Faith in transition

By Gioia HöroldMisch PautschLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

How is it possible for people to find faith in a world dominated by rationality and science? The Lëtzebuerger Journal spoke to a philosophy professor and the Vicar General of Luxembourg. A clash of two worlds.

This is the second part of a series of articles on the topic of faith in today's society. It complements a cross-generational portrait of the lives of believers in our fast-paced world.

Dietmar Heidemann, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Luxembourg, has an answer to why people still believe in our rational world today. According to Kant, in Enlightenment philosophy, the idea of believing in a higher being is rationally unavoidable and is a logical consequence of our thinking. "Since humans think autonomously and reflect on our world, we automatically and inevitably come across the idea of God as the supreme being in our process of reflection, with whom entire contents such as omnipotence, eternity, justice and other moral values are associated." According to Kant, the idea of God is therefore a thought of the transcendent that is unavoidable, even if it cannot be proven. The 18th century philosopher thus denies neither religion nor the existence of a higher being. However, faith can never be proven. "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith, " said Immanuel Kant. For humans, the idea of God is something that is believed in, but where knowledge has no place. Consequently, Professor Heidemann explains that Kant emphasised that belief is an active decision: "Philosophy, like the other sciences, is not in a position to provide evidence for the existence of God. What follows from this is that we must set aside our knowledge in order to believe." For Kant, faith was therefore an active individual decision and a cognitive attitude that cannot be rationally grasped. Belief is an individual decision that is strongly influenced by socialisation and the environment. Family and education play an important role in this, although faith cannot be explained biologically or genetically.

The Vicar General of Luxembourg, Patrick Muller, also explains: "Faith is more than a purely rational way of thinking. Much is based on a foundation of trust." Not everything could be explained, so faith is a kind of "leap into the unknown".

Science and religion – incompatible phenomena

For Professor Heidemann, faith is fundamentally different from scientific knowledge; people only believe because they don't know. "Faith cannot fill gaps in our knowledge; we can only believe, but not know. So I cannot know whether God exists. And because we don't know, we believe." Religious faith would therefore be a kind of ignorance. However, the persuasive power of faith can be so strong that it has the appearance of knowledge, especially when people believe in evidence of God's work in the world, such as miracles. For science, faith were always something otherworldly and inexplicable. No scientist could take the view that the existence of God can be proven. "Every causal intervention in the world must in principle be explainable for a physicist. However, religion thrives on the fact that it cannot be explained scientifically." However, it was a private matter for scientists to believe in God.

You want more? Get access now.

  • One-year subscription

  • Monthly subscription

  • Zukunftsabo for subscribers under the age of 26


Already have an account?

Log in