Are faith and reason incompatible?

Question: Are faith and reason compatible?


Rick Warren: I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between faith and reason, or faith and science. In fact I think the most reasonable thing to do is to have faith.

I was recently; well I was actually now a couple of years ago at; spoke at the TED conference, and they put me between two atheists – Dan Dennet on one side, and Michael Shermer on the other side. And I listened to their presentation.

The fact is, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. It takes far more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe that this was created, and there is a design and designer. If I were to take off this watch, and tear it all apart, and shake it up in a bag, what do you believe would be the odds that it would automatically come out as a watch?

You would say, “I would never believe that.” And yet the odds are greater that all this just happened by random chance.

Whether you believe in evolution or not; to believe that it’s all by accident takes an enormous leap of faith.

Now the fact is, neither Christians nor atheists, nor Jews nor atheists, nor Muslims nor atheists were at the birth of creation. So nobody knows for sure. So the truth is everybody believes it by faith.

Atheists believe in faith; by faith accept there is no creator. I just wish they would be intellectually honest enough to admit it. I’m intellectually honest enough to say that I am betting my life that there is a God.

To me, I look out there and I see reason. I see God everywhere. I see Him in the arts. I see Him in music. I see Him in literature. I see Him in great plays, and I see him in great orchestras. And I see the design, and the hand, and the beauty of God. To me to have to explain this away as an accident, there’s so many wonderful things in life that there’s no rhyme or reason for.

If you truly believe in survival of the fittest, why do we have music? Music is totally irrelevant to the survival of people. It’s there simply for pleasure. There is no reason for music. And if you believe in “by chance”, then how do you explain goodness?

People say, “Well how do you explain evil?” Why I don’t want you to explain evil. I want to know how do you explain goodness. Because if you believe that it’s all an accident, then you believe in survival of the fittest, dog-eat-dog world, then, what is the reason for altruism? Why do total strangers somehow inside of them sacrifice their life for other strangers? Well it’s the God factor. If we truly believe in just, “Well, you were a random accident, and you were accidentally born, and you might accidentally die, and if you’re hit by a drive-by shooting.”

The truth is, if you don’t believe in God, your life doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. There’s no reason for it. There’s no purpose. And so just live; be intellectually honest with your commitment.

I will respect an atheist who says, “I will live with the conclusions of mybelief,” just like I’m willing to live with the conclusions and the seeming contradictions of my belief.

I debated Sam Harris, the well-known atheist, in Newsweek magazine. And I said, “Sam.” He was trying to say he could be spiritual without God. I said, “Well no, you can’t be spiritual without God. You got to believe in a spirit.”

Now he said, “Well I believe in spiritual . . .”

I said, “We’re a lot closer to God than you realize. The fact is you just don’t want a boss.”

I often ask a person; I say, “If there was a God – just suppose there was a God – would you have to change anything in your lifestyle?”

“Well, probably yeah.”

Well then the real question is not, “Is there a God or not?” But, “Why don’t you believe in God?”

I’m never interested in the fact that people don’t believe in God. So what. I mean people expect me to get upset about that. You don’t believe in God? Big deal. I want to know why you don’t believe in God. Do you really believe it for intellectual reasons? Or is it really just a cover because, “I don’t want to change. I don’t want a boss in my life. I don’t want somebody telling me what to do.”

It’s like, well, the Holocaust deniers. “Well I want to deny the Holocaust because it’s uncomfortable for me.” Well that’s ridiculous. The Holocaust happened. And whether people deny it or not, it happened. And maybe they want to deny it, but it happened.

And so just like we’ve been working in Rwanda, there are genocide deniers. Well it happened. So I don’t see any contradiction.

The truth is for 2000 years, almost all scientists were men of faith or women of faith. It’s only in the last 100 years that you have people who were atheistic scientists. All of the great scientists – Galileo and Newton and all these others, Pascal and others, were believers.


Recorded on: December 11, 2007


There is no contradiction between faith and reason.

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