Are You Reasonable About Religion?
1, 2. What is the attitude of some persons toward religion?
TODAY, when approached about religion, many people say: “I’m busy. I don’t have time to discuss religion. I have been to worship this week and that is enough.” Others feel that one’s religion is strictly his own business and that, while other things, even politics, may be discussed, a discussion of religion is in bad taste and is taboo.
2 Is this a reasonable attitude to assume? Is it practical and really wise? Is religion something that we can have apart from our everyday lives and actions and that will not affect our conversation? What attitude toward religion is reasonable?
3. What superiority does the faculty of reason give man over lower animals?
3 Man has the faculty of reason. Through reason he is able to assemble facts in an orderly way, to get understanding, to build upon his own knowledge and upon the accumulated knowledge of his forefathers and to progress. Lower animals do not have this ability. A cow is able to see the things about her, but able to draw only a few, if any, inferences from them. She is no more advanced in knowledge and understanding of the universe than her ancestors thousands of years ago.
4. For what purposes must man use reasoning ability, and what is the most important use of it?
4 Man certainly has great superiority because of his ability to reason. Then why not use this reasoning power in every line of endeavor? Most persons will acknowledge that if anyone wishes to make a success of any business, trade or profession, he first must have knowledge of it. He must have wisdom, discernment and shrewdness. He must constantly use his reasoning ability. How much more the need for reasoning in those things that mean his life, his happiness and welfare and that of his family! In the matters of standards and principles and in his religion he must be reasonable, discerning, shrewd and practical.
5. In what way may a man, by not being reasonable, work hard for success and yet be unsuccessful?
5 A man may be a highly successful businessman. He is able to supply his family with material needs and may see that they get the best of things. He looks carefully to the quality of the things he provides for his family. He spends virtually all his time in his work and in making these provisions. But at the same time he may leave the training in vital matters of faith, life and religion—his family’s spiritual welfare—to others. He may be paying others to care for this, rather than seeing to it himself. He is, with all his “success,” unreasonable and proves to be actually unsuccessful. Material things, including even a secular education, do not ensure real success.
6. Through what unreasonable course are many families unhappy?
6 Many families have seen their children, for whom they have provided well materially, even educationally, become delinquents. These children are spiritually bankrupt because of their parents’ lack of reasonableness in overlooking their spiritual training. Some may have had no religion. In other cases the children accepted, without reasoning, the religion of their parents, or perhaps they were allowed to make their own choice, but whether this religion or course of action was truly leading them in the way of worship of God and the following of righteous standards or not was not reasoned on. These parents did not reason deeply enough to see that religion is serious, something that must be constantly spoken of and exemplified, and that they should obey the Bible’s command to “inculcate [God’s words] in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” They, if looking back with sound reasoning, could see that their failure was in not “bringing [their children] up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.”—Deut. 6:7; Eph. 6:4.
7. What, therefore, is the right attitude toward religion, with what result?
7 It is the course of wisdom, therefore, for you to be reasonable about religion, in fact, to apply all the reasoning you can to this vital matter. You should be most anxious and happy to reason upon it with others, not only to be sure that your course is correct, but that you may help others. By looking into God’s Word as a basis for reasoning and by doing so with others, you will be blessed by God and will receive the respect and love of right-thinking persons.—Mal. 3:16.
THE ORIGIN AND RIGHT USE OF REASON
8. How did man receive reasoning power? Give proof.
8 How and from what source did man receive the valuable gift of reason? By getting the answer to this, one can determine how reasoning should be used, and what the proper use of it will result in. Man originally was endowed with the power of reason by his Creator. He did not come up through millenniums of time and gradually evolve this power. Discoveries by archaeologists reveal that where earliest evidences of man’s habitation are found there is a complex civilization, man having reasoning power right from the start. Man’s oldest history book, the Bible, tells us that the first man Adam had this faculty. This record shows that man was to be given dominion over lower animals. In harmony with this he was privileged to observe these animals, to reason on their habits and their characteristics and to name them appropriately. In observing these creatures and their procreative ways, he reasoned on the fact that as yet there was found no complement of him.—Gen. 1:28; 2:18-20.
9. (a) How was proper reasoning beneficial to Adam? (b) How, then, did this reasoning creature come to have a disastrous end?
9 Thus it is seen that Jehovah God the Creator gave man the gift of reason. This enabled man to draw conclusions from the facts he observed, to compare them and to understand and apply the information given him by his Creator. It enabled him to use good common sense in a practical way for his own welfare. It enabled him to see clearly his relationship to his Creator, Jehovah God. He recognized his subjection to God, as indicated by the explicit instructions he gave to his wife Eve concerning God’s law with reference to eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Gen. 2:17; 3:2, 3) Adam was thus happy and at peace with God and in harmony with all creation. Only later, when he ignored the true state of affairs, the facts, as well as the things revealed to him by God, did he forsake reasoning and become unreasonable, substituting for reasoning a false logic induced by desire rather than reasoning.—Jas. 1:14, 15.
10. What does it mean to worship God with spirit and truth?
10 Jesus said that man must worship God “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) This means that man cannot worship God by applying his reasoning ability altogether to the physical, material things he sees; but by seeing these things he must realize that God exists, that he is invisible, not material but spirit, of far superior intelligence, and that we as his creatures must rely on him for revelation of his purposes. Right reasoning has to be guided by God. To worship God ‘with truth’ would mean to follow a course in belief and practice of religion that is in harmony with the actual state of things, not contrary to them, not according to imagination or one’s own private philosophy. One would have to accept God as the God of truth, recognizing the Creator’s laws, both the natural law and that governing man’s moral and spiritual course, as outlined in the Bible.—Prov. 3:5; 1 Cor. 2:10.
11. What facts and principles will be revealed to the one who uses his reasoning ability in the proper way?
11 Those who desire to use their reasoning ability will find that God has provided evidence plentifully to aid the reasoner to establish (1) that God exists and (2) that his primary attributes are love, justice, wisdom and power. The reasoner will also see by the nature of things that he is subject to a superior authority. First, he finds that the laws governing natural things cannot be broken with impunity. He discovers that there are also moral laws. Then he finds that he must be subject to some order of things. He cannot live absolutely independently. There has to be organization. In organization there has to be a superior. There has to be government. Thus every human must of necessity be in subjection to government.
12. How does the right reasoner see the need of a government by Almighty God?
12 Further reasoning establishes that for the greatest welfare of man and the universe this government must be a right government, exhibiting the attributes found in God. Man cannot bring this kind of government, as proved by millenniums of human experiment and by the fact that man does not have the necessary power or the understanding and preeminent position to rule properly over his fellow man. Furthermore, not all men have the reasonableness to acknowledge right government. Only those willing to align their course fully in harmony with truth could live peaceably together under government. This points the reasoner to the necessity of a government by God. During the reasoning process it becomes evident that a God of love would be communicative, telling man of his purposes and provisions. This leads the reasoner to the Bible, God’s Word, in which he kindly and lovingly reveals he has in actuality provided such a government. This government, God declares, will destroy unreasoning men and bring peace and happiness earth-wide to those worshiping “with spirit and truth.”—2 Pet. 2:12; Dan. 2:44; Isa. 9:6, 7.
WORLDLY PHILOSOPHY NOT PRACTICAL REASONING
13, 14. (a) Contrast the result of right reasoning with that of worldly philosophy. (b) How only can problems of individuals or groups be properly solved?
13 Right reasoning, then, establishes faith. For “faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Heb. 11:1) Wrong reasoning, based on wrong premises or wrong comparisons, leads to false conclusions and loss of faith. Worldly philosophy, ignoring the guidance of God’s Word, has done this. The faith of such philosophers is in man’s imperfect knowledge and reasoning. They are “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—2 Tim. 3:7.
14 Why is it that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”? Because the world does not apply the Bible command to “combine spiritual matters with spiritual words.” If a problem on a matter of conduct arises, whether on an individual, family, community or national scale, it is a spiritual matter, affecting life and happiness, as well as the relationship of one person or many toward God. It cannot be properly solved by philosophy or tradition, nor by comparison with the course of others. Neither can it be settled by conferences of world leaders, who are the imperfect offspring of unreasonable Adam. Only the standards of God’s Word can be used as a norm or rule. Therefore God’s Word should be consulted. Therein will be found “spiritual words” giving the right answer, since it is a book that gives counsel, not only for the individual as to his life course, but also to nations, for it is a book of governmental law as well.—1 Cor. 3:19; 2:13.
15, 16. Give an example of the misleading influence of worldly philosophy.
15 A few examples illustrate the futility of worldly philosophy and show that it leads its adherents away from recognition of the facts and is not acting “with truth.” In a book entitled “The Universe and Dr. Einstein” the following statement is made on page 21: “Gradually philosophers and scientists arrived at the startling conclusion that since every object is simply the sum of its qualities, and since qualities exist only in the mind, the whole objective universe of matter and energy, atoms and stars, does not exist except as a construction of the consciousness . . . As Berkeley, the archenemy of materialism, phrased it: ‘All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any substance without the mind. . . . So long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind, or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit.’” At the shrine of philosophy they discard practical thinking and arrive at the conclusion that everything that exists may not really exist at all!
16 Today such philosophy has led its followers to the thought that there is no basic or absolute truth, thus no source of truth. Even principles are discarded for the sake of expediency. This was emphasized by a philosophy student in conversation with a minister. This student was anxious to discredit the Bible, though admitting not having read it. The minister made the statement that the Bible shows its superior origin by the high principles and standards that it holds forth. The student answered: “Well, standards and principles depend on the civilization in which you live. For example, in some places sodomy is practiced as a common, acceptable thing.” The minister asked: “But would this be the standard that you would be willing to accept or consider desirable?” The reply was: “If I lived in that kind of community I suppose I would.” What lack of integrity to principle! What unreasonableness and impractical thinking!
17. How can right reasoning be a safeguard?
17 Right reasoning, guided by God’s Word, will keep you from falling like this student of philosophy into a snare of confusion and contradiction of facts and principles. It will enable you to be practical, following standards that are upbuilding. It will give you the good sense to avoid the degrading influence and false standards of a corrupt world. You will accept and follow that which results in the proper use of your powers and in success and happiness.—Josh. 1:8.
18, 19. How can we be sure we are following a course of wise reasoning?
18 Christ Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to reveal to us this practical wisdom. To follow him and to imitate his course is to have good sense and to find that which is truly desirable along with everlasting life. Personified as wisdom, he invites us to use and increase our reasoning powers when he says: “I, wisdom, I have resided with shrewdness and I find even the knowledge of thinking abilities. . . . Those loving me I myself love, and those looking for me are the ones that find me. Riches and glory are with me, hereditary values and righteousness. My fruitage is better than gold, even than refined gold, and my produce than choice silver.”—Prov. 8:12-19.
19 This Son is the One who will rule the Kingdom government under which those who willingly reason now so as to make their minds conform to God’s ways will be able to live in peace. This is the course of reasonableness, which is simply good sense.—Eph. 1:8-10; Rom. 12:2; Isa. 55:8, 9; 1:18.