What and How We Know or Faith and/or Reason or Living With Differences
"An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man" in This I Believe (1950).
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.
Warranted Christian Belief, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. vii.
Is [Christian] belief intellectually acceptable? In particular, is it intellectually acceptable for us, now; For educated and intelligent people in the twenty-first century, with all that has happened over the last four or five hundred years? Some will concede that Christian belief was acceptable and even appropriate for our ancestors, people who knew little of other religions, who knew nothing of evolution and our animal ancestry, nothing of contemporary subatomic physics and the strange, eerie, disquieting world it postulates, nothing of those great masters of suspicion, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, nothing of the acids of modern historical biblical criticism. But for us enlightened contemporary intellectuals (so the claim continues) things are wholly different, for people who know about those things (people of our rather impressive intellectual attainments), there is something naive and foolish, or perhaps bullheaded and irresponsible, or even vaguely pathological in holding onto such belief.
Warranted Christian Belief, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 63.
In religious belief as elsewhere, we must take our chances, recognizing that we could be wrong, dreadfully wrong. There are no guarantees; the religious life is a venture; foolish and debilitating error is a permanent possibility. (If we can be wrong, however, we can also be right.)
"Is Religion Built on Lies", a debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan at Belief.net (March 2007).
The reason I find fundamentalism so troubling — whether it is Christian, Jewish or Muslim — is not just its willingness to use violence (in the Islamist manifestation). It is its inability to integrate doubt into faith, its resistance to human reason, its tendency to pride and exclusion, and its inability to accept mystery as the core reality of any religious life. You find it troubling, I think, purely because it upholds truths that cannot be proved empirically or even, in some respects, logically. In that sense, of course, I think you have no reason to dislike or oppose it any more than you would oppose my kind of faith. Your argument allows for no solid distinctions within faiths; my argument depends on such distinctions.
Anonymous, cited in Evenings with Skeptics (Longmans, Green, Co: 1881), p. 53.
The complete self-surrender of the reason is a partially impossible and wholly self-deceptive operation. In this endeavour men act unconsciously on the principle of Ananias. Pretending to resign their whole intellect to a creed or dogma, they still by an uncontrollable instinct "keep back part of the price".
Anselm on Discernment said...
Cur Deus Homo ["Why God Became Man"]
The intelligent creature received the power of discernment for this purpose, that he might hate and shun evil, and love and choose good, and especially the greater good. For else in vain would God have given him that power of discernment, since man's discretion would be useless unless he loved and avoided according to it
"No Stone Will Be Left" in The Way to Love (Random House: 1995), pp. 61-6
Think of a flabby person covered with layers of fat. That is what your mind can become — flabby, covered with layers of fat till it becomes too dull and lazy to think, to observe, to explore, to discover. It loses its alertness, its aliveness, its flexibility and goes to sleep. Look around you and you will see almost everyone with minds like that: dull, asleep, protected by layers of fat, not wanting to be disturbed or questioned into wakefulness. ¶ What are these layers? Every belief that you hold, every conclusion you have reached about persons and things, every habit and every attachment. In your formative years you should have been helped to scrape off these layers and liberate your mind. Instead your society, your culture, which put these layers on your mind in the first place, has educated you to not even notice them, to go to sleep and let other people — the experts: your politicians, your cultural and religious leaders — do your thinking for you. So you are weighed down with the load of unexamined, unquestioned authority and tradition.
The Niomachean Ethics of Aristotle, trans. Robert William Browne (George Bell and Sons: 1889), pp. 252-4.
Now he that sees, perceives that he sees; and he that hears, that he hears; and he that walks, that he walks; and in every other case, in the same manner, there is some faculty which perceives that we are energizing; so that we perceive that we are perceiving, and understand that we are understanding. But this is the same as saying that we perceive or understand that we exist; for existence was defined to be perceiving, or understanding. Now, to perceive that one is alive, is of the number of those things which are pleasant in themselves: for life is a good by nature: and to perceive the good which is inherent in one's self is pleasant. But life is eligible, and particularly to the good, because existence is to them good and pleasant; for by the consciousness of that which is absolutely a good, they are pleased.
The Literal Meaning of Genesis 1.19.39, trans. John Hammond Taylor, Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation, ed. Johannes Quasten et al., vols. 41-42 (Newman Press: 1982), 41:42-43.
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds as certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.