Is Christianity Rational?Is Christianity Rational?from a philosophical standpointJohn S. Wilkins
What does it mean to beWhat does it mean to berational?rational?Doesn’t mean correct – a rational decision can befalse if one starts from the wrong premisesDoesn’t mean agrees with anyone, such as scientistsDoesn’t mean considers all the evidence, for then nobodywould be rationalIt means, roughly, to make the right choice with thebest available evidence in a reasonable amount oftime
How could Christianity beHow could Christianity berational?rational?If it was consistent with all the evidence we haveIf it had no contradictions in its basic tenetsIf it provided a way to continue that consistentlyworked outIn a limited, or bounded, sense, if it is the bestepistemic bet one can make given one’s environmentand resources
EvidenceEvidenceLack of evidence for Christianity (failed prophecies,obvious interpolations in sacred texts, etc.)Contradicts evidence we do have (e.g., literalism andscience)Is question begging about evidence (finds awarenessof sinfulness in societies where it really didn’t exist)Often uses false “evidence” (e.g., McDowell,archeology)
ContradictionsContradictionsIs God one or three?Is God good or powerful? Epicurus’ objectionIs God visible or not?Is God moved to anger or not?Why do we need to believe, if God has done thesacrificial work?Soteriology in particular seems self contradictory -saved by God from God himself?
SuccessFailure of miracles (why no regrown limbs?)Failure of self-help (mentally disabled)Failure, for a substantial proportion, of belief statesFailure of exorcismsFailure of providence (the flowers in the field fallacy)Failure of Christian society (Albigensians to FredPhelps)
Bounded rationalityBounded rationalityOne has to make a decision before the leopard leapsOne never has perfect informationSo we follow rules (heuristics) like “Imitate the best”This means we emulate our peers and authorities(because they are not dead yet, and we don’t want tobe)Is this a pathway to truth?
Bounded rationalityBounded rationalityNo, it’s not. At best it’s a pathway to what works wellenough in a given context (like suburban Westerndemocratic society in peacetime)When we have to make a choice, it pays to be surewe are exposed to the right conditionsScience education, for example…So while Christians can be boundedly rational, thatdoesn’t make Christianity a rational religion
The hermeneutic circleThe hermeneutic circleIt is often true that a religion appears rational to itsadherents when it looks irrational to those outsideThis is because adherents hold ideas that force thereligion to be rational to them (e.g., taking thescriptures as God’s word) which do not seem so tononbelieversThis is the hermeneutic circle – a kind of rationalbubble that when pricked, cannot be reconstituted
Hence...Hence...“When two principles really do meet which cannot bereconciled, then each man calls the other a fool anda heretic” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty §611But that doesn’t put every worldview on an equalfooting (consider a schizophrenic worldview)What we basically must do is have evidence, or elsewe are just making up stories
Do I want Christians toDo I want Christians toapostasise?apostasise?No I don’t.But don’t think what you find compelling is going tocompel anyone else, and especially do not make itsomething everyone must agree to [The SecularImperative]And when religion and science conflict, so much theworse for religion – belief must give way toknowledge, not vice versa [Knowledge cannot be undercut byfaith]
EPICURUS’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is hewilling to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Ishe able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he bothable and willing? whence then is evil?David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, §10Back