Here’s a new word for you: apotemnophilia. It is a psychological disorder, a body dysmorphic disorder. Think: anorexia, falsely experiencing being a fat person; or transgenderism, falsely experiencing being the opposite sex.
For apotemnophilia, it is falsely experiencing being an amputee. This is a person who has two legs, but experiences themselves without. When severe, they may desire to cut off a leg. When tragic, they find a sympathetic doctor to amputate a leg. We can use this strange, real and rare disorder as a metaphor for our time.
Human beings have a desire to know. We occupy much of our lives soaking up facts, information, knowledge, and Truth. We were born like sponges and ready to absorb with our minds. To do so, we scroll through our cell phones, we read Scripture, and we ask questions.
Two ways exist to know truth. The first is our reason. We see things and make sense out of them. We observe and interpret. You learn about me as you read my writing or, even better yet, have a conversation with me. If I have many typos, your reason will tell you I am lazy or just dumb.
The second way is faith. Before any non-believer loses interest, I invite you to think more deeply. Has any of us seen a proton or electron? Or seen $1 billion? Or shaken hands with George Washington? No. The physicist, the billionaire, and the historian, however, tell us they’re real. I, at least, trust them, and I think you do, too. We believe them. We have faith. We take them at their word. And so we know truth through faith.
Reason and faith are two legs running to truth. A marathon junkie would look super silly (truly clinically insane) if they prepared for their race by giving their leg a chop. An apotemnophiliac is more suited for hopscotch than a marathon. If we came into the world with two legs, let’s do our best to keep both legs, with or without a marathon.
It is the same with knowledge. Some people are veritable apotemnophiliacs! They want to cut off one way of knowing as if it was silly and false. This is skepticism. They’re more fit for intellectual hopscotch than university tenure or pastorship. Those who want to cut off the leg of reason and rely only on faith are by definition fundamentalists. Those who want to cut off the leg of faith and rely on reason only are by definition rationalists. But those who want to walk with both legs are normal people. Faith and reason, while different, go hand in hand. Brothers and sisters, let us be thinkers and believers. Truth will not contradict truth, so let’s not be afraid.
Written by Fr. Sean O’Brien