Friday, June 10, 2011

You Won't Believe This

Lunch today included a discussion about the nature of belief.

As Catholics use the term "belief," they mean faith, which is accepting as true what has been revealed by a reliable authority. This applies on a mundane level -- e.g. if I tell you there's a great restaurant at a certain location and you think me a credible source, then you will drive there some time to enjoy a good meal. In a religious context, belief or faith is knowledge by which we yield our understanding assent to whatever the authority of our Holy Mother the Church teaches us to have been revealed by Almighty God: for the faithful cannot doubt those things of which God, who is truth itself, is the author (CCT).

To my colleagues across the table, belief is whatever one accepts as credible or true or beneficial in the absence of any reasons. It is necessarily devoid of thought or intellectual activity; it is always necessarily blind and unthinking; as such it is worthy of nothing but condemnation. Operating under this definition, belief is not limited to the arena of religion: a secularist can be a believer in some cause, and it is his belief that makes him a fanatic (of whatever stripe).

In this instance one wonders if invincible ignorance could apply. Not that my colleagues are incurably stupid -- that is not what the term "invincibly ignorant" means -- but that they have such an incorrect notion of what the Christian faith obliges that they are actually incapable of forming a correct judgment about it.

I'm not qualified to judge, in any event, and so the only safe course was to try to correct their misunderstanding. I don't know that I observed any lights go off after our exchange, but at least they'd heard a different perspective.

Faith is not a mindless activity -- just the opposite: if your intellect is not engaged, you are not capable of making an act of faith. Nothing is more reasonable than trusting an infinitely true and beautiful and good God -- in fact, it is the most reasonable act a human being is capable of.

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