The Failures of the Rationalist World-View in Respect of Religion

The extreme rationalist view of religion is that it must be able to prove itself within the framework of the scientific and rational fact-based understanding of the world and how it operates.  This view tries to force religion to justify itself on the terms set by the intellectual reason, even though religion purports to interface with a segment of reality that is not external or palpable in the same sense as the rational mind prefers.  A less extreme position, which tries to find ways to justify the positions taken by religion with explanations that fit within the four walls of the rational external world and its perceptible workings.  Of course, science has begun to make accommodations as it found that its world-view cannot explain even the external world that it prided itself on being able to describe.  It cannot describe the electro-magnetic spectrum, the existence of black holes or dark matter, or quantum effects at the atomic level without going far beyond what can be easily perceived, logically understood and organized, and systematically explained.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…its (reason) intolerant negations are an arrogant falsity, as the human mind has now sufficiently begun to perceive.  Its mistake is like that of a foreigner who thinks everything in an alien country absurd and inferior because these things are not his own ways of acting and thinking and cannot be cut out by his own measures or suited to his own standards.  So the thoroughgoing rationalist asks the religious spirit, if it is to stand, to satisfy the material reason and even to give physical proof of its truths, while the very essence of religion is the discovery of the immaterial Spirit and the play of a supraphysical consciousness.  So too he tries to judge religion by his idea of its externalities, just as an ignorant and obstreperous foreigner might try to judge a civilisation by the dress, outward colour of life and some of the most external peculiarities in the social manners of the inhabitants.”

“The more moderate attitude of the rational mind has also played its part in the history of human thought.  Its attempt to explain religion have resulted in the compilation of an immense mass of amazingly ingenious perversions, such as certain pseudo-scientific attempts to form a comparative Science of Religion.  It has built up in the approved modern style immense facades of theory with stray bricks of misunderstood facts for their material.  Its mild condonations of religion have led to superficial phases of thought which have passed quickly away and left no trace behind them.  Its efforts at the creation of a rational religion, perfectly well-intentioned, but helpless and unconvincing, have had no appreciable effect and have failed like a dispersing cloud….”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 13,  Reason and Religion, pp. 130-131