Is faith opposed to reason?Atheists like to try and take the philosophical high ground with Christians making claims like, "the Catholic Church abhors reason," but anyone who has dared to study history knows how important of a role the Catholic Church has played in two specific areas, namely Philosophy and Science.
With so many Catholics making some of the greatest advancements in science, it would be dishonest, or neglectful at best, to omit their achievements, achievements of persons such as Gregor Mendel (the father of modern genetics) or Georges Lemaître (the Catholic priest who penned the Big Bang Theory). We should not forget about the numerous other non-Catholic Christians who see no conflict between their faith and science, e.g. Lutheran Werner Heisenberg (theoretical physicist) or Mormon Henry Eyring (American chemist and author of the Eyring equation).
Furthermore, we should not fail to mention the fact that every seminarian studying for Catholic priesthood, in normal situations, studies philosophy (as the basis for their liberal arts education) for four years in minor seminary. The philosophical studies are thorough, ranging from chronological studies, e.g. Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary/Post-Modern Philosophy, to topical studies, e.g. Logic, Epistemology, Natural Theology (proofs for the existence of God using reason alone), Human Nature, et al.
It should be obvious by this point that the Catholic Church and most Christians do not 'abhor reason.' To drive this point home, I want to suggest that you read, if you have not already, Fides et Ratio a papal encyclical written by Pope John Paul II. The encyclical explains the mutual relationship between faith and reason. It promotes the study of philosophy and science, and encourages those who study them to remember the limits of both and to allow both to be further illuminated by the light of faith.
Can reason alone prove the existence of God?
Simply speaking, no, but nothing is ever that simple. What reason-alone arguments can do is prove that it is more reasonable than not that there is a God. What we generally consider a proof in today's day and age is physical (meaning that can be proven using the physical sciences). Philosophy is not a physical science, so philosophical proofs are logical not physical. Logical proofs come in two kinds: 1) coherent and 2) correspondent. A coherent proof is one that makes sense within a system. A correspondent proof is only a proof if it corresponds to reality. Moreover, proofs are not proofs unless they are true.
Today, unfortunately, many college professors are teaching unadulterated skepticism. We could sit down and fruitfully argue with some philosophers about whether or not there is truth, but these professors side step the entire argument by simply saying that we cannot know whether or not there is truth. So, let us for one moment take time to rebut both. We have all heard the logical argument that to say, "there is not truth," implies that it is in fact true that there is no truth. Here is the thing, saying either "there is truth" or "there is no truth" does not necessarily denote a correspondence to reality. So, I am not going to use that argument because I am more concerned about correspondence. Furthermore, correspondence truth means nothing if it does not affect the way we live. So, for the sake of making my point we will only concern ourselves with reality and the way we act.
We act as if there is truth and as if we can know it. So, we will concern ourselves with truth, both correspondent and coherent. We will assume that there is truth and we can know because that is how we live our lives. The truths that we claim to know change, e.g. we thought we knew that Santa Claus was real and so we asked a red-suited, bearded man for presents. Then, when we knew he was not real, we stopped asking strange men for presents. No one, however, doubts that gravity exists, and we all act accordingly. No one on earth holds an anvil above their head and lets go expecting it to float away.
Next, I would like to make some big leaps into my argument. What is true is good. If something is good it actually exists. Therefore, truth is convertible with good and being.
Is it unreasonable to believe in God?
This is where we butt heads with most atheists. Most atheists would be fine with what I have said above. They might even say, "I think it's great that Catholics and other Christians have contributed to science and philosophy, but now it's time for them to recognize that the sooner they stop believing in God, the sooner we all can make major scientific headway." This sort of thinking is usually rooted in misunderstandings about evolution, history, scandals, et al. There is very little or no correlation between what the misunderstanding is whether or not God exists. In fact, it would be in some ways easier if God did not exist. There would certainly be fewer moral restrictions and obligations.
The question is whether or not it would be easier, or if there would be fewer wars or less corruption. The question is not is not why does God allow so much evil. The question is simply whether or not God exists. Arguing that a good God would not allow evil is convincing, but fortunately for our sake, has little import to our argument. Our concern it not the source of evil.
In order to argue the existence of anything, we have to know what it is we are looking for. We have to know what we mean when we say, "God." In this sense, we have to admit that our argument contains the conclusion in the premise. This is how all arguments for the existence of anything work. Does a violin exist? That depends on what I mean by violin. If by violin I mean: pink and purple spotted water dwelling mammal that sings Italian operas on Mars, then no. So, when we say, "Does God exist?" We have to know what we mean by God. We have to avoid misunderstandings.
It is not unreasonable to believe that truth exists. It is not unreasonable that good exists. It is not unreasonable that being exists. If this is the case, it is not unreasonable that God exists.
What is meant when Catholics say, "God?"
Catholic theology can be done in three ways. The first way that we tend to do theology is what is known as the Via Positiva (the positive way) or the cataphatic way. It is the way in which we make affirmative claims about who or what God is. Generally, as Catholics we say that God is good. If God is good, and good is convertible with being and truth, then it is also true that God is true and exists. This is not the proof mind you. This is merely part of defining what Catholics mean by "God." God is; God is Good; and God is True.
The second way that we do theology might appeal more to atheists. It is the Via Negativa (the negative way) or the apophatic way. It is the way in which we make negative claims about who God is. That is to say, we say who/what God is not. For example, "God is not good," is a perfectly Catholic claim. When Catholics say it, however, what we mean is God is not good in the way what we know good. If God is good it is in a way that surpasses what we know good to be. So, God is not good, true, or being, at least not in the way we know good, true, and being. For, the way we know these things is limited. God is not limited.
The third way does not have a cool Greek name like cataphatic or apophatic. It is known as the superlative way or the supereminent way. I would like to suggest a Greek equivalent, the "hyperphatic" way. This is the way we make the affirmative claim that God is good but in a way that transcends limits. It goes like this, "If God is, then God is good but not how we know good. So, God must transcend all good." So, as Catholics we say that God is beyond good, beyond true, and beyond being. That is to say, that God is infinite goodness, infinite truth, and infinite being.
God does not exist in this world. Everything in this world is limited/finite. If it is finite, it is not God. If it is limited, it is not God. So, what do Catholics mean when we say "God?" Nothing. God is not some thing. God is no-thing. God is beyond everything. Things are finite. So, God cannot be a thing. So, mental pictures of the Old-Bearded Man in the sky, fuh-ged-abaü-dit.
But we go further. If God is infinite, everything must exist in God in some way. Infinite does not apply to nothingness. It only applies to being. If something exists, it must therefore exist in God in some way. If something is good or true, it must exist in God in some way. The way it exist in God is in an infinite way. If man is a person, therefore, personality must exist in God in some supereminent way. So, it is appropriate to call God a personal God, but we have to remember that He is not personal in the way we know personality.
Is it reasonable to believe in goodness, truth, and being? Yes. Life as we know it is founded on these ideas. We rely, on truth and its existence. We rely on scientific truth every time we get on an airplane. We rely on our own being every time we go to sleep. We rely on goodness every time we give a gift. Do these things have a source? Undeniably. Is it unreasonable that that source is a transcendent infinitude of goodness, truth, being, and personality? No. That transcendent source is what we call God.
Is it more reasonable to believe that there is a single source of every existing thing in the universe than to believe that the universe perpetuates itself with infinite regress? Yes. In light of the Big Bang theory, it is particularly more reasonable to believe that there is a single source of everything in the universe. In "The Grand Design," by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking claims that it is because of gravity that we do not need to rely on God for spontaneous creation. Rightly, philosophers and scientist all over have asked the question, "Where did gravity come from?" If the universe is created spontaneously on account of gravity, but the universe does not exist, how is it possible to say that gravity exists? This is the current popular scientific opinion, and yet it points more than ever towards a spontaneous creation in time of the entire universe from a single source. The question is whether or not that source is gravity or some transcendent infinitude, which would even be the source of gravity.
Once we establish that there is a God. We can try to explain the problem of evil. We can try to look for the true worship. We can talk about what that means for every other problem that arises when we claim that there is a God.