A Failure of Reason

Man is a rational animal. The capacity for reason is ingrained in his nature. He cannot be truly himself without living by the light of human reason. Saint Thomas Aquinas understood the social implications of reason and saw it as a means by which all people can communicate with each other on a common basis. Therefore, he believed that reason can unify people. The capacity to reason is a universal possession, whereas race, religion, social status, and place of birth are not. In writing his Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas was confident that he could establish a common ground with the Mohammedans by “recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent.”

Perhaps we could say that Aquinas was overly confident since it is possible for people to refuse to give their assent to reason. Because we possess something does not mean that we will always use it, even if that possession defines our nature. Nonetheless, if people are honest with themselves, they must give their assent to reason, for they cannot live in any practical sense without the guidance that reason provides.

“Nothing is more important,” Jacques Maritain writes in The Range of Reason, “than the events which occur within that invisible universe which is the mind of man.” By living in accord with reason, man lives in accord with his nature. By rejecting reason, he deviates from his nature and finds himself in a state of profound confusion. The only sensible choice, therefore, is to live by the light of reason.

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Human history is replete with examples of influential figures who rejected reason and installed will in its place. Martin Luther’s denunciation of reason is extreme, often stated in language that is unrepeatable. He describes it as the “most atrocious enemy of God.” While we understand that reason is needed to direct us to “eat, drink and clothe ourselves,” on a spiritual level it is “a prostitute, the devil’s appointed harlot . . . and should be trodden under foot and destroyed.” “He who keeps a prostitute,” he wrote, “is closer to God than one who takes a wife.” With regard to Jewish people, he was ruthless: “Burn their Synagogues and schools. Put them on fire, their homes, their payer books and their rabbis”. Peter Wiener has drawn attention to the common anti-Semitism and irrationality between Luther and Hitler in his book Martin Luther, Hitlers Spiritual Ancestor. Hitler’s declaration, “I think with my blood,” is an echo of Luther’s description of reason as “the devil’s harlot.” A certain Bishop Temple has commented, “It is easy to see how Luther prepared the way for Hitler”.

The rejection of reason surfaces among individuals of lesser influence. In a remarkable confessional statement, novelist D. H. Lawrence tells us, “My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong with our minds, but what our blood feels and believes and says is always true.”

The rejection of reason is rampant in the present world. Examples are limitless. A feminist group in Canada called Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ) had its federal funding withdraw by the previous Harper government. It has been funded once again by the Trudeau government. FFQ’s current president, Gabrielle Bouchard, a self-identified transgender woman (having been born a male) has proposed that the state should require all males to undergo vasectomies upon turning 18 years of age. When Bouchard mused about banning heterosexual relationships, the provincial government threatened to rescind its $120,000 annual grant. Mindful of a possible financial penalty, Bouchard apologized. Nonetheless, one has good reason to ask why the Canadian government is funding such an irrational organization.

In AB v. CD, the British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that a female minor who wants to become a man can continue taking puberty blockers and testosterone contrary to the objections of the child’s father. The Denver Post fired columnist Jon Caldara after he wrote a column in which he stated that sex is binary, male and female. He dared to defy the Associated Press’s recent style guide according to which “gender is no longer binary.” The paper’s opinion editor, Megan Schrader announced that she is looking for a new columnist because her editors “value having a wide variety of voices in our pages” (but apparently not wide enough to include “God made them male and female”).

La ’Tasha D. Mayes, founder and executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice (including abortion) argues that “freedom from violence is reproductive justice.” In Orwellian style, counsel is violence, killing the unborn child is justice! Contradictions are welcomed in a world where reason is rejected. Furthermore, the vandalizing and firebombing of churches and statues that have occurred recently are also viewed under the canopy of justice. The Catholic Church is charged with “white supremacy” on the completely untenable basis that Jesus and Mary were “white.”

In his book The Revolt against Reason, Catholic apologist Sir Arnold Lunn makes this point: “Logoclasm which attacks reason is akin to the iconoclasm which attacked religious art, for reason and beauty are aspects of the divine”. That man is made in the image of God means that man and God both share reason. When reason is rejected, God is rejected along with it. But the atheistic world about us—despite its platitudes about diversity, tolerance, inclusivity, and so on—is dead set in its aim to both reject God and deprive rational creatures of the precious gift He has bestowed upon them.


  • Donald DeMarco

    Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of Saint Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the Saint Austin Review and the author, most recently, of Reflections on the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Search for Understanding.

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