Reason and Faith: Is Evil Irrational?

From The Greenroom finds Dennis Prager challenging a centuries-old narrative about history’s worst despots.

Reason and faith go hand in hand in the pursuit of truth, but it’s the belief systems employed that serves as that pursuit’s moral grounding.

The Greenroom


2 Comments on “Reason and Faith: Is Evil Irrational?”

  1. John Louton says:

    Reason and faith may go hand in hand, but faith, by definition, is a belief which cannot be proved or disproved; e.g., there is a god. Reason, on the other, is the process by which premises are “proved” or “disproved.” Indeed, your three examples have one intellectual trait in common. All three were committed ideologues. Human history has, thus far, failed to teach us the obvious lesson. No matter how admirable any ideal may seem, pursued with the extreme of faith over reason they all simply perpetuate the paramount evil of man’s inhumanity to man.

    I would note that as a percentage of the extant contemporary populations, the numbers of people who died senseless and most often cruel deaths at the hand of Hitler, Stalin and Mao pale into near insignificance when compared to those killed in religious wars in the names of supposedly merciful gods.

    In short, the only faith one ought hold to is a faith in reason.

    • The Butcher says:

      Note: I’m the editor of punditfromanotherplanet, and poster of Prager’s item, not the author, so your thoughtful comments, while welcome, ideally should be directed to the source, rather than the messenger. That said, I’m inclined to agree with you, I am not a man of faith (rather, an admirer of Enlightenment thinkers, perhaps like you) but as a defender of religious freedom, I respect and welcome religious philosophy. I find Prager’s argument well-thought out, and well presented.

      “pursued with the extreme of faith over reason they all simply perpetuate the paramount evil of man’s inhumanity to man.”

      As Prager’s commentary illustrated, a perfectly rational man can be a spectacular mass murderer. Reason can be just as much a tool of benevolent inquiry as a weapon of murderous pathology. With faith, or devoid of faith. In other words, it’s beside the point.

      Re: “I would note that as a percentage of the extant contemporary populations, the numbers of people who died senseless and most often cruel deaths at the hand of Hitler, Stalin and Mao pale into near insignificance when compared to those killed in religious wars in the names of supposedly merciful gods.”

      I would note that this is likely false. Marxism/communism alone accounts for 90-100 Million murdered worldwide, and that’s just in the 20th century alone. Prior to that, in human history: Civil or secular society didn’t exist to begin with. No nation, or empire, with an army, or even a tribe with a gang of warriors, operated under what we in modern times would recognize as ‘secular rule’. Spirit gods of one kind or another were invoked. Where’s the basis for comparison? Prior to modern times, there’s not much in the way of secularism, for the speculation to hold up.

      And in the few centuries where armies were controlled by non-religious authorities, hundreds of millions were killed, we cam be certain that they were killed with with the same degree of murderous savagery as any other belief system. Faith, or the invocation of faith, is irrelevant, to a dead victim of warfare.

      If your point is that non-religious societies, historically, are less murderous than religious societies, that’s simply not true. Faith/non-faith has little to do with what makes societies peaceful, or murderous. It’s neutral.

      Hitler, Stalin, and Mao don’t “pale” in comparison to religious warriors. Their success as murdering dictators stands up with the best of them, in any century, I’m sure. Though I understand it’s popular among rationalists and secularists to think that religious tribes are more ‘murderous’ than non-religious tribes, there’s no evidence to support it, and no meaningful comparison to be made.


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