6. Religious faith. All religions require faith. Is logic the ally or enemy of faith?
Even religion, though it goes beyond logic, cannot go against it; if it did, it would literally be unbelievable. Some wit defined “faith” as “believing what you know isn’t true.” But we simply cannot believe an idea to be true that we know has been proved to be false by a valid logical proof.
It is true that faith goes beyond what can be proved by logical reasoning alone. That is why believing in any religion is a free personal choice, and some make that choice while others do not, while logical reasoning is equally compelling for all. However, logic can aid faith in at least three ways.
- Logic can often clarify what is believed, and define it.
- Logic can deduce the necessary consequences of the belief, and apply it to difficult situations.
- Even if logical arguments cannot prove all that faith believes, they can give firmer reasons for faith than feeling, desire, mood, fashion, family, or social pressure, conformity, or inertia.
The point is not that logic can prove religious beliefs—that would dispense with the need for faith—but that it can strengthen them (and thus also the happiness that goes with them). And if it does not—if clear, honest, logical thinking leads you to disbelieve something you used to believe, like Santa Claus—then that is progress too, for truth should trump even happiness. If we are honest and sane, we want not just any happiness, but true happiness. [Adapted from Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic]