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.]
  • Excellent, very insightful article, thank you very much!

  • Thanks for the article on faith. A lot of what you have written I can agree upon. I believe there is one aspect (in fact the most important aspect) of the view on “faith” that should be considered. What is your “faith” in? I can say “I am rational”, but that is pretty subjective isn’t it? You can say to me “You are irrational”… again subjective view. What is your “faith” in… something you do, something a “Higher Power” does… are there more than one “Higher Powers???”. Is “my Higher Power” better than your “Higher Power” and thus I have a “faith” in something better than you?

    I believe the answer to what/who is the “Higher Power” is absolutely the most important question posed in your article. Having “faith” in “something or someone or ourselves” for our life and our view of success in our life surely is important. But ultimatly the most important question is not my idea of “rational” or “irrational” but what is the truth about what our faith is “in”. Regardless of “rational or irrational”, is the faith in something or someone that has stood the test of time and history? Is that faith in something or someone that is fully trustworty, good, perfect, and has a proven track record? I submit that faith in the God of the Bible is the only kind of faith that can be trusted…. if this God of the Bible is true and real, it doesn’t really matter if I think it is “rational or irrational”.
    I understand a lot of people may call me “irrational” and “narrow thinking”… but I challenge you to really think about what or who your “faith” is in… it is really about your life… and you want to have the “right” answer. Do the reasonable thing before you dismiss the object of your “faith”… investigate and do the research before you reject the possibility that what I have said could really be “rational”… more importantly… the truth.