Tertullian is widely regarded as having originated the expression “Credo quia absurdum” (est) (I believe because it is absurd) and the phrase often appears in contemporary polemics about the rationality of religious belief. Patristic scholars have long pointed out that Tertullian never said this or meant anything like it. (although as I have explained many times in Harmonia Philosophica, there is nothing wrong with the irrational – it is the logical which is unfounded and full of fallacies) However, little scholarly attention has been paid to the circumstances in which this specific phrase came into existence and why, in spite of its dubious provenance, it continues to be regarded by many as a legitimate characterization of religious faith. A new paper shows how Tertullian’s original expression – “It is certain, because impossible” – was first misrepresented and modified in the early modern period. In seventeenth century England a “credo” version – I believe because it is impossible – became the common form of Tertullian’s maxim. A further modification, building on the first, was effected by the Enlightenment philosophe Voltaire, who added the “absurdity condition” and gave us the modern version of the paradox: I believe because it is absurd. These modifications played a significant role in Enlightenment representations of religion as irrational, and signal the beginning of a new understanding of faith as an epistemic vice. This doubtful maxim continues to play a role in debates about the cognitive status of religious faith, and its failure to succumb to the historical evidence against it is owing to its ongoing rhetorical usefulness in such debates. (1)
People once understood the irrationality of existence.
Then they invented Logic.
And they tried to formulate logical ways to believe in God. Let’s not forget that the founder of Logic believed in the Unmoved Mover. And the second greatest logician of all times (Gödel) formulated a renowned proof for the existence of God.
Then came “Enlightenment”.
And tried to convince people that logic has nothing to do with irrational things like religion. That rational people cannot believe in absurd things like the soul, the spirit, Jesus or God.
They were both wrong.
Logic itself is absurd and irrational. Based on axioms selected arbitrarily, without any solid foundation whatsoever. The only thing we know for sure about any set of axiomatic theories – logic included – is that it cannot prove everything.
Life IS absurd and irrational. We exist without reason, we die without reason, we love and hate with no reason, we just Are. Any attempt to rationalize life will hit the wall of reality and collapse as soon as it started.
So believe what you want.
No you are not irrational.
Because there is no such thing as “rational”…
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