Thursday, December 25, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Knowledge, religion and the hard work of faith

By
From page A8 | April 21, 2014 |

In my early 20s, I suffered from an affliction I suspect is common among people that age: I felt great uncertainty about the world, what I believed and how I would ever understand it all.

I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree, cramming my head with sciences and humanities, soaking up facts, figures and ideas in the hope that examining them would provide not only answers but certitude.

Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the more I learned, the less I actually knew.

It wasn’t a novel theory. Socrates supposedly opined that true wisdom is limited to the awareness of our own ignorance.

But that seemed an indifferent if not cynical approach to my college education.

In my frustration, I confided in a philosophy professor who reassured me that an inverse relationship between scholastic study and the requisite possession of knowledge is not an unconventional proposition but one common among the most erudite people.

He found that for many highly educated people, the only thing that can fill the void between what we think we know and the corollary acknowledgment of how much more we don’t know is faith.

Faith, he postulated, and related religious practice increase proportionately with a person’s level of education.

The assertion of a positive relationship between religious belief and educational attainment seemed counterintuitive, even to a practicing Catholic.

And the zeitgeist of modern culture seemed to argue that the opposite is true — that religion is a vestigial institution of a less educated society and primarily the purview of the intellectually incurious.

Surveys and studies seem to affirm that in our increasingly rational, highly educated society, the shedding of traditional religious belief and practice is a foregone conclusion.

Consider, in 1972, only 5 percent of Americans reported no religious affiliation. But a recent Pew public opinion survey found that 20 percent of Americans and a third of adults under 30, a growing proportion, identify as a “none” — a person claiming no religion.

Some proponents of the secularization thesis have tried to prove that educational attainment reduces religiosity.

A 2011 working paper by Notre Dame economist Daniel M. Hungerman tried to quantify this theory, concluding that “an additional year of education leads to a 4-percentage-point decline in the likelihood that an individual identifies with any religious tradition.” (Although he concedes that his study looked only at compulsory education and not higher levels of academic study.)

But the prevailing argument for those who believe that religious practice declines as education increases is that belief is an abstraction, easily disproved by study and rational thinking.

As Rabbi David Wolpe wrote in the Huffington Post in 2008, “Attacks against religion are replete with phrases about the ignorance, pettiness and ‘mania’ of religious people. Belief is derided as a psychological symptom.” It is anathema to the pursuit of knowledge.

But from my own experience and observation of others, unbelief is often the result of the same lack of curiosity and lack of effort that so many attribute to the faithful.

Perhaps that is why my professor observed, however hopefully, that intellectually rigorous people also tend to be the most religious.

Sociologist Charles Murray, a self-described shaky agnostic, told readers in a recent Wall Street Journal piece that “Taking religion seriously means work. … It can easily require as much intellectual effort as a law degree.”

And in a world of shortcuts, where we are prone to avoid the difficult in favor of the easy, where we prefer what feels good to what forces us to grow, it is more likely than not that the decline in faith is driven by the fact that fewer and fewer of us are prepared for or interested in such rigor.

Faith practiced well is like any other discipline worth pursuing: It requires work, commitment and study.

As Thomas Aquinas said: “We can’t have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterward we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves.”

Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at cmallen@star-telegram.com.

Cynthia M. Allen

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Danny BuntinApril 21, 2014 - 7:37 am

    "that intellectually rigorous people also tend to be the most religious.". There is a broad statement backed up with zero facts. Sociologist Charles Murray - hhmm, sounds good for a reference. Unfortunately, Mr. Murray has his own agenda, or shall I say say the agenda of a think tank. So in a nut shell, people of faith are the true people of knowledge. While the rest of us are self centered, lack of curiosity dimwits. Well, two people agree with this hack, so it must be true.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksApril 21, 2014 - 7:43 am

    Danny, proud and quite comfortable being on your team!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacApril 21, 2014 - 8:37 am

    Religiosity for me is a gun on every belt. That will give a person faith!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Thinking about holiday discards? Cities, Scouts ready to help

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Christmas Eve event features Bible, bikes

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

It’s easy to remember some Christmas memories

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

 
Man’s walk for peace enters Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
$3,500 nets Dixon man $9, he says

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Deadline nears for BookFest authors’ contest

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Suisun waterfront to host restaurant week

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

Conservancy schedules next Quail Ridge hike

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield man wants $28,828 returned

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Fairfield police log: Dec. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Dec. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Dec. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Governor issues 105 pardons, many for drug crimes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
10 years after tsunami, Indonesian family reborn

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Storm expected to bring Christmas snow to Sierra

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Sony broadly releases ‘The Interview’ in reversal of plans

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Regulations would expand coastal California sanctuaries

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Officer kills armed 18-year-old near Ferguson

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Interrogation program mismanaged, Senate, CIA agree

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Denver shelters cite legal pot in homeless upswing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

After NYC deaths, a surge of support for police

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
IS shoots down warplane in Syria, captures Jordanian pilot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Abe takes office for 3rd term as Japan’s leader

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Russia: NATO pushed Kiev to drop nonaligned status

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Russia in offer to help firms with foreign debts

By T. Burt McNaughton | From Page: A7

 
Grisly finds in Iraqi Yazidi village wrested from militants

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

NKorea outage a case study in online uncertainties

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Curfew in India state after rebels kill 63

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Cuba’s relations with Catholic Church hit high point

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Iraq: Suicide attack kills 24 people near Baghdad

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Sony tries to save face with ‘Interview’ flip-flop

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Who hacked Sony becomes Internet’s new mystery

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

 
Immunity and interrogators: a second look

By Walter Pincus | From Page: A11

My grandson wants what for Christmas?

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11

 
Letting go

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 25, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
A partridge in a pear tree will cost a bit more this year

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Court denies Polanski’s motion to dismiss 1977 sex case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Sports

 
Domestic violence at forefront of NFL in 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Alabama’s Sims proves critics wrong with big season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Associated Press Sports Story of the Year Winners

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Masters races to keep field under 100 players

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Typical NFL season: smiles for some, frowns for others

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NBA prepares for Christmas coming-out party

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B2

 
Titans lead Bucs for top pick in NFL draft

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Tyler Summitt easing into head coaching career

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Elvis Stojko, Bourne bring skating to small stage

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B2

New-Look NBA: In Milwaukee, a new hope rises

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sharks forward John Scott suspended 4 games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Honda recalls 1,252 Crosstours over side air bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Applications for US jobless aid fall to 7-week low

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Walmart tests gift card exchange

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Unions make push to recruit protected immigrants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9