Faith vs. Rationalism, it’s the David vs. Goliath of our age. There are those people who will only believe in that which can be scientifically measured, categorized, and quantified. Then there are those who have faith, a sense of self assuredness that what they believe is true regardless of their ability to prove it. Last and most certainly least, are those pitiful few, like myself, who have neither anymore. Those who have experienced death, experienced the change in outlook which immediately precedes it, felt the terror which accompanies it’s icy grip, the darkness and confusion which follows, and a short relative glimpse of what lies beyond, no longer have need of faith. They have the proof of their own memories and experiences that survive resuscitation. This does not mean that they have all the answers. I later learned that it is not uncommon to retain only key concepts and not be able to express the supporting precepts. It would be like a blind man trying to describe colors he saw in a dream which don’t exist in nature, with no common frame of reference there cannot be effective communication. There seems to be just as much that can only be remembered and not understood, once one is back in corporeal form.
Rationalism will explain what happened as the effects of drugs administered before and after resuscitation. Rationalists will blame hypoxia for causing hallucinations. They will call the darkness, light, and presence of the divine as the machinations of a dying mind comforting itself as it approaches it final end. Any retained memories will be attributed to coma-like dreams, since with no brain activity memories could supposedly not have formed. The very common distortion of time itself around the death experience is also attributed to hypoxia. the funny thing is that too many peoples across too many cultures and backgrounds report experiencing basically the same thing – a rationalist would call this suggestion. I for one, spent a good bit of time in a coma and I also fully recollect the eclectic dreams – some exhilarating and some terrifying which I experienced between periods of interminable consciousness which were undetectable to anyone but my wife. Dying is a different from a coma as is night from day. I also question how so many, across the whole world have had experiences so similar that when specific religious idealogical constructs were removed the core components are identical. No matter what the evidence, they will rationalize what they want to believe to be the case and invent alternative theories for everything. The root of the problem is that they know that what they are doing and thinking is wrong, deep down, they know… and they are using their rational mind to try to overcome the natural law and allow themselves to bury the truth so that they can better accept pop psychology and science as their “Gods”. The rational atheists who have had NDE’s and come back devoutly religious speak volumes on the subject. In truth, all rationalism can say about faith and God is that since they cannot prove the existence of God that he does not exist. This is narrow-minded view espoused by supposedly broad minded people who tend to have a tendency to belittle anyone who dosen’t agree with them. I could just as easily argue that if they cannot disprove the existence of God then he must necessarily exist. Our own history shows scientists all too readily make grievous errors and erroneous assumptions, clinging to them like a shipwrecked sailor who finds a piece of flotsam in a storm. Until, the evidence is so overwhelming that it can no longer be denied. More importantly, rationalism will never offer any answers to the truly meaningful questions like the enigma of our condition, the meaning of life, and the truth of our existence.
Faith is based on the acceptance of “Mysteries”, which by definition cannot be understood, at least not in our current existence. Take for instance the size of the galaxy – your mind is incapable of grasping it in totality, much less the size of our universe. It is readily apparent that there are truths which we are not able to grasp or only able to grasp in the most rudimentary way. As for mysteries, I have learned that they must simply be accepted since all the introspection or measurement in the world makes them no clearer. We might put a number on the size of the universe, but the meaning of that number and the ability to adequately comprehend such distances and size is beyond our limited capacity. They mysteries of God, and our existence, are the same. They are incomprehensible and, therefore, we are required to take on faith that which we cannot truly understand. Miracles happen every day. They have happened for ages. Those with faith recognize God working in our lives, while rationalists insist there must be another explanation which they just cannot posit at the moment. In doing so they reveal that their bias is to disprove that which does not agree with what they want to be true, and when that fails, denigration and name calling abound. Faith is a beautiful thing. It is a gift which allows us the understanding necessary to prepare for our salvation. For a species with such a relatively short lifespan, we seem overly preoccupied with worldly things. Instead of preparing for the next life, we revel in this one to the exclusion of all else.
Belief is not a sign of a weak mind, but rather a strong one that is willing to persevere in the face of scorn and ridicule. This is exemplified in Jesus’s example through his arrest and Passion. Belief is not a refuge for those who cannot think. Many of history’s greatest philosophers and scientists were religious. Even Albert Einstein famously said with great conviction that “God does not play dice with the universe.” He very much believed in God, as did Newton, Oppenheimer, St. Thomas Moore, and Thomas Aquinas. Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates all believed in a supreme god in a pantheon who guided the universe. A number of highly respected quantum physicists including Gotswami and Tipler have “fallen off the wagon” and professed that new developments in quantum physics prove the existence of God, in at least a basic sense of a creator of and guiding force in our universe. They are not the only ones, nor are they crackpots. Both are highly respected professors and researchers in their fields who felt their convictions so strongly based on the evidence that they were willing to challenge the secular and atheistic amalgam of the scientific community to much derision. Both have even written detailed books explaining their research and providing the supporting mathematics. One might find fault with some of their assumptions about God and existence after our corporeal bodies are gone, but the core belief that there is a God and that our consciousness survives death are not in doubt for them. They believe. They believe because they have faith that they are right in their belief.
The most important thing is that it does not have to be a contest. Faith is not necessarily at odds with science. In fact the Vatican strongly supports scientific exploration and discovery in all fields. Nor is it necessary to argue or belittle the existence of something which cannot be proven or disproven. Those who have experienced death and seen even a glimpse of what lies beyond are sure. This issue will never be settled by rational arguments or heart rending testimonials. In the end, it remains a mystery we all will know the answer to in time. If you die and simply cease to exist, then it will not matter what you believed. However, if you die and experience what I did, then it will matter more than you could have imagined. Very few get my opportunity for a second try.
Some tidbits I learned from my experience:
- All you can bring with you is Love, Regrets, and Memories. Love as much as possible, regret as little as possible, and create as many happy memories as you can for yourself.
- Small acts done with great love are more important by far than large acts done for other reasons.
- Do nothing of which you will be ashamed. Every little thing, good and bad, will be reviewed and weighed. It is not about being better than another person but meeting a fixed standard. Less evil than your peers is still evil. Life is not a contest of strength or power, but one of Love.
- Diligent effort in the right direction counts in your favor, it is about recognizing the Natural Law and struggling to stay the course. My conversion to Catholicism was driven by the efficacious sacrament of reconciliation and the fact that what I remembered from my experience about what I needed to be doing fit the Catechism perfectly.
You can take or leave these as you choose, it is not for me to determine if any of them even apply to you.
**Please feel free to write or comment on this post, I’d really like to hear from those that are able to have this experience and how it is changing their marriage, their wives, and their lives.