Is belief in God rational?

Tilberian
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Is belief in God rational?

Discussion moved here from "RRS Defeats Way of the Master" thread 

Tilberian and Scottmax:

Thanks for your replies. We'd probably all agree that the burden of proof is usually on the one pushing a positive claim.  Let me review the exchange so far. Scottmax, along with RRS, make the following claim.

 

Claim: theists are irrational to the extent that they believe in God.

 

I pointed out several analytic theist philosophers who believe in God. Now, since the burden of proof usually falls on the one who advances a positive claim, and since Scottmax and RRS made the claim above, I asked that they (1) clarify their claim, and (2) support their claim by pointing out the irrationality of these philosophers’ theistic beliefs.

To be perfectly clear, then, I’ve not come here claiming a la Comfort that I can provide "proof" of God’s existence. My project is modest and reasonable. I’ve merely come here asking you guys to articulate and defend your claim that theism is irrational. (Thus, the issue was never about me or anybody else providing a rational “proof” of theism, contrary to Tilberian’s interpretation of the exchange. Moreover, my purpose in providing those lists of theistic philosophers was not to argue from “here are philosophers who are rational and who believe in God” to “therefore, theism is rational”; I agree with Tilberian that if I had done that, I might have been verging on some sort of appeal to authority. But I’ve not done that. I’ve asked for Scottmax and RRS to support their claim by showing me how those philosophers are irrational. I think at most I've suggested that they're brilliant and that they are respected in the philosophical community as rational thinkers, and certainly that much is true.)

Scottmax is apparently having difficulty locating articles where those philosophers express their belief in theism. Fine, let's spare ourselves some time and make it easy: I believe that God exists. So Scottmax, you think I am irrational as a result. Recall your definition of rationality. As follows: a person's belief in some proposition p is rational if and only if all propositions supporting that belief are non-contradictory and all objections proposed for that belief can likewise be answered without contradiction.

So as I say, I believe in God. In reporting my belief, I have not asserted any formal contradiction.  Nor is it clear that there is some contradiction on which I must rely to hold my belief in God. Nor have I contradicted myself when defending my belief in God against various objections. (This last remark is true simply in virtue of the fact that you've not raised any objections yet.) So far, then, I have satisfied the conditions in your definition. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean God exists. It’s possible for one to be rational in believing some proposition even though the proposition in question is false. I hope the issue is clear now. It’s not about whether God in fact exists, nor have I ever said that I will provide a “proof” of his existence in this thread; it’s about whether one can be rational in believing that God exists. This distinction is uncontroversial. In fact, it is accepted by most philosophers of religion. And epistemologists in general accept the distinction between the truth value of a proposition and one's belief in a proposition.  I’ve merely reported my belief in God. And it appears to conform to Scottmax’s definition of rational belief. Of course, he might have some reasons to think that my belief is actually irrational. I await such reasons.

 

Cheers,

 

Gavagai

 

P.S. Tilberian, attentive readers will notice that I never once claimed (implicitly or explicitly) that the members of this forum are "stupid" and/or "uneducated". You seem to think I have, though. So I apologize if anything I've said has offended you personally.

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Ir·ra·tion·al   

Ir·ra·tion·al      /ɪˈræʃənl/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[i-rash-uh-nl] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –adjective

1.without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason.
2.without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment.
3.not in accordance with reason; utterly illogical: irrational argument
 Indeed if someone is consistently presented with evidence and they themselves cannot shore up any proof of theism YET still believe in it blindly - that is illogical and total rejection of reason.  

Biochemist & Law Student

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." -Thomas Jefferson


Tilberian
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gavagai wrote:  I pointed

gavagai wrote:

 I pointed out several analytic theist philosophers who believe in God. Now, since the burden of proof usually falls on the one who advances a positive claim, and since Scottmax and RRS made the claim above, I asked that they (1) clarify their claim, and (2) support their claim by pointing out the irrationality of these philosophers’ theistic beliefs.

We would if we knew just which positions you were referring to. You've given us quite a few philosophers there - perhaps you could summarize one or two arguments that are particularly persuasive? Or link them?

 

gavagai wrote:
Fine, let's spare ourselves some time and make it easy: I believe that God exists. So Scottmax, you think I am irrational as a result.

No, we think that specific belief is irrational. You seem to otherwise be a very rational person.

 

gavagai wrote:

So as I say, I believe in God. In reporting my belief, I have not asserted any formal contradiction. Nor is it clear that there is some contradiction on which I must rely to hold my belief in God. Nor have I contradicted myself when defending my belief in God against various objections. (This last remark is true simply in virtue of the fact that you've not raised any objections yet.) So far, then, I have satisfied the conditions in your definition.

Of course you are rational in saying that you believe in God. We don't doubt that you do. However we contend that you cannot hold that belief on rational grounds. This is because there is no evidence for God and God as described in all theologies violates logic and known natural law. Maybe you have another take on God that doesn't violate rational principles, we await it breathlessly!

We haven't objected to your grounds for believing in God because you haven't told us what they are yet!

gavagai wrote:

Of course, this doesn’t mean God exists. It’s possible for one to be rational in believing some proposition even though the proposition in question is false.

Accepted, given the person holding the belief is unaware of his error. However, having been shown that the truth proposition of the statement is false, it is irrational to continue to hold the belief. 

This is why education is a big part of the RRS's mission. Many people believe in God simply because they don't know any better. 

 

gavagai wrote:

P.S. Tilberian, attentive readers will notice that I never once claimed (implicitly or explicitly) that the members of this forum are "stupid" and/or "uneducated". You seem to think I have, though. So I apologize if anything I've said has offended you personally.

There were definitely some condescending statements in there to the effect that we hadn't done our reading and therefore weren't qualified to discuss the topic. Whatever, apology accepted.

 

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


Strafio
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I've been meaning to bring

I've been meaning to bring up this topic again. Smiling
Although I think that rational investigation will inevitably lead to atheism, I think it's possible to rationally be a theist on the way. (or rationally stay a theist if there are pragmatic reasons for cutting the investigation short - e.g. your religion isn't politically problematic and/or you have more interesting/important questions to deal with rather than your religion)

thraxas wrote:
Ir·ra·tion·al /ɪˈræʃənl/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[i-rash-uh-nl] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –adjective
1.without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason.
2.without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment.
3.not in accordance with reason; utterly illogical: irrational argument
Indeed if someone is consistently presented with evidence and they themselves cannot shore up any proof of theism YET still believe in it blindly - that is illogical and total rejection of reason.
I agree with all of this.
I think it's the definition of rationality we should be working with here.

In short, I think that theism can be justified pragmatically, that given a rational method someone can find themselves concluding theism, atleast temporarily. Ofcourse, this means that I reject positivism, that we should never believe something until they have been proved. Anyway, I'm supposed to be revising for an exam on Friday so I'll come back to this after then.


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Strafio wrote: Indeed if

Strafio wrote:
Indeed if someone is consistently presented with evidence and they themselves cannot shore up any proof of theism YET still believe in it blindly - that is illogical and total rejection of reason.

I agree with all of this. I think it's the definition of rationality we should be working with here. In short, I think that theism can be justified pragmatically, that given a rational method someone can find themselves concluding theism, atleast temporarily. Ofcourse, this means that I reject positivism, that we should never believe something until they have been proved. Anyway, I'm supposed to be revising for an exam on Friday so I'll come back to this after then.

I think all this amounts to rational grounds for holding a belief in God. I don't think it makes the belief itself rational, or defensible on rational grounds.

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
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I feel the best approach is

I feel the best approach is to NOT follow the religion's definition of God. Pantheism is a much better approach.


Gavagai
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It occurred to me that much

It occurred to me that much of the context is missing from this thread, given that the discussion originated elsewhere. I've therefore decided to start a new thread to keep the discussion focused, to make it clear what my project is, and to drop many of the side-issues that arose. It's in this atheist vs. theist forum; I'm sure you'll notice it.

Rude, offensive, irrational jackass.


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Gavagai, it would really

Gavagai, it would really help if you posted a link to the new thread for easy access.

You can do that by going to the new thread, then highlighting the URL at the top of your browser.  Use whatever copy function your computer has.  (If it's a PC and Windows, just right click and select "copy&quotEye-wink  Come back here, create a comment and paste the URL into the comment.

Thanks.

 

 

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Hi,   I can't see a reason

Hi,

 

I can't see a reason to believe in a god, and I can see thousands of reasons (logical, scientific, religious contradictions, social reason etc.) not to.   Although,  the world isn't fair, so maybe I will burn in hell for all of eternity.  I swear...are we going to get to the gates of heaven, God will be sitting there and I will say "well, God, you let all this science and logic get into my head so I didn't believe in you"  Then he will be like  "PSYCH!!! YEAH, I TOTALLLY FOOLED YOU!  Why did you believe in all those dinosaur bones, DNA evidence, and contradictions in the bible!  Get's those humans with an IQ above 85 every time."


Tilberian
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pszymcek wrote: Hi,   I

pszymcek wrote:

Hi,

 

I can't see a reason to believe in a god, and I can see thousands of reasons (logical, scientific, religious contradictions, social reason etc.) not to. Although, the world isn't fair, so maybe I will burn in hell for all of eternity. I swear...are we going to get to the gates of heaven, God will be sitting there and I will say "well, God, you let all this science and logic get into my head so I didn't believe in you" Then he will be like "PSYCH!!! YEAH, I TOTALLLY FOOLED YOU! Why did you believe in all those dinosaur bones, DNA evidence, and contradictions in the bible! Get's those humans with an IQ above 85 every time."

It's a good point. We're told that God wants us to believe, and that he's omnipotent. How, under these conditions, is it possible that some of us don't believe?

Theists can try "free will" which is just special pleading for an imaginary "soul," or redefining God into a powerful alien which begs the question of why we should worship him. 

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


razorphreak
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pszymcek wrote: I can't see

pszymcek wrote:
I can't see a reason to believe in a god, and I can see thousands of reasons (logical, scientific, religious contradictions, social reason etc.) not to. Although, the world isn't fair, so maybe I will burn in hell for all of eternity. I swear...are we going to get to the gates of heaven, God will be sitting there and I will say "well, God, you let all this science and logic get into my head so I didn't believe in you" Then he will be like "PSYCH!!! YEAH, I TOTALLLY FOOLED YOU! Why did you believe in all those dinosaur bones, DNA evidence, and contradictions in the bible! Get's those humans with an IQ above 85 every time."

Because you can't yet others do, how does that fit into your world? 

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Same reason people believe

Same reason people believe in UFO's, psychics, Santa Clause, that they are Napoleon, etc.


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Is Belief in God Reasonable

This a short response, I have a more complete response on my blog. I beleive that this is <b>the</b> crucial question that must be constantly addressed. We can argue creationism, intelligent design and a host of other options, philosophies and theologies until the cows come home, but if we can show, not that God doesn't exist and not that the supernatural isn't real, but that it is illogical and irrational to make that leap without evidence and that this evidence does not exist, we can kill multiple birds with but a single stone.

 

My Blog:

http://mainereason.blogspot.com/2011/01/is-belief-in-god-rational.html

http://mainereason.blogspot.com

 

A Christian Blog that demonstrates the problem... (The topic is different, but if you read through the comments you'll pickup and follow the discussion about rationality)

http://thewartburgwatch.com/2011/01/04/serious-questions-for-evangelicals-why-two-missionaries-became-catholic/#comment-15380