Justice Scalia encourages faith and reason

No surprise: some find it unreasonable

From The Denver Post:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia today told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 Catholics to have “the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity” by society’s sophisticates.

Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the high court and one of its most conservative, received a rousing welcome from a throng sprawled across several adjoining rooms of the Denver Convention Center. …

The 75-year-old Scalia said that today one can believe in a creator and the teachings of Jesus without being the brunt of too much ridicule, but that to hold traditional Christian beliefs that Jesus is God and He physically rose from the grave is to be derided as simple-minded by those considered leading intellectuals.

Traditional Catholics, Scalia said, are seen as peasant-like in their saying the Rosary, kneeling before the Holy Eucharist and indiscriminately following the teachings of the pope.

“(Yet) the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight,” Scalia said, quoting the Bible.

He is also reported to have said, “”My point is not that reason and intellect need to be laid aside. A faith without a rational basis should be laid aside as false. … What is irrational is to reject a priori the possibility of miracles in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular.”

This annoyed and confused someone at ThinkProgress.com, who wrote:

A priori” is a philosophical term which is usually used to refer to a claim that one has knowledge independent of experience, so it is unclear how anyone could reject the central Christian belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead under Scalia’s standard given that no living person was around to actually experience it. More importantly, though, the clear implication of Scalia’s statement appears to be than all non-Christians — or approximately two-thirds of the world’s population — are “irrational.”

The author is apparently unaware of the eye witness testimony found in the four Gospels, which stands as historical evidence, regardless of one’s particular beliefs. Regardless, I think it is fairly clear that Justice Scalia was not making a rigorous philosophical argument, but was using the term “a priori” in its more general and everyday sense, which is defined as “not based on prior study or examination; nonanalytic: an a priori judgment.” In other words, he was insisting that to reject evidence—historical, logical, or even theological—for miracles and the Resurrection without any study or examination of that evidence is irrational. He is, of course, entirely correct, because the rejection of any argument or claim without a proper consideration of evidence is irrational and lacking in intellectual integrity. So, who really is more reasonable: the Christian who not only lauds reason but asserts its proper place in relation to his religious beliefs, or the non-Christian “thinker” who rejects, out of hand and without consideration of any evidence or argument, the possibility of reason being compatiable with said religious belief?


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About Carl E. Olson 1122 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications.