Father Booth’s Weekly Reflection

Not Left to Chance, Not Left to Whimsy

Why is it important to recognize something like the fallacy of a false dichotomy? How does reducing our susceptibility to being bamboozled by clever arguments bring us closer to God or make obtaining heaven more likely? We should not have to look too far to find answers to these questions. First off, the serpent bamboozled Eve into partaking of the forbidden fruit. Like Eve, also wanting to be like God, the people building the Tower of Babel were convinced that obtaining heaven was a matter of making a tall enough building. The scribes and Pharisees were able to convince some people that Jesus performed His many miracles because He was supposedly in league with satan.

Over the centuries, many Israelites were lured away from the one true God by also worshipping the false gods of the pagans spurred on by logically flawed arguments. After all, isn’t it better to have more than one god? Isn’t it better to hedge your bets on many gods instead of just one? A gambler will tell you that you are much more likely to win if you play red or black on a roulette wheel rather than by putting everything on 29 black. Betting on red or black means that you win 47.4% of the time, but betting on one number wins only 2.6% of the time, albeit with a much higher payout. This math, and thus the reasoning, is true so long as any number or color wins (i.e., as if there are many gods), but if only 29 black wins, any other wager is foolhardy no matter how much more likely it might seem.

Of course God does not want us to gamble with our souls. Our salvation does not hinge on how a ball bounces around on a roulette wheel nor is it left to chance or luck. God has revealed Himself and He has done so throughout all the ages. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands” (Psalm 19:2), and “For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made” (Rom 1:19-20). That there is a God and that He is omnipotent are rationally perceivable and understandable by observing nature. Granted, attributes such as the precise nature of this evident God (e.g., that He is one God in three divine Persons) cannot be deduced from observing the created world, but studying and contemplating the vast universe and the laws of nature tell us much about God… but only if we are willing to perceive and to understand.

Words from the above verses – known, evident, understood, and perceived – all point to the critical role our intellect plays in our salvation. The idea of blind, irrational, or merely emotional faith is not what God wants from us. He wants us to known Him, to love Him, and to serve Him, all of which require a mind that knows, understands, and perceives. And if knowing, understanding, and perceiving are possible, then ignorance, misunderstanding, and misperceiving are also possibilities, possibilities that we must fervently guard against.

Not only does God want us to use our rational faculties to properly know, understand, and perceive for the sake of our salvation, our society once understood this as well apart from matters of faith and religion. Logic was once part of the high school curriculum and the importance of reasoning was stressed in all academic subjects because these qualities are essential for the functioning and wellbeing of a good and just society. For example, it is in everybody’s best interest for juries to consist of citizens capable of rational thought and deliberation so that the evidence in a case can be weighed with due consideration. So called justice now often hinges on emotion, innuendo, half-truths, and outright lies. The less people are able to know, understand, and perceive the more they can be led astray by clever arguments and emotional manipulation. Sadly, juries are now often selected on the basis of how a potential juror might be swayed by emotion or innuendo instead of on their capacity for rationally and dispassionately weighing the facts and evidence presented in the courtroom.

Indeed, it is in everybody’s best interest if we are able to know, reason, perceive, and choose rationally. God gave us our intellects and wills for a reason, primarily that we might choose salvation over perdition, but also that we might thrive in a well-regulated, ordered, and just society.

—Fr Booth