Morgan Meis on the religion debates

This is from a couple of years ago, but I thought it worth posting anyway. From The Smart Set:

Morgan I came to the current religion debates a bored man. Started by the discussions around “intelligent design” and by the books of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris (The Four Horsemen), the debate seemed to pit two irreconcilable views against one another, both vying for an empty prize. Religion, I gathered, will always have its place, as will the practices of science and rational inquiry. Perhaps one day some other arrangement, some other separation of powers, will come about, but it won’t be any time soon, and it will happen when no one is looking. It will happen on its own time, with the lazy mastodon movements of history, which lumbers and rarely sprints.

It has also often struck me in some inchoate way that while the basic tenets and practices of any specific religion aren’t terribly impressive, the intellectual dilemma of faith and faithlessness has something to it. Sure, religion has its ugly side and must strike everyone in at least one moment of clarity as being something close to crazy. But, then again, the cleverest of the religious thinkers have always admitted this, have even tried to turn it into a strength. It is hard, for instance, not to admire the way that Tertullian, the Carthaginian Christian philosopher of the second century, stood up to the fundamental absurdity of his faith and proclaimed “credo quia absurdum,” “I believe because it is absurd.” Not I believe even though it is absurd, but I believe because it is absurd. In a more modern variant, the tortured mental gymnastics that Kierkegaard goes through in his defense of the story of Abraham and Isaac goes beyond simplistic apologetics. For Kierkegaard, the story is powerful because it makes no sense from any reasonable perspective; it is utterly unthinkable that God would tell Abraham to sacrifice his son and then wait to see if he’d actually go through with it. The story is so terrible that it demands attention, and in demanding of us it gives us access to something more powerful and more true than what is generally encountered in the world of practical necessity and contingent decisions that we live in the rest of the time. It forces a decision.

More here.