[FoRK] Rationality vs. religion reduced to one question
jbone at place.org
Tue Jun 24 18:55:48 PDT 2008
You "believe" X, meaning you think with some large degree of certainty
that X is an accurate description of some objective aspect of the real
For Dr. Ernie, for example, X might be "God is the creator and Jesus
is his son."
Question: can you conceive of anything that could lead to you no
longer believing X?
If not, you have faith removed from rationality. If so, then whether
or not you have faith can only be judged by the extent to which you
discard, reject or attempt to avoid anything that could lead to such a
Seeking to justify post facto some prior X is the apologist's game;
admitting to the tentativeness of X and letting the facts lead where
they may is the hallmark of rational inquiry. Insistence on truth in
the absence of generally agreeable evidence is irrational; rejection
of conclusions in the absence of generally agreeable evidence is
There are few if any honest rational inquirers into theology. Most
actual doctrines dogmatically require a commitment of faith, and thus
I can conceive of a rational person who believes that the sum of all
observable facts about the world in some way implies a creator. In
fact, you can observe that a conjecture about the nature of reality
can be derived rationally from first principles, ala Bostrom, that
implies a creator of sorts!
The closer you get to any recognized dogma, though, the further away
it seems to me you necessarily travel from rationality; and the more
justifiable it becomes to dismiss the discussion out-of-hand as it
will devolve into this kind of tedious discussion about epistemology.
My nits with agnostics are minor by comparison. My nits with
practitioners of religion in general, and apologetics specifically,
are more significant.
PS - Bonus questions for Dr. Ernie: if you say that your belief is in
fact shakeable, would that be a sin? How do you think most of your
fellow Christians would answer that? Under the dogma of most
Christian churches I'm aware of, the most unforgivable sin of all is
to have faith, and lose it. cf. 2 Peter 2:21 Apologetics is
ultimately an intellectually dishonest game, but the only person
you're cheating is yourself. Figure out what you believe --- and just
believe it, don't try to bend it to your own preferences. Or dispense
with belief, figure out how you can attain certainty through reason,
and pursue that.
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