I don't think that theism is necessarily irrational.

Strafio
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I don't think that theism is necessarily irrational.

When I hear that religion/supernaturalism is 'irrational' it doesn't seem right to me. A lot of others agree with my sentiments and the kneejerk reaction is to try and give reasons for supernaturalism. In my opinion, this always ends in failure because the arguments don't hold under scrutiny. But even afterwards, calling supernaturalism irrational doesn't seem right, especially when you talk to believers in it.
Dawkins and others will say that this is because many of them are rational in every other way so the impression of rationality sticks, even when they turn it off. The thing is, these supernaturalists are still trying to apply the same reasoning to their supernatural beliefs, even if their reasoning is flawed.

I think I can sum up my argument as follows:
This time last year it was rational for me to believe in God, but it wouldn't be now.
Or; Descartes' belief in the supernatural was rational but it would not have been rational for David Hume to hold such a belief.

My definition of rational/irrational is as follows:
To act rationally is to act upon reasoning and act irrationally to act in the face of reason. So how can the same act be rational for one person but not for another? If both people have applied their rationalilty to the best of their abilities and come to different conclusions then both will be rational in their differing acts.
Notice that I'm not judging by how advanced/precise their reasoning is but more their attitude to it, that they genuinely tried to reason as honestly as possible. So I think that Descartes' proofs of God were flawed, but he was still rational for following them.

Argument against reductionism/positivism
One argument I hear for theism being irrational is that people should only believe in things that have been proved. Not quite those words but something to that effect.
I think this the correct approach for bodies of scientific/historical/philosophical knowledge but is in appropiate for personal beliefs.

We don't start with refined rational methods.
Our learning process is long and drawn out. I've heard somewhere that one isn't capable proper critical thinking until they reach teenage. Either way, our refinement of logical methods is an on-going process. The consequence of this is that by the time we are capable of the standard of reasoning that these positivists demand, we already have a large body of disorganised knowledge. Should we now start from scratch using purely logical methods?
Or do we go about the task of re-organising the knowledge we have?
I think we do the latter.
Do we go about re-organising all of it?
I think that's as impractical as it comes, and unnecessary.
What we do is we find beliefs that are problematic and use our methods of reasoning as a kind of therapy to clear up confusion.

So rather than the positivist picture of; "I believe in things that I have come to rationally", I think the "I have applied reasoning to clear up problematic beliefs" is a more accurate way the way we think.

In my case, I had reasons to believe in God about a year ago.
They weren't very clear and concise reasons, probably went something like this:
1) Life sometimes seems written as a story, as if it was meant to be this way. (like there was a designer making things happen) I was quite a believer in fate.
2) The worldview containing God seemed to work and be coherent. It also seemed intuitively right in a lot of ways. It 'felt' right.
3) I saw something very special in the religious people. Their faith gave them a distinctive character and made them the kind of people that I saw close to ideal in a lot of ways.

Since the topic has come up, I've found myself putting these reasons through more advanced analysis and I gradually found them to fail. I no longer see these as good reasons to believe in a God, that all these 'gut feelings' have more natural explanations and such 'feelings' can sometimes be misleading. (I still declare my gut to be 90% accurate on most issues! Eye-wink)

My point is, the positivist/reductionist has argument along the lines of:
1) If someone is justified in believing God then they need a rational reason
2) All reasons I've come across have failed
c) Theism is irrational

If the believer don't know (2), i.e. hasn't worked out that their reasons fail then they have every reason to believe that their reasonings work. So they're not going against reason in following the conclusions. It would only be if they knew that their reasonings failed and still followed the conclusions despite this that they'd be irrational.

So why don't I like the word 'irrational'?
I've so far argued that saying "theism is necessarilly irrational" is technically correct.
Now I'll try and explain why I think it matters.
'Irrational' is a bit insulting. It accuses the person of not thinking.
The common use is in an everyday argument, usually when one side is getting a bit hysterical; "you're being so irrational! You've got no reason to believe..."

Theists might've gotten something wrong in their reasoning, but many of them have thought things through carefully and used their knowledge as effectively as they can. Calling them 'irrational' is kind of rude, saying it's as if they hadn't tried at all. The other thing that winds people up about that word is the name-caller can often be a kid who's read one Dawkins book and starts laying into someone who's thought about the issue a lot more. It's why so many people roll their eyes when the 'I' word is used and in some cases is seen as the atheist equivilent of 'burn in hell' jabs.

In my experience, this name calling makes people defensive and less open to atheistic arguments. If the arguments had been presented to them in a more rational manner (i.e. appealing purely to the listener's sense of reason without name calling and/or pressure to accept) then they would gradually have come to find them undeniable. As they gradually came to understand the arguments better then they'd find they make perfect sense. When you make people defensive it discourages this and they becoming more interested in 'saving face' and finding an answer of some sort, because they don't appreciate their reasonings being insulted and don't want to give you the satisfaction of being right.

I've never been convinced of something during the argument.
All the arguments that have changed my mind took time to do so.
Rather than be instantly proved/disproved of something, I'd come to understand the argument and come to consider it flawless, that I had no answer against it. (well, maybe not flawless but strong enough to convince me for now - I still consider all these arguments open to question! Eye-wink)

I think that adequately voices my views on this topic.
Thoughts? Smiling


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Sorry, but I just don't see

Sorry, but I just don't see anything wrong with calling a spade a spade. Belief in the supernatural is irrational. Full stop. There is no way within the definitions of the words that you can make any other case. This renders all theistic belief irrational, which is something big theological thinkers like Augustine have long acknowledged.

Faith, by definition, is belief regardless of evidence. This simply is not a rational way to form beliefs and can never be. It is unfortunate that theists don't like to hear that their beliefs don't conform to rationality, but it's an important point to make since popular culture already acknowledges theism as the only RATIONAL standpoint.

The fact that many otherwise intelligent, rational people are theists in no way mitigates the fact that the belief itself is irrational.

Whether it is rude or ill-advised to point out the irrationality of theism to theists is a question I'll leave for others to worry about. My opinion on the matter is that atheists have quietly tried to live and let live for a long time, and our reward has been a steadily growing culture of fundamentalism that has almost completely swamped public life in the US. Being polite and respectful isn't working. It's time to challenge religious beliefs and stop worrying about who's going to get upset.

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I think strafio's point

I think strafio's point might be that if a person has incomplete information, and the limited information they have is not sufficient to understand that their god-belief is not consistant with known facts, then they are strictly being rational, in that they are taking the information they have and applying logic to conclude that god exists.

I am not sure how limited the information would have to be for this position to be rational, but I am not sure that it is an impossible position. That is, I am not sure that there is no set of information that if considered as being the set of known information of a person, said information would make deriving atheism impossible or irrational.

Of course, I agree that because we have the sufficient information to derive that theism is irrational, then theism is in fact irrational.

I'm tempted to say that if it were actually true that god exists, then a set of all true facts would have to conclude that theism is rational, and we are simply lacking the significant information to derive that conclusion. But since this information is not in our possession, and we cannot assume it, then atheism is currectly the most rational conclusion.

The question is two-fold; 1)how much true data do we have at our disposal? 2) How good is our logic?

A rational decision is a product of these two factors. Given the information we currently have and our application of logic to it, I feel it is quite safe to conclude that atheism is the rational position.

Whether this has always been the case and always will be the case is beyond my knowledge.

Shaun

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Strafio
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Shaun gets the idea.

Shaun gets the idea.
A rational person acts on the best reason they have.
There's potential that we've made a serious flaw in our atheistic arguments and that we'd have to re-think. Does that mean we were irrational in following them before said flaw was found?

Some theists out there don't even try to reason but a lot do more than they're given credit for. Even though theism would go against our reasons, it's a bit OTT to assume that someone who doesn't come to the same conclusions hasn't reasoned at all. It's one thing to think they've made an error or fallacy in their thinking and another to accuse them of not thinking at all.
The fact is, some of the greatest reasoners in history came to theistic conclusions through their efforts. We find flaws in their arguments but does that make them irrational? No, it makes them mistaken in their reasoning.

Tiberium, although the motivation I cited was about respect and politeness, at the end of the day I was saying the rake is rake and you should stop calling it a spade! Sticking out tongue

ShaunPhilly wrote:
A rational decision is a product of these two factors. Given the information we currently have and our application of logic to it, I feel it is quite safe to conclude that atheism is the rational position.

My opinion is that if someone takes the rational path then they'll eventually wind up an atheist, but they'll rationally land in other positions on the way. Again, this is based on what I know now. Who knows, maybe we'll find out something we missed and turn into theists someday! Eye-wink


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Strafio, you're just using

Strafio, you're just using the wrong word. I don't disagree with you that most believers have been honest in their pursuit of "truth."

"Rational" and "Irrational" exist apart from the methodology one uses to arrive at either state. If I hold a rational belief, even though I have no scientific evidence for the belief, the actual belief is still rational, even though it might be described as irrational for me to believe it based on heresay. Same for irrationality.

I understand your point that many people hold irrational beliefs, and arrived at them using the best information available. These people are ignorant and irrational. I don't say this to be mean. It's just a fact. They are ignorant of the facts that would allow them to hold a rational belief.

The people who believed that leeches could cure various ailments held an irrational belief even though they had no way to know that germs cause disease. They were rational to the extent that they tried to do the best with what they had, but their methods were still irrational. Do you see?

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Strafio
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Hambydammit wrote:"Rational"

Hambydammit wrote:
"Rational" and "Irrational" exist apart from the methodology one uses to arrive at either state. If I hold a rational belief, even though I have no scientific evidence for the belief, the actual belief is still rational, even though it might be described as irrational for me to believe it based on heresay. Same for irrationality.

Hmmm... your definitions of 'rational' and 'irrational' sound more like 'right' and 'wrong' than rational.
Rational is defined by reasoning.

Quote:
They were rational to the extent that they tried to do the best with what they had, but their methods were still irrational. Do you see?

They were rational because they used the best methods of the time.
We'd be irrational to use the same methods as we know better ones. (so it would be irrational of us to use methods we know to be inferior)

I think our disagreement here was the definition of irrational, otherwise you'd agree?


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I enjoy this discussion.

I enjoy this discussion. Great points made so far, especially by Shaun, so I don't really need to add any more except that towards the end of your argument Strafio, you don't distinguish between the approaches one would take in the human world and the abstract world. In the abstract world of ideas and reason, you should apply the word "illogical" to religious belief, but in the human world, a better word might be used if the object is to deconvert a theist

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Interesting point. As it

Interesting point.
As it happens, if I hadn't been insulted by someone who called me and my families beliefs irrational then I might still be an apathetic agnostic. Then again, had I been presented the arguments without the insults then I would likely have been more open to them and accepted them sooner.
Also, I've known many people who come into reason about their beliefs with a semi-open mind but then get sick of being insulted and then get put off thinking...
I've also found that theists are more likely to listen to my arguments because I present them so nicely, although you could argue that I owe it to the 'bad cops' who were making me look nice in comparison! Eye-wink

I personally see no need to have such a label for opposing beliefs.
If I was trying to deconvert someone then I'd rely purely on their sense of reason. Either work out what their position relies on or maybe present some agnostic arguments why a theistic belief can only be a 'guess' rather than sure knowledge. Ultimately I'd be appealing to their reason and hope to present my arguments as clearly as possible to them so that they understand them, at which point they'd surely find them undeniable.
I find that they are more likely to reach this understanding if they are open rather than defensive. So rather than insult them I'd present them as reasons why I don't believe. From there they'd have an incentive to understand my position so they could expose my error.

I personally see that as the ideal approach.
Realistically, even I might not have the patience to stick to it! Eye-wink
I still think we should avoid labelling theistic belief irrational.
It makes a sweeping generalisation about many people, (and isn't that a rational fallacy? Eye-wink) winds people up and perhaps takes attention away from the real issue. If a debate rises up over your manners then it will take away attention from whether you are right.

If there's a question of motivating someone to listen to your arguments then there's two main audiences:

Fundamentalists
They won't be hard to motivate as they will have interest in converting you. You prevent your argument as a defense for your lack of belief. You'll likely need to refute the wager and some of the standard arguments (like design and cosmological)
I think if you can convince them that you have good reason for not believing then it'll reduce them to a relativist position atleast.

Relativists
Not sure about these guys, although in my eyes they aren't in desperate need of conversion as they'll respect your beliefs and will likely subscribe to secular standards of ethics. I personally think that relativism works as a pragmatic rule of thumb and this is the relativism that most people subscribe to.

I guess the advantages of insulting someone is that if you piss them off enough then they might be motivated to refute you on your terms and that makes your job a lot easier, although I think more often than not it will just put them off listening to you. I also value good manners over rational belief. Smiling


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I think it's worth noting,

I think it's worth noting, Strafio, that while many of the theist thinkers and philosphers you and I might admire did indeed believe in a god, they almost never accepted the current god-claims of their day. As we've all seen, shooting down particular claims about the nature of god (when you can pin a theist down to actually making one)is much easier than squashing the whole fuzzy, non-defined idea of a Deity. It's possible to build a rational, logical model of a possible entity that ancients might have mistaken for god. What is impossible is to square the official claims about god from any major religion with the laws of reason and logic. Magic and the supernatural simply violate logic. People who believe in them are not being rational.

I agree that, for most theists, ignorance makes their belief possible. These people could be said to have arrived at belief rationally and simply be in error. However FAITH is not rational, and faith is what is required for informed people to believe in violation of known facts. The intelligent people that have arrived at belief in a god have done so out of an irrational departure from their normal modes of thought.

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Strafio wrote:I still think

Strafio wrote:
I still think we should avoid labelling theistic belief irrational.
It makes a sweeping generalisation about many people, (and isn't that a rational fallacy? Eye-wink) winds people up and perhaps takes attention away from the real issue. If a debate rises up over your manners then it will take away attention from whether you are right.

But "irrational" is not a perjorative insult designed only to injure or embarass, though many may take it that way. "Irrational" is a specific, limited criticism that is subject to analysis and debate.

If I call you a boogerface, well, there's not much you can do to refute that is there? The term is addressing you, not your argument and contains no content outside of its emotional impact. The only response to boogerface is to call someone an asswipe, clearly escalating the conflict without getting anyone closer to the truth. This is why perjorative, empty insults are out of bounds in debate.

"Irrational" is not in this category. If I call you irrational, you can respond by showing a rational argument for your position. You can show that your argument conforms to logic. There are lots of ways for you to attack this specific, detailed accusation that addresses the quality of your arguments and not you, yourself.

IMO, if someone takes offense at being called irrational, they are just proving they deserve the label.

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Tilberian wrote:I think it's

Tilberian wrote:
I think it's worth noting, Strafio, that while many of the theist thinkers and philosphers you and I might admire did indeed believe in a god, they almost never accepted the current god-claims of their day.

Their God usually satisfied the 3 omni's that theists believe in.
I'm not going as far as to say that every theistic belief is rationalised. This topic was just saying that it can be.

Quote:
What is impossible is to square the official claims about god from any major religion with the laws of reason and logic. Magic and the supernatural simply violate logic. People who believe in them are not being rational.

The thing is, is this a given we can take for granted?
Did you come to your beliefs positivisticly, i.e. individually prove each one before accepting it?
We all start with a a rough worldview and gradually apply reason to tidy it up. Is it fair to say that because a person hasn't come across the reasons to reject supernaturalism that they're not rationalising at all?

Quote:
I agree that, for most theists, ignorance makes their belief possible. These people could be said to have arrived at belief rationally and simply be in error. However FAITH is not rational, and faith is what is required for informed people to believe in violation of known facts. The intelligent people that have arrived at belief in a god have done so out of an irrational departure from their normal modes of thought.

I think that faith is also a bit misunderstood.
There is the classic 'leap of faith' where someone just believes against their rationality, but then there might be a pragmatic rationality behind that decision. (So they still used reason, they just prioritised practical reason over 'reality' reason)
There's also the 'faith' that is more of a trust.
It's the kind of faith we put in the scientific facts we are taught at school, before we fully understand how to justify them rationally. Religious 'facts' are learnt in the same way. It's just that if we fully analyse our methods of knowledge then we might find that the scientific knowledge stands up to scrutiny while the religious 'knowledge' is riddled with problems and possibly completely unsubstantiated.

What I'm saying is:
Everyone starts with a position of pure faith before they've learnt to apply critical thinking to their worldview. Things we learn might seem counter intuitive so it's a matter of faith/trust that we live by what we 'know to be true'. That's what Christians usually mean by 'test of faith'.
If one was to fully analyse their religious beliefs and come to the conclusion that they were groundless, then a leap of blind faith would be against reason (except maybe pragmatic reasons Eye-wink).

It's a point that this 'trust' faith is a what a large majority of people still have in science. They abide by this trust because science hasn't let them down yet. This is the average person's attitude towards their religion also. If they looked a lot deeper then they'd possibly find a large difference, but even then there are arguments that can 'justify' their theistic beliefs like cosmological and design arguments. To find flaws in these arguments requires you to go a lot deeper...
So although the average person of faith might not be using reason, the average 'truster' in science has used the same method of rationality - that this trust hasn't yet let them down. (I admit that this is a major over-simplication. Everyone makes a clear distinction between faith and science but I think their evalutions of 'validity' are based on similar principles of trust.)

So singling theism out as irrational is unfair as:
a) Many theists do apply reason.
b) Those that don't are applying the same 'lack of rationality' that many others are applying to beliefs you don't condemn.
(It's why some theists came out with the 'well people put faith in science!' arguments)

Quote:
"Irrational" is not in this category. If I call you irrational, you can respond by showing a rational argument for your position. You can show that your argument conforms to logic.

So after being accused of not thinking/reasoning properly you'd say I could redeem myself by proving my position from scratch? Again, this assumes 'positivism' (that you shouldn't believe something until it's been fully analysed/proved) which I think is a false assumption about the way we think.

This time last year I had the lines of reasoning given in the original post. They don't stand up to logical scrutiny but they weren't a blind lack of reason either. They were attempts to reason with what I had. They used methods of knowledge collecting that had served me well in the past. Although there were flaws in them, my beliefs as they stand now still aren't flawless, just more advanced than they were back then. Where is the line between rational and irrational?

Quote:
There are lots of ways for you to attack this specific, detailed accusation that addresses the quality of your arguments and not you, yourself.

Irrational means lack of reasoning... it's surely insulting my ability to reason at all. Not that you mean to insult people, but it's going to. There are better ways to evaluate the argument in a way that it's clear that the argument is being attacked rather than the reasoner. I could say that "why should I accept your assumption of X" or "Y doesn't follow from Z".

I think a perfect example is this debate we're having here.
Atleast one of us is wrong here. The odds are that we've both made several fallacies in our reasonings. However, while we both point out flaws in the argument and highlight where we think our opponent has gone wrong, neither one of us has felt the need to insult the other's ability to reason. I think that arguments against theists should be more like this.

There are some theists who will test your patience to the point where they've earned some insulting, but this isn't a reflection of theism. It's a characteristic that comes with a person's personality rather than their beliefs.


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Strafio wrote:I think that

Strafio wrote:

I think that faith is also a bit misunderstood.

By theists, yes.

Quote:

There is the classic 'leap of faith' where someone just believes against their rationality,

This is theistic faith. Non contingent faith. The faith of theism.

Theistic, or non contingent faith, is a claim that one does not need justification to hold a belief. It is not an epistemological position, it is a rejection of epistemology itself. Therefore theistic faith cannot stand in as a premise in a logical argument.

Here's the bible itself, to affirm these points on theistic faith:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Bible: New Testament. Hebrews 11:1.

i.e., it is belief without justification.

Furthermore:

Romans 8:24-25: “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (NKJV)

Here Paul makes it clear that one cannot have non contingent faith is one has facts! If one has a reason to believe, he cannot have theistic faith by definition!

This will become important as we continue.

Theistic faith is belief without justification. That's it. Period. End of story. And theistic faith must be belief without justification, as there is no way to justify a belief in the supernatural. This is precisely why theologians are diverse as Martin Luther and Soren Kierkegaard agree that a theist MUST begin with a leap of faith.

Quote:

but then there might be a pragmatic rationality behind that decision. (So they still used reason, they just prioritised practical reason over 'reality' reason)

Whatever pragmatic rationality you come up with can have no bearing on the validity of the belief in the supernatural. They are side issues dealing with the benefits of holding to the belief.

We know, a priori, that these 'pragmatisms' can have no role in affirming the veracity of the belief, if the belief involves the supernatural. And again, we have the 'god inspired' words of Paul to affirm this.

Quote:

There's also the 'faith' that is more of a trust.

It's the kind of faith we put in the scientific facts we are taught at school, before we fully understand how to justify them rationally.

This is experiential, hence it has no relation to what the theist means by the word 'faith'. You are equivocating on a colloquial usage of the word 'faith'. You're taking advantage of the fact that two different concepts are expressed by using the same word.

To help remove the equivocation, you need to call these two distinct processes by different names. I suggest contingent vs non contingent faith.

Quote:

What I'm saying is:
Everyone starts with a position of pure faith

You're equivocating again. Basic trust - the stance of infanthood, is instinctual, not 'non contingent faith'. Kick a baby, and she'll cry, not coo.

In general, it is more correct to say that we begin through instinct, which is non cognitive altogether, than in a 'faith' position of [i]any kind[/].

Quote:

before they've learnt to apply critical thinking to their worldview.

Here we go...

Because it is hopelessly forlorn dream to grant any legitimacy to non contingent faith, people must instead seek to rip down reason by equating the foundation of reaon with theistic faith through the use of semantic fallacies.

This attempt to bring down reason to the level of theistic faith is just appalling.

So let's put this nonsense into the trashcan

1) Theistic faith is as Paul defines, above.

2) Colloquial usages of faith - i.e., are matters of generalizing basic trust experiences in infanthood, that in turn are born of instinctual, not 'faith based' processes.

These processes are not equitable with non contingent faith. They are the precise opposite of such a faith. They begin in instinct, which is not even cognitive, and they continue through experience, which, is obviously cognitive.

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Faith is the acceptance of ideas or allegations without sensory evidence or rational demonstration. "Faith in reason" is a contradiction in terms. "Faith" is a concept that possesses meaning only in contradistinction to reason. The concept of "faith" cannot antecede reason, it cannot provide the grounds for the acceptance of reason—it is the revolt against reason. - N Branden

Quote:

It's a point that this 'trust' faith is a what a large majority of people still have in science.

If you recognize it as a trust, then I trust that you see your entire point is nothing but a long winded fallacy of equivocation.

Quote:

They abide by this trust because science hasn't let them down yet.

You've just affirmed everything I've said about contingent vs non contingent faith.

I trust that you'll surrender this point now.

Quote:

So singling theism out as irrational is unfair as:

No, I've just demonstrated the opposite. Theism is irrational by definition as it rests upon non contingent faith. Non contingent faith is irrational by definition, and theists NEED it to be. Some theists have no problem conceding this, and your fallacy of equivocation does their honesty a disservice.

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While I agree with Todangst

While I agree with Todangst that theism is irrational by definition, I also like to argue it from the other direction. What Tod has said is that theism STARTS out as irrational in the way it is defined. I'm only adding that it also ENDS UP irrational no matter how you try to define it.

By the way I use the terms reason and logic as interchangeable. I've tried to come up with a difference that sticks but haven't found one.

Quote:
1) Life sometimes seems written as a story, as if it was meant to be this way. (like there was a designer making things happen) I was quite a believer in fate.

If we admit that the story of life was written by somebody, it does not necessarily follow that this somebody was a god. The conclusion, then, is disconnected from the premise and is irrational.

Quote:
2) The worldview containing God seemed to work and be coherent. It also seemed intuitively right in a lot of ways. It 'felt' right.

A word less mis-understandable for this non-reason is non-rational as opposed to irrational. But if irrational = all things that are not rational, then 2) is irrational...
One of the BIG problems with god is that anything, including total chaos, is coherent from the god-perspective. It is therefore completely devoid of explanatory power and another example of the non-rationality of the god-premise.

Quote:
3) I saw something very special in the religious people. Their faith gave them a distinctive character and made them the kind of people that I saw close to ideal in a lot of ways.
I can hardly even comment on this one it's so vague. Rationality however, is not vague. On this basis alone I'm tempted to call 3) irrational.


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kmisho wrote: I'm only

kmisho wrote:
I'm only adding that it also ENDS UP irrational no matter how you try to define it.

excellent point.

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By the way I use the terms reason and logic as interchangeable. I've tried to come up with a difference that sticks but haven't found one.

This sounds like an excellent discussion in of itself....

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One of the BIG problems with god is that anything, including total chaos, is coherent from the god-perspective. It is therefore completely devoid of explanatory power and another example of the non-rationality of the god-premise.

Yes, nonfalsifiability makes a 'theory' useless, and 'god' 'explains everything', therefore nothing.

Nice points all around.

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I'm about to go somewhere so

I'm about to go somewhere so I'll deal with Todanst's post later.
For now I'll just make these couple of remarks:

I agree with Kishmo that theism 'ends up' irrational.
After all, that's position it seems to have led me to so far.
My disagreement is that it starts irrational, or is necessarily irrational all the way. I'll get into more detail later, for now I'll make this remark:

Todangst, your argument seems to rely on theists necessarily having just one kind of faith. There's the 'theistic faith' which is belief without/inspite of reason, the sort that Luther etc talked of. Then there's contingent faith which is more like 'trust'.

Once people get to the 'end' of reason like Kishmo described then the 'theistic faith' is the only one available to them. Before they reach this end, there's potential for them to have (flawed) reasons based on contingent/trust faith. So if a theist masters epistemology and find that theism in unsupportable, then they have only the leap of theistic faith available to them.

But before then?


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Strafio wrote:I'm about to

Strafio wrote:
I'm about to go somewhere so I'll deal with Todanst's post later.

For now I'll just make these couple of remarks:

I agree with Kishmo that theism 'ends up' irrational.
After all, that's position it seems to have led me to so far.
My disagreement is that it starts irrational, or is necessarily irrational all the way. I'll get into more detail later, for now I'll make this remark:

Todangst, your argument seems to rely on theists necessarily having just one kind of faith.

They can have other types of faith, but only in daily discourse, not in relation to their belief in the supernatural.

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There's the 'theistic faith' which is belief without/inspite of reason, the sort that Luther etc talked of. Then there's contingent faith which is more like 'trust'.

Which no theist can have, by definition, in relation to the supernatural. They can't have personal experiences with the supernatural. Instead, they have 'personal experiences' and then they must, necessarily take a leap of faith that these experience do point back to the supernatural.

This is precisely the point that Martin Luther, the father of protestantism made:

Luther maintained that God interacts with human beings in two ways -

Through the Law - as in the commandments (legalistic morality) and through the Gospel. However, our understanding of the law (God's Commandments) are always distorted by human sin. (In other words, we are limited and imperfect, hence we cannot grasp something beyond nature. )

The law has two functions. It enables us to maintain some order in our own lives despite our profound alienation from God, as well as alienation from our neighbors and even ourselves due to original sin. In addition, our inability to successfully meet the law makes us aware of our need for the forgiveness of sins and thus leads us to Christ. (This point was picked up on by C. S. Lewis. )

Luther held that God makes himself known through earthly (limited) forms rather than in his pure divinity. Thus, God revealed himself in Jesus Christ; he speaks his word to us in the human words of the New Testament writers and we experience his "body" through the Eucharist. (Why is this so? Because) human beings are only instruments of God, who works in the world through them, as tools, they are incapable of apprehending God by means of their methods of understanding the world, such as philosophy or ethics; (i.e. through any natural process) they must let God be God and see him only where he chooses to make himself known. God reveals his wisdom and his power through suffering, and the secret of meaningful life through Christ's death on the cross.

In other words, you have to take it on non contingent faith, because there's no rational process that can allow a natural being to grasp something that is the antithesis of nature.

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Once people get to the 'end' of reason like Kishmo described then the 'theistic faith' is the only one available to them. Before they reach this end, there's potential for them to have (flawed) reasons based on contingent/trust faith.

In other words, there's a potential for them to be mistaken, and to erroneously hold that they have a rational grounds. That's what we call 'making a mistake'.

If all your argument amounts to is "some ignorant people mistakenly believe X", then sure. I agree. (I think you mean more than that, but hold on) People mistakenly hold that they can conceive of a supernatural entity as a 'person' with a 'white beard' who thinks and acts suspiciously just like them. A being who is omnipotent, and omniscient, yet holds to the same petty hatreds that they do. A "being" who is 'transcendent" yet somehow a 'guy' just like dad. An omnipotent, omniscient being that, for some bizarre reason, somehow, is compelled to to follow 'laws of logic' (whatever the fuck they mean by that, they don't actually mean logic) without being able to explain how there could be any law prior to this 'god', or why such a law would not simply be immediately obviated by his omnipotence.

An omnipotent, omniscient creator who is somehow compelled to create the universe precisely as it is, despite the fact that every parameter of existence only exists in the first place because of his fiat, through his 'whim'. An omnipotent, omniscient creator who is somehow, mysteriously freed from the perfect responsibility that an omnipotent, omniscient creator must have for his creation, lest he be responsible for 'evil'

Do you mean those sort of errors?

Yeah, theists can hold to them. If they didn't boards like this wouldn't exist.

But that doesn't mean that they are using contingent faith for any of it. It just means that they are in error that they are using contingent faith. Does erroneously believing that you are rational, make you rational?

I think this is more in line with what you mean. My answer: depends on where the error lies.

If a person holds "god is x" and by 'x' means something beyond nature, then he's being utterly irrational if he goes on to say something inductive about 'x'

If a person holds that "a dog is y" and is wrong, the process is rational, because the process follows the basics of induction - it deals with natural entities.

The irrationalism of theism is basic to theism, because it attempts to make inductive and deductive claims about something that it first defines as beyond the realm of any natural process. And theists know this, they tell themselves this. So they are being irrational. And the proof is seen whenver you ask a theist to debunk someone else's religion. They tear it to pieces, as well as you could.

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So if a theist masters epistemology and find that theism in unsupportable, then they have only the leap of theistic faith available to them.

But before then?

They are free to be mistaken? They hold themselves to be rational where they clearly are not.

And this we can glean a priori, from the very definition the theist gives us.

Theism is a ball of contradictions by its very nature, which is why even theists concede to paradoxes. Once a theist grasps this, he must concede that the process is irrational. In the end, the question has a simple answer: if they are being rational, then why are they using the word faith at all?

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So once supernaturalism is

So once supernaturalism is properly defined and all the consequences of this definition realised, belief in it can only be irrational. (I probably should've used the word 'God' rather than 'theism' in this topic.)

If I went to a 'before then' then I'd be talking about a reasoning that doesn't rely on strict definitions. It would kind of be a kind of logic, but sloppier. I think someone (Kishmo?) said about finding it difficult to distinguish between rational and logical. I think my argument from here would depend on atleast a distinction between advanced logic and reason.

I'll also tell you what I had in mind when I said that theistic belief could be on contingent faith:
They learn science from the science teacher, religion from the priest/preacher. This shapes their worldview and they trust the teachings depending whether they seem to work for them, whether it seems to correspond to their real life experience. For instance, many people reject Christianity on moral grounds rather than logical grounds - they consider Christianity to fail on its own terms.

I know what I'm saying is really fuzzy here, but reasoning is kind of fuzzy until you get a good grounding in logic. (a grounding that many people never really do - I've seen the word 'logic' misused in so many ways.) The day to day issues that people generally face in the real world don't require the strict 'accuracy' of a more formalised logic. When they say irrational they mean extreme irrationality. Theism makes errors that are subtle compared to this extreme irrationality that people normally use for someone whose not thinking things through at all...

If people knew exactly what you meant by irrational then they probably wouldn't find it so offensive. People are okay with the idea that they can make an error in a complex mathematical calculation. However, the 'normal' use of the word irrational is used for something that no thought has gone into at all - no reason let alone flawed reason. There's a sizeable difference between theism and arachnophobia.

So my reasons for saying "singling out theism as irrational is unfair" because:
1) Because of the way most people mean 'irrational', it brings out an accidental equivication which is very insulting.
2) The average person's belief in science is just as irrational as they also haven't develloped the logic required for theism to be irrational.

Then again, I've probably not exactly been much better because my argument goes:
"Theism isn't irrational if the reasoner hasn't really grasped logic and understood theism!"
I tried! Laughing out loud


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Strafio wrote:So once

Strafio wrote:
So once supernaturalism is properly defined and all the consequences of this definition realised, belief in it can only be irrational. (I probably should've used the word 'God' rather than 'theism' in this topic.)

Yes.

But the problem for the theist is that this ought to be readily appparent , early on. Yes, children can be forgiven for equating 'god' with a guy who looks like grandpa, but any teenager who can grasp the basics of what theism implies ought to catch on to the problem.

And most theists do recognize it - they say things like "you can't disprove my god!" They realize that their god is safe from refutation... they only need to take the next step and recognize the symmetry - that it works both ways.

It then follows that the belief must be irrational.

Quote:

If I went to a 'before then' then I'd be talking about a reasoning that doesn't rely on strict definitions. It would kind of be a kind of logic, but sloppier. I think someone (Kishmo?) said about finding it difficult to distinguish between rational and logical. I think my argument from here would depend on atleast a distinction between advanced logic and reason.

I think the theist plays a game of bait and switch with himself... god is supernatural, but when I talk about him as a person, that's fine.

But any teenager can see the contradiction if they just look at it.

Quote:

I'll also tell you what I had in mind when I said that theistic belief could be on contingent faith:

They learn science from the science teacher, religion from the priest/preacher. This shapes their worldview and they trust the teachings depending whether they seem to work for them, whether it seems to correspond to their real life experience. For instance, many people reject Christianity on moral grounds rather than logical grounds - they consider Christianity to fail on its own terms.

I know what I'm saying is really fuzzy here, but reasoning is kind of fuzzy until you get a good grounding in logic.

You're giving me Derek Sanson's "It's understandable from their worldview' argument. I.e. they are 'understandably, forgivably wrong" in not properly assessing their first premise, but it IS a premise and thefore, the process is logical.

Ok.

Well, the problem for me is that all the information required to correct the error is in fact already within the worldview. They already define this god as beyond rational comprehension hence it follows that one could glean from simple deduction that if we define something as beyond our ability to grasp, that we must take it on faith that anything is there in the first place.

alternatively, they could decide that this god is within the realm of reason.... but then they'd have to eventually see the contradiction of a natural god.

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If people knew exactly what you meant by irrational then they probably wouldn't find it so offensive.

YES. Irrational simply means driven by desire.

I am irrational when I prefer the Yankees over the Tigers in the playoffs. The logical team to have rooted for was the Tigers. Particurly after the Yankees lost their second game. Logic would have dicated that I switch allegience to the Tigers.

The problem with irrationality isn't that it means you are 'crazy', it's just that irrationality ought not be the means for deciding upon very important matters. A blend of reasoning and desire is likely the best way to go.

The problem, as well noted by Sigmund Freud and William James, is that desire often rules over reason. Reason works on the behalf of desire. Desire says "reason, find me a means of holding to my god belief" and reasons says "well, I might need to cut corners in logic to do so, but I'm capable, as long as you keep refueling me with desire"

Quote:

So my reasons for saying "singling out theism as irrational is unfair" because:
1) Because of the way most people mean 'irrational', it brings out an accidental equivication which is very insulting.
2) The average person's belief in science is just as irrational as they also haven't develloped the logic required for theism to be irrational.

Then again, I've probably not exactly been much better because my argument goes:
"Theism isn't irrational if the reasoner hasn't really grasped logic and understood theism!"
I tried! :D

Theism can't work on pure logic or pure reason. It requires desire. This is why it is irrational. The fact that people can be 'irrational' in their other beliefs is immaterial, because these others beliefs do not REQUIRE that you be irrational. So singling out religion is in fact fair.

Oh, you could toss in political ideology too...

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todangst wrote:But the

todangst wrote:
But the problem for the theist is that this ought to be readily appparent , early on. Yes, children can be forgiven for equating 'god' with a guy who looks like grandpa, but any teenager who can grasp the basics of what theism implies ought to catch on to the problem.

I'm not sure... it took me a while to get my head around the basics of theism and I've still got a lot to work out. Then again, I wasn't properly introduced into the theology and given the proper definition of supernaturalism until fairly recently.

Until then, theism just meant the fuzzy concept 'God' and all the different 'theisms' were just trivial differences.

Quote:
And most theists do recognize it - they say things like "you can't disprove my god!" They realize that their god is safe from refutation... they only need to take the next step and recognize the symmetry - that it works both ways.

Not necessarily. When I figured God was disprovable, I figured that whatever information we came up about the Universe there could be a 'God figure' behind it all. It didn't come from supernaturalism. I'm not sure whether I was unique in this misunderstanding but it would explain why these refutations aren't 'common sense'.

I noticed that on IG you spent less time defending your arguments and more time defending the definition of God that you were refuting. Especially with me. I think when most people think of 'supernatural' they mean like aliens and stuff that is natural in the philosophical sense but supernatural in the 'not in everyday experience' sense.
(You know, the definition of supernatural that Hookflash was trying to argue for.)

Strafio wrote:

If people knew exactly what you meant by irrational then they probably wouldn't find it so offensive.

Todangst wrote:
YES. Irrational simply means driven by desire.

I think they'd find that offensive! Laughing out loud
I agree that desire plays a major role in irrational beliefs in general but I think that was a bit of a reduction. Phobias are also irrational, for example. But maybe phobias are a completely different type of 'irrational' (i.e. to confuse them would be equivication) and the type of irrationality we are talking about is rooted in desire.
Then again, some types of irrational belief are against our desire.
One form of irrational belief is when you hear something so many times from so many places that it starts to seem acceptable despite yourself... have you ever had that feeling?

However, all this leaves me with this question:
Is X's belief in Y rational if:
a) Y is justifiable
b) If X can justify Y

If (a) is true then one could believe something for a random reason but it still be rational.
If (b) is true then a theist's belief can be more rational than the average person's belief in scientific fact. Although the theist's reasoning ultimately fails, their reasoning might be more commendable.

When we say 'X is rational' do we mean that X can be justified or X has been justified? Usually when I argue a philosophical point I start with a gut intuition and the justification gradually builds itself as the debate unravells. Perhaps we could say that our beliefs start irrational and we gradually rationalise/refute them? But then I'm forgetting we can have ideas that we don't believe in until we prove them.

That reminds me to start that other topic I've been planning...

Quote:
I am irrational when I prefer the Yankees over the Tigers in the playoffs. The logical team to have rooted for was the Tigers. Particurly after the Yankees lost their second game. Logic would have dicated that I switch allegience to the Tigers.

Only if being on the winning side was your most important value. Eye-wink


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todangst wrote:But the

Urgh! Double post!


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Uh...what Todangst said... I

Uh...what Todangst said...

I think what it boils down to is that people aren't rational just because they think they are or try to be. At the end of the day, practicing faith is an irrational act.

I'll accept that holding faith in something may serve some pragmatic purpose in some people's lives, and therefore the decision to do so may be arrived at rationally. Perhaps if a rational analysis of some particular issue (for instance realizing that a loved one is dead and is completely gone and not coming back or in any way alive any more) causes too much pain, a person could, out of a rational desire for self-preservation, make the calculation that the risk of error is justified by the emotional ease that faith buys.

Of course, a psychiatrist will tell you that REALLY coming to terms with a painful fact is much healthier than hiding behind a fantasy, since our rational minds have an annoying habit of always trying to introduce doubt about things we can't really square with logic.

The faith calculation is especially easy when discussing an issue that has few real-world implications. Does it really matter where the universe came from? It's here now and having the right answer about its origins isn't going to make my mortgage payment go away. It's my theory that this rational (if erroneous) calculation does fuel most theist thinking. Of course, that just makes it all the more ludicrous when theists pretend to be concerned with Truth.

So theists can embrace irrationality for a reason. I still assert that they are almost always in error doing so, and that the fundamental irrationality of faith is in fact harder to justify than most of them think it is. It should come as no surprise in a group so practiced in doublethink that theists are good at being both rational and irrational at the same time.

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The only thing I could add

The only thing I could add at this point is that I say 'contingent faith' is nonsense. When Dawkins was answering questions from Liberty U students, someone tried to use 'contingent faith' on him.

His response was that, as the questioner had defined it, it was normal science: testing something to see if it happens the same way every time tested, one can 'contingently' conclude that it always happens that way.

Why drag the laden word 'faith' into this kind of demonstration?

My answer would be that religious people like the word 'faith' itself, that the word 'faith' somehow has religious connotations that many cannot do without.

The other question I would want to ask about someone who talks about 'contingent faith' is why they do not accept faith in the way that Martin Luther (and apparently Jesus too) used it: belief for absolutely no good reason and in spite of having no good reason.


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good postings

Tilberian wrote:
Of course, a psychiatrist will tell you that REALLY coming to terms with a painful fact is much healthier than hiding behind a fantasy, since our rational minds have an annoying habit of always trying to introduce doubt about things we can't really square with logic.

Hey, just wanted to say that I've enjoyed your posts. Very well thought-out and stated.


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Mushukyou wrote: Hey, just

Mushukyou wrote:

Hey, just wanted to say that I've enjoyed your posts. Very well thought-out and stated.

Thanks for that!

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Strafio has made the

Strafio has made the excellent point that none of us are really rational and that neurology shows us that what people actually do is make decisions then figure out a reason for them later. How can we criticize theists when we are all equally irrational in our hearts?

The fact that we are all irrational does not prevent us from holding rationality as a value and aspiring to it as a principle. This is our criticism of theists - they have "given up" in the face of human irrationality and chosen to embrace sentimental fantasies rather than continue to strive to come closer to truth. In the worst cases, some theists actually attack rationality (and it's offspring science) on the grounds that our irrational minds cannot know Truth (begging the question that such a thing exists), and that attempts to reason our way through life may lead us to conclusions that are evil.

Of course there's no reasoning with the purely irrational, but those who are still bewitched by reason might want to look at a couple empirical facts.

1. People can act more rationally when they try. Those who accept logic and empirical observation as a common currency for determining truth can become better at bringing their words and actions into conformity with those ideals. We can all point to examples in our lives and in history of people who make better decisions and acheive more through careful research, analysis and planning. They are living examples that rationality is at least partially attainable.

2. Far from becoming evil when they embrace reason, individuals and societies actually come closer to THEIST standards of goodness. Lower rates of internal and external violence, crime and corruption are all positively correlated with the secular state. So at least trying to be rational has some political benefits.

3. The scientific method has delivered to us all the fruits of modern technology. This has been made possible because the bulk of the population decided that learning to advance knowledge through critical examination and experiment was a good thing. Whether or not scientists are really rational, their decision to act rationally has been pretty effective from a pragmatic standpoint.

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