Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I bought a book at a thrift store this summer titled The Swiss, The Gold, and the Dead: How Swiss Bankers Helped Finance the Nazi War Machine written by Jean Ziegler and translated from German by John Brownjohn. The book is heavy reading. It's not calculus, but it takes at least a second reading for it to sink very far into my thick skull. Ziegler's thesis is that the Swiss, for the sake of convenience as well as for the huge profits they made in doing so, laundered the gold that the Nazis were stealing from the Jews and helped finance Germany's military leading up to and continuing throughout World War II. Swiss neutrality, rather than opposing war, translated into doing whatever was practical from a financial perspective.
In Chapter 2 - titled "Resistance," Ziegler introduces the term "fideism" - page 61 - attributing the term to Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae. Ziegler suggests that this term explains how it came to be that the Swiss, despite their ability to understand the higher principles involved, believed these higher principles were "impracticable" and were "inhibited by overriding constraints."
How easy it is for people to fall into that trap. It has always annoyed me that idealism is looked down upon by the older, wiser generations who understand this principle of practicality. Even the Serenity Prayer alludes to this: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Fideism, though, appears to have an even more significant meaning than what Ziegler attributes to it with the Swiss. Wikipedia defines fideism this way:
"Fideism is the view that religious belief relies primarily on faith or special revelation, rather than rational inference or observation"
So fideism is the word that describes the tremendous unnamed gulf between my wife's way of looking at things and my own way. My wife is faith-based. She finds it very easy to downplay the importance of reason and logic and science when it comes to religious beliefs. I look for reason and logic in any belief. Faith is nothing if it can't stand being tested by reason and logic. In fact, in my view faith is what takes reason and logic astray. It is very easy to use this belief in fideism to justify completely unreasonable ideas and behavior in the name of faith.
A few years back, our daughter was engaging in an online debate with a former youth pastor of hers and one of the things that came up in that debate was that man's insistence that when faith comes into conflict with rational thinking, it is faith that a true Christian has to follow. To her great credit my daughter just couldn't buy that illogical argument. But at the time, neither she nor I had a word we could use to embrace this concept. Fideism is that word.
It's not that I am anti-faith. Any reasonable assessment of my ideas clearly points to my use of faith. I believe in things that I don't have enough evidence to prove. We all do that. Life would be empty without that. No, it's not that I insist on evidence-based reason or nothing at all. That isn't the problem. The problem is that when faith comes in clear conflict with the evidence, do you use reason and logic to test your faith or do you disparage reason and logic and insist that only through the higher power of faith can understanding be gained?
The fideist (word added to my spell checker but present in the Wikipedia article) throws out the evidence and attempts to impugn and invalidate the logic on the basis that faith is the higher form of thinking.


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