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Lively debate on religious faith

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While organized religion may be a given to those who were heavily involved as a child and have let their faith spill into their adult years, there are others who are spiritual seekers or who may question faith in general. Recently, Indiana University (IU) held an event titled “Is Faith in God Reasonable?” as a part of The Veritas Forum, to address questions about faith.

Many times, people discuss topics such as morality, life’s meaning and worldly views with family and friends, but there usually isn’t a place to explore those topics with experts, which is the purpose of the forums.

During one recent event, Troy Van Voorhis, professor in the Department of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology addressed faith in religion and mythology, arguing support for faith.

Colin Allen, provost professor of Cognitive Science and of History & Philosophy of Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU, took the opposite view that there is a lack of evidence for a higher being.

Reasonable

“There is such thing as reasonable faith in God. I think it is reasonable to look at the universe and to wonder who or what might have made it that way,” said Van Voorhis. “It is also reasonable to suspect that who or what also might play some role in defining what our role is for existing.”

He commented that it is unreasonable to compare the world to a car without a driver or a book without an author, because life forces society to make choices which leads back to faith.

“It could be faith in God, faith in a person, something or yourself but we use faith because it is the way we make decisions in the light of incomplete evidence,” he said. “Faith is the thing that turns ideas into actions because as human beings, we need faith to change not only our minds but the way we behave.”

Van Voorhis argued that there are areas where science can be applied in a compelling way, however religion isn’t one of them.

Unreasonable

“Faith in God could mean many things including the faith in existence of God,” said Allen. He compares the word reasonable to being rational through definition as being fair and sensible or its second definition: to think, understand or form logical processes. By these definitions of the word reasonable, he concludes that the event’s title “Is Faith in God Reasonable?” attracts debate. Allen makes note that if nothing could convince one otherwise in relation to religion, then there is no basis for a reasonable discussion.

“I think the quest for certainty is a false quest,” said Allen. “Science doesn’t fully provide it but neither does religion as I see it practiced because there are a lack of standards for evidence.”

Seeking faith

Van Voorhis explained that having an open mind when interacting with individuals is necessary, however it could be difficult, when evidence shines light on another faith.

“The important thing when coming between a dialogue of faiths is the openness of the idea that you might be wrong. When you close up and say ‘there is no way I can be wrong,’ you are led to divisions,” he commented. “Don’t ever join any faith that asks you to controvert your reason or to do something you think doesn’t make sense or tells you not to ask questions about it because it’s not healthy.”

Allen advised that those who are questioning what they believe should speak to as many people as possible about the topic of belief.

“Talk to people who have varying perspectives,” said Allen. “Don’t just go for one particular mindset.”

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