Immanuel Kant, a well-known philosopher and writer, once said in his essay “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?,” “Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom; and the freedom to question is the least harmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters. But on all sides I hear: ‘Do not argue!’ The officer says, ‘Do not argue, drill!’ The tax man says, ‘ Do not argue, pay!’ The pastor says, ‘ Do not argue, believe!’” Throughout his essay, and many other works, there is a call to throw off the shackles of blind acceptance and come into a new light of reason and continuous questioning and analysis. This is the basis for modern science; what we cannot explain, we explore, and even that which we are certain of is subject to discussion, debate, and open criticism. In our culture there has been a tacit compliance to allow knowledge and debate fall to the back burners, behind what “experts” say and what we read in the newspaper or hear on the television.
There has been an unspoken agreement with the media, the churches, the government, and even college institutions saying: “We don’t care to learn or understand. Just tell us what we need to know to survive, and here’s what money we have (plus much that we don’t) for you to tell us these things.” I would respectfully, but vehemently disagree with this status quo. As I will continue to emphasize, reason, debate, and discussion are the paths to knowledge and change that we have chosen to ignore and leave behind in this age of instant gratification and complacency.
Even when Martin Luther King Jr. was challenging the societal norms of racism and oppression during the Civil Rights Movement, so too must we challenge the norms of laziness and aversion to challenges of our own beliefs as well as those that others hold. Christians are called to be strong in faith and Christ-like in their actions and words. I don’t believe that Christ called us to be blind to the world around us or the knowledge that we can attain about other cultures, other people, and even ourselves as we learn about the world we live in. To close our minds and remain in a “self-imposed immaturity,” as Kant eloquently states, is the highest offense to the people that we share this world with, as well as the worst detriment to our own development as thinking, rational, and compassionate human beings. So often we see or hear about extremists that hide behind the name of God to persecute and oppress other human beings because their way of life is an “abomination” or an “affront to believers,” and so often we, as a whole, do nothing to educate them or to stand up for the rights of those that these “Christians” are oppressing. Their lack of rational, thoughtful discourse and ignorance of the world around them leads to the news stories we are justifiably uncomfortable with as human beings and as Christians.
Francis Bacon, another proponent of rational thought and “natural philosophy,”...