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from the Secretary General

Theologic

by Robert L. Stern

I don’t know if Mr. Spock ever studied Logic or it was just a case of “doin’ what comes naturally.” To study Logic is to learn an algebraic way of thinking. For example:

(1) All birds can fly.
(2) The creature in my cage is a bird.
Therefore, logically,
(3) the creature in my cage can fly.

However, not everything that seems logical really is. For example:

(1) All birds can fly.
(2) The creature in my cage is not a bird.
Therefore,
(3) the creature in my cage cannot fly.

Obviously, this doesn’t always hold true. Perhaps the creature in my cage is a bat. The conclusion is illogical.

In addition, there is a flaw in both examples: (1) is not true. Not all birds can fly – think of a penguin or an ostrich.

It’s more serious when we use this same kind of logic or illogic with people. For example:

(1) All Christians love others.
(2) Mariam is a Christian.
Therefore, logically,
(3) Mariam loves others.

This has the same kind of flaw: (1) is not true. Not all Christians love others – and maybe Mariam does not either.

Here’s a worse example of bad logic:

(1) All Christians love others.
(2) Ahmed is not a Christian.
Therefore,
(3) Ahmed does not love others.

Even if (1) were true, it’s still illogical.

Illogical thinking can be dangerous, especially when it leads to taking decisions and actions affecting others. For example:

(1) Good Catholics go to heaven.
(2) Jews are not good Catholics.
Therefore,
(3) Jews cannot go to heaven.

This is completely illogical and false. Of course people who are not good Catholics can go to heaven.

Too often passion overrides logic and prompts terrible decisions. For example:

(1) Muslims are dangerous fanatics.
(2) Iraq is a Muslim country.
Therefore,
(3) Iraqis are dangerous fanatics.

Here both the logic is sloppy and (1) is ambiguous and flawed: Some Muslims are dangerous fanatics, but not all Muslims are dangerous fanatics. And, of course the same can be said about Christians or Jews.

When I went to college many years ago, they told us, “We’re here to teach you how to think, not what to think.”

This didn’t mean that we were not going to acquire new ideas and new information. But we did learn to examine critically the new ideas and information we encountered – as well as the old ideas and information that we brought with us when we arrived. We learned to think and judge logically.

Without passion we are almost lifeless. But, passion without logic can delude us, making us dangerous and harmful to others – as well as to our ourselves.

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Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern



Tags: Christianity Muslim Jews