Irrational and Rational Faith

In Erich Fromm’s 1956 classic, The Art of Loving, he provides unique insights into the subject of faith.

Fromm did not believe faith is in opposition to reason or rational thinking. On the contrary, he simply made a distinction between rational faith and irrational faith. He believed that irrational faith is based on submission to irrational authority. But rational faith is based on one’s own convictions.

Rational faith, then, is an important component of rational thinking. In fact, Fromm believed that creative thinking begins with a “rational vision,” a vision that results from study, reflective thinking, and observation.

In other words, rational faith is rooted in one’s own experiences and judgments. Irrational faith, on the other hand, is the acceptance of something as true only because an authority or the majority say it is.

The rational believer must have faith in his core being. He must have trust in himself. He must know that the person he really is will not change with changing circumstances. If we lose faith in who we are, we become dependent on others and change in ways to gain their approval. Not a good thing.

There is no rational faith in domination — either for the dominator or the dominated. To be sure, power is a panoptic objective for politicians and many religious leaders. But, to their dismay, it is the most unstable of all achievements.

Fromm pointed out that because having faith and having power over others are mutually exclusive objectives, all religious and political systems originally built on rational faith become corrupt and lose their strength. It would be difficult to argue that history has not supported his viewpoint. And over the next several years, this will become clear to all but the most brainwashed American sheeple.

What Fromm did not address head on, however, is faith in a higher power. Is it rational or irrational faith to believe in God? The atheist would say it is irrational. The believer would come down on the side of rational.

But the believer could just as easily say that the atheist’s viewpoint is based on irrational faith — faith, perhaps, that the universe somehow created itself.

In truth, both an atheist and a believer in a higher power can have rational faith in their beliefs, so long as those beliefs are based on study, reflective thinking, and observation. As I’ve said so often, I agree with Viktor Frankl’s view that there is probably not much difference between a so-called atheist and an individual who believes in God. It’s more a matter of semantics than zealous people on both sides might believe.

So, whether it’s faith in yourself, faith in your spouse, faith in a friend, faith in your future, or faith in a higher power, don’t let anyone tell you that faith is not an integral part of the human experience. Make thatrational faith. And you will do your children a great service by making sure they understand and believe in rational faith from a very young age.

[Ed. Note: To learn how to survive and prosper during the turbulent years ahead, check out Robert Ringer’s powerful audio series Succeeding in a World of Chaos. And be sure to sign up for a FREE subscription to his one-of-a-kind e-letter A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World.]