The Separation of Church and State, Faith and Reason

This is one of the biggest bones I have to pick with religion: faith. It is also why I am an unbeliever. I have no faith – with reason.

Martin Luther, the great-grandfather of most protestant Christian sects, had this to say about reason and philosophy:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but–more frequently than not–struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God” (Martin Luther, http://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Martin_Luther).

“But since the devil’s bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she’s wise, and what she says, what she thinks, is from the Holy Spirit, who can help us, then? Not judges, not doctors, no king or emperor, because [reason] is the Devil’s greatest whore” (Martin Luther).

Of course, I’m not trying to demonize Luther here. I’m showing why I have no faith. If reason corrupts faith, and they are antithetical to each other, someone who values reason above all would have little to no faith.

“Luther believed, rather, that philosophy and reason had important roles to play in our lives and in the life of the community. However, he also felt that it was important to remember what those roles were and not to confuse the proper use of philosophy with an improper one.

Reason can be an aid to faith in that it helps to clarify and organize, but it is always second-order discourse. It is, following St. Anselm, fides quarenes intellectum (faith seeking understanding) and never the reverse. Philosophy tells us that God is omnipotent and impassible; revelation tells us that Jesus Christ died for humanity’s sin. The two cannot be reconciled. Reason is the devil’s whore precisely because asks the wrong questions and looks in the wrong direction for answers. Revelation is the only proper place for theology to begin. Reason must always take a back-seat” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/luther)

What of those who don’t believe God is omnipotent and impassible?

On another note, this is also why I would be disheartened to see religion mixed into politics. I wish religious people, especially those of Protestant proclivities, would study Martin Luther to understand where they are going wrong in modern life.

Luther is right that faith and reason do not mix well, if at all. Reason can help to understand faith but faith can only allow us to enjoy reason and nature.

Luther also argues, based on that knowledge, that faith and governance do not mix. That is because reason corrupts faith and governance, regardless of how faith-based it may be, will corrupt religious belief.

“Reason does play a primary role in governance and in most human interaction. Reason, Luther argued, is necessary for a good and just society. In fact, unlike most of his contemporaries, Luther did not believe that a ruler had to be Christian, only reasonable. Here, opposite to his discussion of theology, it is revelation that is improper. Trying to govern using the gospel as one’s model would either corrupt the government or corrupt the gospel. The gospel’s fundamental message is forgiveness, government must maintain justice. To confuse the two here is just as troubling as confusing them when discussing theology. If forgiveness becomes the dominant model in government, people being sinful, chaos will increase. If however, the government claims the gospel but acts on the basis of justice, then people will be misled as to the proper nature of the gospel” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

The separation of church and state wasn’t created to protect the people being governed from religious faith corrupting government. It was created to protect religious faith from bring corrupted and destroyed by reason.

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