within individuals. We are led by the non-rationality of our base desires to do non-rational things, harming not only others but ourselves. As a result, we get in trouble with the law, or our human relations go sour, people divorce, families break down, children are abused.
Or we go to a government office seeking to comply peacefully with a legal requirement and are treated shabbily by a bureaucrat. Or we do good to someone and they in turn betray us. There is no end to human insensitivity, callousness, deceit, treachery, gossip, slander, jealousy, maliciousness, and criminality. Here again, non-rationality, not utopian rationality, rules in existence.
When we are young, we think youth will last long enough for us to fulfill our subjective utopian dreams. Instead, we fall quickly into dysfunction, and addictive behavior destroys our lives. Or we find ourselves so lacking in discipline, we marry and have children too soon, no time is left for study to secure a good career, old age creeps up fast, and we lose our golden chances.
Or we so discipline our lives in devotion to a career that, before we know it, we have allowed the most meaningful things in life to pass us by. And if all this is not enough, disease strikes us or our loved ones, and death enters in. Children are orphaned, widows are left behind, income level suffers, poverty sets in. We finally cry in despair, wondering what’s the sense to all this apparent absurdity.
When we consider these examples of what is a consistently prevailing human experience throughout all of human history and with no end in sight, rationalist scholars, scientists, academicians and atheists are shown pitifully naive when they extol methodical logic and reason and empirical science as the true saviors of humankind and insist that only what is congruent with reason, logic and empirical science is acceptable and that this alone is what’s going to save the world-if only everybody would listen!.
WOW! Talk about religious wishful thinking, what a rationalist utopian dream this is. Who then is the real wishful thinker now? Atheistic and rationalist science needs to hide its face in shame. The masses will eventually come to know of this rationalist hypocrisy.
Great rhetoric the rationalists have. But such rhetoric does not change the fact that non-rationality, not reason or rationality, inevitably prevails in everything, and that no human being, God or no God, theism or no atheism, can ever change this; at least, not in this world as we know it.
Rationalist atheists are in fact doubly naive. First, because they have deluded themselves and others into believing that rationality as a finite and subjective faculty is capable of triumphantly comprehending and overriding non-rational objective reality. Second, because they have deluded themselves and others into believing that reason or rationality can exist pure and unsullied by non-rationality.
In the first case, I have already demonstrated sufficiently why this belief is false. In the second case, I expect to demonstrate in a future part of this series that rationality cannot in any way exist as pure rationality; that, paradoxically, non-rationality invades even rationality itself.
NON-RATIONALITY AND THE NATURE OF MATTER
We are not yet done piling up on rationalism. This would not be complete without considering the fact that the very rationalist, empirical science that in the past giddily dreamed of someday deciphering the presumed “rational” nature of matter is now being shocked out of its feeble brain by the scandalous, absurd and spooky non-rational findings of quantum physics. The arrogant, rationalist quack, Sigmund Freud, would roll over his grave if could see what’s happening now with his Mighty Empirical Science, his presumed sure-fire religion killer.
Wait-a-minute…this is not the way the Enlightenment, rationalist script was supposed to play out. Nor is this what atheistic rationalist science was EMPIRICALY supposed to discover. Well SURPRISE boys and girls. Welcome to the real world!!! It is pervasively and incurably non-rational to the core…LITERALLY.
So what now, rationalist coaches and atheists? Got any other half-baked ideas you can try to beat down religion? All I can say to you rationalists is “LOTS OF LUCK!”
1 Paul Edwards, ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1967), s.v. “Irrationalism,” by Patrick Gardiner; see also Barrett, Irrational Man.
2 Cited by Gardiner in Edwards, ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. “Irrationalism.”
[tags]Garrisons World, John Garrison, Irrelevance of Rational Atheism, New Philosophy of the Non Rational, eNewsChannels columns, healthy faith in God[/tags]