I had the pleasure recently of re-reading science fiction author John C. Wright's conversion story, "Why I am not a Deist." Wright was an atheist who converted to Catholicism after a series of theophanies he describes as "totally humiliating" and "an embarrassment of evidence" of the truth of Christianity.
Christianity as rational
Certain atheists today have devolved into a kind of fundamentalist and evangelical atheism, notably the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the king clown of noxious atheist behavior, P.Z. Myers. Wright does not seem to have been that sort of atheist. His writing, both fiction and non-fiction, makes it clear he has always sought Truth over Ideology, objective reality over subjective belief.
The fundamentalist atheism movement prefers to charge religion with being irrational. (They confuse religionists, who frequently are irrational, with the religious ideals they strive toward but often fail to follow.) So it is refreshing to read Wright's story, in which he insists that Christianity is an utterly rational religion:
The Christian religion places an emphasis on Reason that other religions, with the exception of the Jewish, do not share, or not to the same degree. None of them mention LOGOS, the rational account, the word, issuing directly from the Father.Catholicism has a long tradition of rational thought. The Church honors no fewer than 33 thinkers with the title "Doctor of the Church." (Three of them, about 9%, are women, which is quite remarkable considering that in Western history, probably many fewer than 9% of educated persons were women.)
Christianity is not only a proponent of rational philosophy; it is a promoter of rational science. Indeed, Wright points out,
...Christendom invented science.... The Christian world-view is not only NOT incompatible with the scientific and logical one, they reinforce each other. You must imagine my befuddlement when I see science presented as somehow being the enemy of religion. Science is the enemy of Taoism or Buddhism, perhaps, but not the enemy of a religion that combines the rationalism of Athens with the mysticism of Jerusalem. We invented the University, for God's sake.
Taoism and Buddhism as irrational
My previous (and largely disastrous) attempts to study kung fu exposed me to Taoism and Buddhism, particularly Chan Buddhism, the Chinese ancestor of Zen Buddhism. Taoism is the philosophy behind the art of tai chi and emphasizes the use of chi (ki in Japanese), an utterly unscientific force. The belief in chi is a form of vitalism. It is inherently unscientific in the same sense that the theory of intelligent design is unscientific: it attempts to explain natural observations by appealing to a force that is supernatural.*
Both Taoism and Buddhism include elements that are at once impersonal and supernatural. The idea of a force both supernatural (that is, outside or above the laws of nature) and impersonal (that is, not a person or being nor arising from one) is irrational itself. Any force that exists independent of a person begs an explanation. If it acts on nature, it must be a law of nature — or (if one accepts the existence of supernatural beings) it must arise from a supernatural being.
*Of course, rational Christianity recognizes personal supernatural forces and the possibility of their acting on the natural. An appeal to the supernatural is not necessarily irrational, but it is unscientific, because by definition science can only be concerned with the natural world. Thus elements of intelligent design may be true, but it will always be an unscientific theory.