The Opposition Between Religion and Reason Can Be Resolved

The examination of the intellect and its powers reveals that it functions at a totally different level, with a different type of understanding, than the power of religion when it is alive in the individual.  Reason treats religion as either a hoax or a self-delusion, the “opium of the masses” to some.  At the same time, religion has dismissed the ability of reason to understand or manage the experience that underlies religion.  This opposition has been an active part of life in the modern world, and with the rise of science and secular thought in organizing society, the economy and addressing the issues raised by technology, we can observe periods when the religious fervor reigned, and those espousing ideas based on reason or science were held to be heretics and were forced to recant or were tortured or killed.  At another time, reason prevailed and religion was looked upon as a mass of fables and some even held that “God is dead” to emphasize the emptiness of the religious conviction.  It would seem that there is no solution of reconciliation here, but Sri Aurobindo actually provides one:

“But the relations of the spirit and the reason need not be, as they too often are in our practice, hostile or without any point of contact.  Religion itself need not adopt for its principle the formula ‘I believe because it is impossible’ or Pascal’s ‘I believe because it is absurd.’  What is impossible or absurd to the unaided reason, becomes real and right to the reason lifted beyond itself by the power of the spirit and irradiated by its light.  For then it is dominated by the intuitive mind which is our means of passage to a yet higher principle of knowledge.  The widest spirituality does not exclude or discourage any essential human activity or faculty, but works rather to lift all of them up out of their imperfection and groping ignorance, transforms them by its touch and makes them the instruments of the light, power and joy of the divine being and the divine nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 13,  Reason and Religion, pg. 135

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