Is religious faith reasonable? By reasonable I’m not saying that it’s low priced or even just acceptable. I’m using the word in an older definition of this. Can religious faith and reason dance together?
I think that this is a valid question because, increasingly, people are questioning whether there are any valid, rational reasons to have faith in God. Sadly, this is often a response to the increasing irrationality of much of modern day Christianity. This irrationality comes from a lot of places and each place is unique unto itself. My humble plan is to look at each group’s contribution to this.
I’m going to start with the church of my roots, the Roman Catholic Church.
A year ago or so the Pope summoned Bishops to Rome to have a ‘serious’ discussion on Holy Communion within the Roman Catholic Church. As Holy Communion, the Eucharist, is pretty central to Roman Catholic theology, this was a major event. For many people it was a sign of hope that perhaps the Roman Catholic Church was going to finally address some serious issues within their theological realm. And there were/are some serious issues.
The Eucharist is central to Roman Catholicism. The centrality of the Mass, the coming together of the people, and the literal re-enacting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is central to Roman Catholicism. Increasingly more churches are having to do without Sunday Morning Mass because there is a critical shortage of priests. Furthermore, this is an aging profession. In 1999, the last year they did a study, the average age of Roman Catholic priests in the United States was 60. No one doubts that it is higher; probably much higher than that. Priests are spread too thinly now and this promises to only get worse.
As a result, many churches share a priest with other churches----and these are often large congregations----and there simply are not enough of these men to cover all that needs to be done.
There is a two-fold problem in attracting priests. The rule of celibacy and the ordination of women. The problem, at least from a seemingly rational perspective, is that they have an easily solved problem if they ended the discipline of celibacy and ordained women.
The discipline of celibacy is just that. A discipline. Celibacy is not a central doctrine of Christianity.
Celibacy dates back to the early part of the second millennium of church history, which is to say that the first 10 centuries this was not a central issue, although it was debated. The debate was two-fold. The first was sexual and the second was structural. They did not understand human sexuality, saw it as debasing behavior, and somehow unholy. Additionally, the rules of property ownership and the Church was in play and inheritance of one’s children became an issue. The response was to have a discipline of celibacy.
Celibacy is NOT a doctrine----it is a discipline, something one does to increase one’s holiness. Praying each day or reading the Bible each day, or not eating meat on Friday, or fasting, are all disciplines. A discipline, by design, ought to be one’s choice. The Roman Catholic Church, made this a mandated discipline.
The problem is that by maintaining celibacy the Roman Catholic Church has demonstrated that a discipline trumps a doctrine.
The meeting in Rome, many hoped, would address this.
The ordination of women should also have been on the table. Churches that do not want to ordain women use St. Paul to ‘validate’ their opinion. Paul’s words come from a particular context and the argument that women shouldn’t be ordained is as thin as rice paper. This is more a case of using Scripture to back an opinion rather than to discover the truth underlying it.
Within Roman Catholicism, there is a belief that the priest is the ‘persona Christi’ the literal ‘person of Christ’ at the time of consecration. The presumption, I guess, is that it requires a penis in order to transcend one’s self. Who’d have thunk it?
Actually, I have a difficult time even debating the ordination of women. The arguments in opposition are usually too shallow to even remotely approaching a reasonable discussion.
Again, they had this meeting in Rome.
There were other issues as well.
With the rising divorce rate many Roman Catholics had chosen to remarry and either couldn’t attain or couldn’t afford an annulment. When they remarried, they cut themselves off from the table. Many simply left the Roman Catholic Church, many joined Protestant churches, and many just gave up on religion (and God) all together.
Again, they had this meeting in Rome.
The meeting in Rome discussed the serious issues of:
How to teach people to hold their hands property when receiving Holy Communion.
The increasing problem of people sitting while other people in the church were receiving Holy Communion.
Along with this, assorted quirks of individual priests during the Mass.
Is religious faith reasonable or ludicrous. Unfortunately, by these examples, there is a great argument for the latter.