I’m sharing two excerpts from Roger Scruton’s The Soul of the World, one today and one tomorrow. Both come from “Believing in God,” his first chapter, and convey the challenge of belief in light of reason with the conclusion that what both faith and reason share is an interest in knowledge “beyond the horizon” of our world and a pursuit of transcendent experience. First, on approaching faith:

There are, it seems to me, two ways in to the topic of theology: the cosmological and the psychological. We can speculate about the nature and origin of the world, in search of the Being upon whom the natural order depends. And we can speculate about the experience of holiness, in which individuals encounter another order of things, an intrusion into the natural world from a sphere “beyond” it. Both ways point toward the supernatural. There could not be an explanation of the world as a whole in natural terms since the explanation must reach beyond the realm of nature to its transcendental ground. There could not be an account of holiness—of the “numinous”—that did not relate the experience to a transcendental subject. The experience of sacred things is, I have suggested, a kind of interpersonal encounter. It is as though you address, and are addressed by, another I, but one that has no embodiment in the natural order. Your experience “reaches beyond” the empirical realm, to a place on its horizon. This idea is vividly conveyed in the Upanishads, in which Brahman, the creative principle, is represented as transcendental, universal, and also as atman, the self in which all our separate selves aspire to be absorbed and united.

The skeptical response to those observations is to say that they are both illusions. It is an illusion that the natural world has some other explanation than itself. For what is explanation, if not the demonstration that some phenomenon belongs in the natural order, the order of cause and effect as this is explored by science? It is an illusion that there are sacred things, sacred moments, holy mysteries. For we explain such things as we explain everything else, by showing their place in the order of nature. These experiences arise from the pressure of social life, which causes us to read intention, reason, and desire into all that surrounds us so that, finding no human cause for those things that most deeply affect us, we imagine a divine cause instead.

… We cannot, for reasons made clear by Kant, reason beyond the limits of our own point of view, which is circumscribed by the law of causality, and by the forms of space and time. We have no access to the transcendental perspective from which the question of the ultimate ground of reality can be meaningfully asked, let alone answered. And we cannot, for reasons made clear by Hume, deduce from our religious experiences that they are not illusions. …

Reason aims of its nature toward a kind of final narrative of how things are, in which all the contradictions (which are contradictions only from a partial perspective) are overcome. If Hegel is right, then the cosmological path points beyond the edge of the world as science describes it, to a place where another kind of question can be asked, a question that cannot be answered with a cause, but only with a reason: the question “why?” asked of the world as a whole… We can answer such a question only by giving a teleological, rather than a causal, account of things. That account will make no difference to, and have no contact with, cosmological science. …

Of course there are idolatrous religions and religions that muddle the natural and the supernatural in ways that make nonsense of both. But there are also religions that turn their backs on idolatrous practices, that invite us to address the specific moments of ritual involvement with an alertness that reaches precisely beyond what is present to the senses, toward the perspective lying on the edge of things, which addresses us I to I. The narrative of a religion is like a commentary on these moments, a prop to be discarded when the experience, the sakīnah, has been fully grasped. This “reaching beyond” of the religious moment is not different, I shall suggest, from the transcendental urge of reason itself. Ultimately the cosmological and the psychological paths are paths toward the same destination, and that destination lies on the far horizon of our world. …