Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/08

25

Reason and Unreason

The appeal to unreason as a grounding for religious faith alternates regularly with the appeal to reason as a grounding for religious faith.

That’s very good, Heather. I’ve noticed the same thing. The believers get you coming and going. “It’s not evidence, it’s faith! But there is so evidence!”

And if unreason is a method, how does it lead to this religion rather than that one? Aren’t Vishnu, Thor, Poseidon, Ahura-Mazda, and the Great Manitou all equally unreasonable? How to choose?

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31 comments

  • Paul · December 25, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    You hit the nail on the head right there brother.

    The two basic questions I have for religious folks are these: (1) Other than your own personal faith, what–if anything–causes you to believe that your religious beliefs are correct (i.e., miracles)? (2) If the only thing causing you to hold your religious beliefs is your own personal faith, then why should I be more persuaded by your personal faith than the personal faith of the next guy?

  • Author comment by Steel Phoenix · December 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    “Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can’t see them.”

    I think religions generally use the admission that their text contains facts in order to argue that the rest of it is true. Most Westerners, when pressed, will admit that they really just believe the parts that they feel like believing. The problem is similar to some of the less nasty drug addictions, where the primary obstacle to removing the addiction is that the patient has no desire to quit. If someone values their emotional security more than truth, then trying to convince them there is no afterlife is like when PETA tries to show everyone slaughter houses all the time; it is just irritating.

  • Robert · December 25, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    How to choose?

    Easy. Look at the societies that formed with each of those religions at (more or less) its core, and judge (by whatever criteria you choose) which society you like best. Then join that religion, on the basis of its empirical performance as a societal element.

  • Xyz · December 25, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Well, Thor did make for a rather enjoyable comic book when I was young!

    Being brought up to be a Christian I found all the other religions absurd and then it dawned on me, that mine was just as crazy as well. It is just another way off acheiving collectivism but instead of doing it through government, it is done through the church. It’s more likely than not that every child is going to have to hear the bad news that they should feel guiltly for their acheivements because of the less fortunate. Everyone from the Pope to Barack Obama will tell us this. Because they mean it? No. Because it makes them more powerful? Yes.

  • Greg · December 25, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Well, Thor did make for a rather enjoyable comic book when I was young!

    Being brought up to be a Christian I found all the other religions absurd and then it dawned on me, that mine was just as crazy as well. It is just another way off acheiving collectivism but instead of doing it through government, it is done through the church. It’s more likely than not that every child is going to have to hear the bad news that they should feel guiltly for their acheivements because of the less fortunate. Everyone from the Pope to Barack Obama will tell us this. Because they mean it? No. Because it makes them more powerful? Yes.

  • Steve C · December 25, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    God this stuff is boring. Please don’t let this blog devolve into an atheist circle jerk.

    Look, this is the choir. This stuff has all been said before, and much more articulately. Move on.

    Tell me about the Republican coalition, or how far you should compromise on abortion or science, and still share the same tent as the Southern Wing, and at what point disagreement on those fronts overrides economics or national security and leads you to prefer a secular left coalition.

    Something original, that we can’t get anywhere else.

  • B.B. · December 25, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Robert
    Easy. Look at the societies that formed with each of those religions at (more or less) its core, and judge (by whatever criteria you choose) which society you like best. Then join that religion, on the basis of its empirical performance as a societal element.

    It would be false to assume that a society is successful because of its core religious beliefs. Western Europe may have succeeded while Christianity was the dominant religion, but South America and much of Africa are not doing nearly as well with those same religious beliefs at their core.

  • Paul · December 26, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Steve C = Better than the rest of us.

  • David T. · December 26, 2008 at 5:13 am

    Steve C.,

    Hear, hear. The “What is the Secular Right” tab says that this blog will be about using secular reason to serve the end of human flourishing. I was hoping to see conservative causes defended from a purely secular perspective – that would be worth listening to. Instead its devolved rather quickly into just another venue for atheists to congratulate themselves on their own reasonableness and bemoan the idiocy of religionists.

    Must poor old Thor and Poseidon suffer yet more indignities? These venerable gentlemen have been woken up and trotted out in every college bull session for the last two hundred years. Can’t we let the old buggers rest in peace? Boring, boring boring…

  • Ed Campion · December 26, 2008 at 7:27 am

    Steve C = unfortunately correct

  • Author comment by LRA · December 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

    It’s easy to choose, Poseidon. All life came from water. All praise our father Poseidon!

  • Jeeves · December 26, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Ed Campion (and Steve C)=correct.

    I first read of Taranto’s silly attack in a Jen Rubin blog over at Contentions. She asserted that Secular Right is “devoted” to “debates” like the one between Heather and Hitchens. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. Believers cherry-picking reason to defend belief is well-trod ground. And whether or not Rick Warren is a bigot or merely a dispenser of a popular brand of Protestant Biblical interpretation should be a matter of supreme indifference. Let’s stay with the program, viz., “What is the Secular Right.”

  • Anthony · December 26, 2008 at 11:18 am

    I would much rather belittle atheists belittling Christians, than simply belittle Christians.

    You see, contemporary Christians believe in a God! And ancient Greeks believed in Gods! See how ridiculous contemporary Christians are? Giggle, giggle.

  • gs · December 26, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I’m with Steve C and Ed C.

    This site’s respect for objective first principles engages me, but to date I’m not seeing the emergence of a connection between those principles and, ah, What Is To Be Done.

  • rasputin · December 26, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I’m enjoying this site as it is. Someone who considers himself an intellectual has no right to believe in pink unicorns. Period. Until the delusional lose their stranglehold on power, more of these ‘atheist bull sessions’ are more than welcome, even necessary. Why don’t you dudes join together and start your own blog?

  • Weary Bookworm · December 26, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I’m also enjoying this site as it is. Please keep it coming! Steve C’s political questions above would be good topics for discussion, but I don’t think that criticisms of religious irrationality are out of place on this site. I’m familiar with many of the atheism-vs.-religion arguments, but I’m not even slightly bored by the posts on this blog. I sense that the commenters above may actually be irritated rather than bored!

  • Neuroskeptic · December 26, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Conservativism’s not about objective first principles, gs, quite the opposite, it’s about pragmatism and traditionalism, and the rejection of the idea that moral principles can be directly applied to politics…

    *ducks*

    rasputin: There’s nothing wrong with denouncing religion but there are about million blogs that already do just that. What people don’t like is the idea that Secular Right is becoming yet another one. We don’t need another Pharyngula…

  • Lily · December 26, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    It is, soberly speaking, preposterous to suppose there is no evidence for Christianity (I suspect that is all you *really* care about. After all, it isn’t the Hindus who are mucking up our public life with their demands for morality in public life.) The fact that there are less well educated people who aren’t able to make a good case for what they believe or that there are people who have never felt the need to do so is of no consequence. The case for belief can be made on logical and on historical grounds and many have done so– for centuries.

    Like all historical claims, this one is provisional in so far as one can conceive of new evidence emerging that would make the evidence in favor of our beliefs less reliable. While the good guys have been winning so far, who knows? What it comes down to is this: we who have cared enough to do so, have weighed the evidence and have found it strong enough. Others have looked at it and decided that it is not. So be it.

    Given the nature of the last 16 or so posts, it looks very much like y’all are losing sight of your original purpose. In the short time I have been reading, the comments have been of high quality but one sees here where this is all heading. As soon as pink unicorns make their appearance a line has been crossed. Can the Flying Spaghetti Monster be far behind? This is high school locker room silliness. If this is where you want to go, so be it. But given the original premise of the blog, it is a real shame.

  • rasputin · December 26, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    “It is, soberly speaking, preposterous to suppose there is no evidence for Christianity.”

    Asinine. There is no more evidence for the supernatural basis of Christianity than there is for Heaven’s Gate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven's_Gate_(cult)

    “As soon as pink unicorns make their appearance a line has been crossed.”

    No, as soon as casually mocking religious delusion is forbidden, for whatever reasons arbiters like you have in mind, that’s when a line has been crossed. Leftists (who themselves are keepers of the flame of Christian morality) have the upper hand so long as conservatives insist on believing impossible things on faith. How can you accuse a blank slate leftist for holding unreasonable assumptions, like “the gap between black and white academic performance is caused by environment,” when the probability of that (though close to zero) is infinitely more likely than that God impregnated a human being who turned water into wine and rose from the dead?

  • Jack Ely · December 26, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    “And if unreason is a method, how does it lead to this religion rather than that one? Aren’t Vishnu, Thor, Poseidon, Ahura-Mazda, and the Great Manitou all equally unreasonable?”

    The man didn’t tell me I would be saved if I prayed to Vishnu, Thor or any of those others. He only said Jesus so I didn’t really have to think about it.

  • A-Bax · December 26, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Lily :

    Lily
    It is, soberly speaking, preposterous to suppose there is no evidence for Christianity.

    Lily – On the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence for the metaphysical claims of Christianity. None. Zero. If there were, believing in it wouldn’t be a matter of “faith”.

    To hew more closely to this original post, let me ask you: Do you make the appeal to reason, or unreason when it comes to your belief in Christianity? Pick a side, and we’ll go from there, if you like. (What Bradlaugh and Heather rightly take issue with is apologists switching back and forth between the claims that religious belief both can, and cannot, be grounded in reason.)

    Pink Unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monster’s only seem like “high school locker room silliness” because they aren’t entrenched. Virgin birth, bodily resurrection, and triune godheads are no less silly…they’re only more familiar.

    What is a “real shame”, to me, is that unbelievers are forced to pay lip-serivce to the asinine metaphysical claims of Christianity.

  • Lily · December 26, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    A-Bax :

    A-Bax

    Lily :
    LilyIt is, soberly speaking, preposterous to suppose there is no evidence for Christianity.

    Lily – On the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence for the metaphysical claims of Christianity. None. Zero. If there were, believing in it wouldn’t be a matter of “faith”.

    Ah, the old “faith is believing what you know ain’t so” school of philosophy, eh? Funny in a child, not so funny coming for an adult.

    I am faced with a real problem. The minute anyone starts arguing with those who utterly reject anything outside the natural realm and refuse to believe anything that can’t be proved scientifically, one is dealing with an audience that has limited it own ability to know. Moreover, that belief has a name, “scientism” and it is really bad philosophy, since it is self-refuting.

    If you press them, real scientists will admit that science has a limited domain. It can’t demonstrate or even comment on whether or not there are things outside of the physical realm because those are metaphysical claims and science is limited to the physical.

    Belief in God, far from being irrational (as those unskilled in logic often portray it) is actually very rational and, in my opinion, is actually more rational than a naturalist stance, which really explains nothing but just assumes that everything simply is the way it is for no particular reason or, else, by random chance. It takes a lot of faith to be an atheist.

    I have said, and there are whole books you can read on the subject, that the historical claims of Christianity are persuasive to me and millions of others. I have already said that historical claims are provisional. We can’t have deductive certainty of any historical truth claims. All our claims about historical events are based on inductive rather than deductive reasoning, including events that happened yesterday. But this is also true of all scientific beliefs. Scientific beliefs, just like historical ones, are based on inductive logic and inductive methods. Deductive certainty is only found in logic and mathematics.

    Once we have looked at the historical record, we could look at the logical arguments for God. I am not in the mood to go there, partly because I have done it a thousand times and partly because getting into it here, simply validates what someone said about this blog becoming another atheist circle jerk. I’ve been there and done that– to death. It isn’t what I came here for and, since the kinds of discussion the original premise of the blog promised don’t seem to be materializing, I will move on. Like I said, the advent of pink unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters is the mark of a discussion that has moved into silly territory. It is not the stuff of serious conversation.

  • A-Bax · December 26, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Lily :

    Lily

    The minute anyone starts arguing with those who utterly reject anything outside the natural realm and refuse to believe anything that can’t be proved scientifically, one is dealing with an audience that has limited it own ability to know.

    Lily – you are simply operating with a different sense of “to know” than is commonly used. You don’t *know* that Jesus was born of a virgin, you don’t *know* that he rose from the dead, and you certainly don’t *know* that he is god, (or semi-divine, or both human and non-human, or whatever). You simply believe these things.

    To suppose otherwise is to play semantic games. There aren’t “different” ways of knowing things, in the sense you hope. You can’t just listen to some preachers, read some ancient text, introspect, feel some emotion, then really, really hope you’re right and call that knowledge. It just won’t do.

    That you cannot see past this is somewhat sad to me. As is your decision to move on. I think you should stay, but bear in mind that this is a “secular” blog. Our esteemed authors posit up-front that they are unbelievers, and will write accordingly. Many commenters will also throw their two-cents in accordingly. This shouldn’t be surprising.

    If you cannot deal with this, and think your religious beliefs should be accorded some sort of respect they do not (objectively) deserve simply because they are so dear to you, you might want to reflect on who, exactly, is being childish here.

    If you can keep your Jesusry to yourself, then you should have no issues with this blog. If not, perhaps you should indeed move on.

    Best,

  • Lily · December 26, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I will not keep my “Jesusry” to myself when directly challenged! The fact that you don’t even know that there are historical arguments to be made for Christianity and and logical arguments to made for belief in God makes any sort of conversation impossible. Do you even know what inductive and deductive reasoning are? Do you know what “provisional” means? Have I demanded respect for my beliefs? What does “different ways of knowing things in the sense I hope” even mean? I have 3000 years of philosophy on my side when I talk about logic. If you discount that, we have no where to go.

    You simply haven’t demonstrated that you *can* hear what anyone has to say, much less actually participate in a discussion. So, I shall abide by my decision to leave you to it. I am done arguing with the closed-minded. I was looking for something different and I didn’t find it here.

  • A-Bax · December 26, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Lily – I know everything you’re talking about. I have a Masters degree in Philosophy and have taught classes in logic, ethics, etc. I’m well-versed in inductive vs. deductive reasoning, etc.

    There simply are no “historical” arguments for Christianity that wouldn’t be equally valid for a whole host of other religions. Why do you reject Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism…..but yet accept Christianity? It certainly has nothing to do with matters-of-fact or relations-of-ideas. It has everything to do with the “chance” of your being raised a in a particular milieu, and nothing to do with objective evidence.

    You do not have 3000 years of philosophy on your side, if you side is committed to virgin births, resurrection, and a triune God. You’d like to think your “side” is bare-bones theism, when it is much more specific than that. Waaaaaaay more specific. And that specificity doesn’t hold up under empirical and/or logical scrutiny – at least, not any more so than any other counter-intuitive, supernatural belief-set.

    You tell me why I should reject Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, but yet accept Christianity, in ways that rely wholly on logic and/or empirically verifiable results, and I’ll take your claims seriously.

    Till then, you are just emoting.

    Sorry you’re so upset, but then again, from where I’m sitting your beliefs are based more on emotion than reason, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • Hank · December 26, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    There’s tons of evidence supporting Christianity. It’s really quite obvious. And there are lots of books too. You should go read them.

    I’m not in the mood to tell you the evidence right now. But it’s pretty silly for you not to believe me.

  • paul · December 26, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Lily,

    Unlike most of the expert commenters here, I am new to this issue. I’ve read the “atheist” books, but I have no idea what “evidence” you are talking about. I would be interested in reading one of the books you allude to. What book or books do the best job explaining why Christian beliefs are actually true? I’m interested in objective evidence, if any exists.

  • Cass Rice · December 27, 2008 at 6:47 am

    @B.B.
    Good point, Robert. It’s not religion, then, that makes a society great but its cultural beliefs.

  • Cass Rice · December 27, 2008 at 6:52 am

    @A-Bax
    A-Bax, well said. I find that most Christians ‘argue’ from a purely emotional standpoint. When you challenge them to investigate their own reasoning they fall back on defensive behavior. It’s a lost cause, really.
    Cass

  • J. · December 27, 2008 at 8:27 am

    The appeal to unreason as a grounding for religious faith alternates regularly with the appeal to reason as a grounding for religious faith.

    A professional theologian, like Edward Feiser, generally relies on appeals to Reason to support his religious ideology, at least until someone reminds him of all the problems with the arguments for God (as Kant did–“existence is not a predicate”.). The unprofessional theologian on the other hand relies on repeating scripture ad nauseum. The Founders were aware of the dangers of both species of believer–the dogmatist (be he catholic, jewish, etc.), or the religious enthusiast. Madison and Jefferson, however quaint or trite they may seem now, often expressed concerns about the Mike Hucklebees and Hagees of the time (really, one could argue that a Rev. Hagee (or Wright) be charged with a crime when he starts ranting from Revelation in one of those xtian warehouses).

    The canonical tradition however deserves some respect. At least some of the churchly fathers knew something about Aristotelian logic (though whether Aristotle would have agreed is a different matter. Methinks he would have sided more with Team Caesar, than Team Abraham…).

  • A-Bax · December 27, 2008 at 9:04 am

    @ Hank:

    1) There’s tons of evidence supporting Islam. It’s really quite obvious. And there are lots of books too. You should go read them. I’m not in the mood to tell you the evidence right now. But it’s pretty silly for you not to believe me.

    2) There’s tons of evidence supporting Theravada Buddhism. It’s really quite obvious. And there are lots of books too. You should go read them. I’m not in the mood to tell you the evidence right now. But it’s pretty silly for you not to believe me.

    3) There’s tons of evidence supporting Scientology. It’s really quite obvious. And there are lots of books too. You should go read them. I’m not in the mood to tell you the evidence right now. But it’s pretty silly for you not to believe me.

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