Beginning the Dialog between Faith and Reason
Voice of the People
The Capital Times
PO Box 8060
Madison WI 53708-8060
“Colleges ought to shed light on religions”
Thus opined Notre Dame’s top academic officials, John I. Jenkins and Thomas Burish.
[Original essay available on line at
It might surprise them and a lot of your readers to know that almost all atheists are 100% in agreement with the sentiment, if only for the reason expressed by Isaac Asimov: “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
More generally, religions (and non-religious traditions as well) are major components in the lives of virtually all people at all times, and they deserve to be taken seriously in academia. It is particularly instructive for students coming from a sheltered, monocultural background to be exposed to the diversity of beliefs in the world.
Jenkins and Burish conclude by hoping for “a dialogue that truly explores the relationship between faith and reason.” Me too. Let me start. Faith begins with conclusions reached without evidence, and often despite contradictory evidence. Reason starts with evidence and follows it to conclusions. They are, therefore, mutually exclusive decision-making methods.
Long, often painful experience has shown that faith is like dividing by zero: you can use it to prove anything you want. (Fortunately, hardly anybody uses it to decide anything that really matters, like when to cross the street.) Reason, on the other hand, leads to reliable, consistent results that are, as the name implies, reasonable.
This is exactly what college students SHOULD be learning, even at Notre Dame (perhaps especially at Notre Dame).
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Richard S. Russell
Atheists and Agnostics of Wisconsin
2642 Kendall Av. #2, Madison WI 53705-3736
608+233-5640 * RichardSRussell@uwalumni.com
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Faith: 1. unquestioning belief
-- Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary (unabridged)