Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Religious Belief and Reason Part 2

5.1 Rationality and Reason
            Reason is a finite tool for acquiring truth. Reason is not always successful in its search for truth. Rationality is more about “how” one believes rather than “what” they believe. Another important point made by Clark is that rationality “is person and situation specific: what is rational for one person at a particular socio-historical time and place might not be rational for another person at a different time and place.”[1] This is an important point because of the assumption that the believer’s argument must be convincing to everyone to be rational. This is an absurd requirement. Instead, the appropriate question is, “Is belief in God rational for this person in that time and place?”[2] The author is stating that theistic proofs are person-related. It is unreasonable to think that all rational people will accept them. It is not a realistic standard.
5.2 The Evidentialist Objection
            There are two main reasons why non-theists evidentialists argue that belief in God is not rational: “lack of evidence and evidence to the contrary (usually the problem of evil).”[3] Bertrand Russell when asked what he would tell God if he asked him why he did not believe in God. Russell stated that he would tell God, “not enough evidence.” The origins of evidentialism is in the Enlightenment “demand that all beliefs be subjected to the searching criticism of reason; if a belief cannot survive the scrutiny of reason, it is irrational.”[4] Kant’s instruction was “dare to use your own reason.”[5] It is a disputable matter whether “evidentialism applies to religious beliefs, or whether we should instead adopt a more permissive epistemology.”[6] The evidentialist argument is not a proof proving that God does not exist. Instead, it is the argument that it is not rational to believe in God. “Enlightenment thinkers typically contend that belief in God lacks sufficient evidence or arguments.”[7] Evidentialism is the position that a belief “is justified only if it is proportioned to the evidence.”[8]
            The claim that there is not sufficient evidence for belief in God was based on arguments made by Hume and Kant that theistic proofs were unsuccessful.The argument that belief in the existence of God requires evidence “is usually rooted in a view of the structure of knowledge that has come to be known as classical foundationalism.”[9] Classical foundationalists often use the the metaphor of a house for their conception of rationality. The ground floor are foundational beliefs and all the floors of the house are built on this foundation. In addition, this foundation is based on the idea of certainty which began with Descartes. The foundational beliefs must be self-evident, evident to the senses, or incorrigible. Religious or mystical experience is not counted as evidence.[10] No beliefs that cannot pass these tests are accepted as foundational beliefs. The problem is that this belief does not pass the test because it is not self-evident, evident to the senses, or incorrigible.[11] Based on this standard, belief in God would not be considered rational. Since belief in God is not foundational according to classical foundationalism, it must be supported by arguments or evidence. Clark states that classical foundationalism, rooted in the Enlightenment, “elevated theistic arguments to a status never held before in the history of Western thought.”[12]

[1] Ibid., 2.
[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 3.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Peter Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Religion (Retrieved April 11, 2017), 1.

[7] Clark, Return to Reason, 4.

[8] Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 1.
[9] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 4.

[10] Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 4.

[11] Ibid., 6.

[12] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 6.

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