What is the word clerics use to discount reason?

There’s a word that’s commonly used by religious people that basically means religion (or God) is not subject to logical scrutiny.

You point out a logical problem, for instance, and they say, “That’s just X” - which basically means reason can’t be used to understand God.

Is mystery perhaps the word you’re thinking of?

Stephen Gould used to refer to non-overlapping magisteria when discussion the division of the world into scientific and religious spheres.



“Mysterious ways”?

Transcendent – beyond our understanding (by its nature).

Thanks for the replies, but this term is used exclusively to mean this one idea only. It’s never used outside of religion. It’s a one word dismissal that means man’s ability to reason can’t possibly understand God, so it’s dumb to even try. It’s basically a one word statement that faith matters and reason doesn’t and to believe otherwise is just stupid.

The nuns used it to shut us up when we questioned bible stories.

Some variant of Fideism?


I’d go with ineffable myself, it’s the religious equivalent of “shut up it’s magic”. Inscrutable works too.

ETA : frickin’ ninjas everywhere these days :slight_smile:

“Incomprehensible” rings a bell.

The word is used as a put-down - definitely along the lines of “shut up it’s beyond human understanding.”

But like I said, it’s not a “normal” word in that it’s only used for this one particular meaning and never outside the context of religion.

I can almost grasp it, but it’s just out of my reach. Frustrating. It will probably come to me out of the blue when I’m thinking of something else.

Wow, if only there were a word for that.

Does ineffable mean you can’t f*** it?

I’ve heard both words used in reference to God’s mysterious ways. I’d say they have slightly different meanings.

Ineffable means too great, too wonderful to express in words, usually with a positive connotation; inscrutable means mysterious, beyond comprehension.

The wonder of God’s creation is ineffable.

A child dying of leukemia is part of God’s inscrutable plan.


This is what I was thinking, but I’m not sure how common fideism is today. It’s more of a philosophy and history of apologetics (apologistics?) term nowadays. Also, AFAIK nobody has ever really identified as a fideist, it was more of a critical term levied at someone by their opponents.

Martin Gardner described himself as a fideist. His attitude was pretty unusual though.

That’s interesting, I did not know that about Gardner.

What he describes sounds congruent with a belief that our universe is plausibly a simulation created by aliens so far beyond our comprehension that it’s pointless seeking evidence for them, or trying to guess at their nature or motivations. In a sense, this does open up the possibility for something transcendent, something entirely unforeseen.

But it would never have occurred to me to call this fideism. The fideism that I’m more familiar with seems to be wishful thinking directed toward notions that are strongly contradicted by rational inquiry, not fantastic and speculative things that may simply be inaccessible to rational inquiry.