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Get some food for thought during faith and reason course

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By Kirsten Laskey

Starting Wednesday, Los Alamos residents will be given some food for thought. During the Faith and Reason course, participants will have a lot to munch on.Faith and Reason, is a free, six-week course based on an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. The course will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. every Wednesday through May 21 at St. Thomas More Center at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. During each class, facilitators Steve Levings and Tom Farish will make a presentation before opening the class up to discussion.Encyclicals, Farish explained, are written by popes to expose people to important issues.For the course, “they will pick out the meaty bits and chew on them bit,” Farish said.He explained the encyclical will be broken into five pieces and different “-isms,” such as idealism, will be discussed.Levings explained the five pieces correspond roughly to the chapters in the encyclical. The first class, he said, will introduce the encyclical and the philosophy of ideas discussed in the work.The purpose of the course is to get people acquainted with the philosophy that fathered the church, but seems to have faded from people’s consciences during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, Farish said. “God gave us a mind and heart and we’re suppose use them both to be human,” Farish said.Everyone is welcome to participate in the course. Farish said the hope is to get people to “think about things they don’t usually think about.”The class will also remind people that reason and faith do go together. Some of the most important things in life, he said, can’t be subjected to scientific measurement.For instance, Farish said, he asks husbands to calculate how much they love their wives – is it 3.9 or 6.7?Levings agreed: “In the current thought, we see separation in faith and reason. Most people think that faith is entirely separate from reason and that it would be hard to bring them together,” he said. “In the Catholic Church, since the early beginning, faith and reason have thought to be essential to understanding both morals and Christianity itself.”In fact, Levings said, Pope Benedict XVI has stated that faith and reason are essential to a peaceful approach to resolving the religious problems in the world today.To deny that faith and reason fit together and to merely resort to a cafeteria method of picking and choosing beliefs, Farish said, leads to nihilism and hopelessness.Faith, however, allows humans “to get a grip on transcendent issues,” he said.Modern society seems to have distracted people from seeing these issues, Farish said. “We have all these modern conveniences and yet they are not helping us answer these big questions,” he said.For instance, technology, even though it is labor-saving, it is not bringing people together but isolating them, he said.Additionally, popular culture seems to have sunken morality to the “lowest common denominator,” Farish said.“We’ve lost our moral footing because we’ve forgotten who we are,” he added.The course can help to change these problems, Farish said. “At least get people to think there is more than what we can see.”Additionally, the course will hopefully reach out to the scientists in the local community, Levings said. “We are particularly concerned that in this town, there is a tendency among scientists to discount faith or religion as not having any bearings (on their work),” he said. “We would like to see the scientific community more engaged in the study of morals.“We want people who question whether the church is committed to understanding the science, reason,” Levings said. “(We) would like to show the church is very friendly to science and we think that what we would like to see a convergence of reason and faith that makes sense in the modern world.”“I think it’s going to be a wonderful course,” Farish said.For more information about the course, call Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at 662-6193.