Acton Institute Powerblog

What happens when reason and faith are separated: An interview with Samuel Gregg

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In a new interview on his book, Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization, Samuel Gregg lays out how crucial the integration of reason and faith is to the West and what specific consequences result when reason and faith are separated from each other.

When reason and faith become “untethered” from each other, distortions, or “pathologies,” of reason and faith take shape. One such example is the “psuedo-religion” of Marxism. “Marxism, in one sense, is a pathology of reason, insofar as it represents the rigorous application of a type of scientific mindset to try to understand history, to try to understand the economy, and to make predictions about what’s going to happen in the future,” he explains.

Marxism is more than just a pathology of reason, however; it’s also a pathology of faith, says Gregg. Marxism is a distorted religion: “[It has] a sacred book. It has its prophets, like [Karl] Marx and [Friedrich] Engels. It has its saints, like Che Guevara. It has a type of almost church-like organization. You have the party. You have a hierarchy. It all starts to look very much like a religious organization.”

When asked whether similar hallmarks of 20th century Marxism can be found in “democratic socialism,” Gregg answers affirmatively:

It’s also a pathology of faith insofar as it’s demanding faith from people, particularly young people. It’s asking people to invest their deepest convictions in this particular political project. It’s also a pathology of reason insofar as, if you ask democratic socialists questions about “What’s the ultimate purpose of human action? Do you believe in notions of true free choice? Do you think that reason is capable of knowing more than empirical truth?” my guess is they would say no to all those things, just as nineteenth-century Marxists would say no to all those things.

Read the full interview from Reason magazine’s managing editor, Stephanie Slade: ” Samuel Gregg’s Struggle for the West”

Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts is a managing editor at the Acton Institute and produces Acton's weekly podcast, Acton Line.