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Old 11-Nov-2010, 12:26 AM (00:26)     1        41815
Matthaios
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Post Rationality of Theism

Here are some questions to discuss around the general topic of the rationality (or irrationality) of theism*:
  • What is rationality when it comes to belief in an overarching metaphysic like theism?
  • Are there any sound arguments** for theism, or at least ones that are worth taking seriously (that is, it is not wholly irrational to accept them)?
  • Is it possible to be a rational theist without arguments (say, on the basis of experience)?
  • Are there any sound arguments** against the rationality of theism (that is, arguments to support the proposition that theism is irrational)?
  • Are there any other questions that are important when considering how we should approach this topic? And if so, how do you go about answering them?

Nice and broad, answer as many or few questions as you like, in as much detail as you like, and be nice!

*In this thread, theism is defined generally as the belief that there exists a transcendent personal good creator of this universe, whose existence is necessary (as opposed to contingent).

**If you want to give arguments, it would be helpful if you could number your premises for ease of discussion!
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 12:33 AM (00:33)     2        41816
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Originally Posted by Matthaios View Post
Are there any sound arguments** for theism, or at least ones that are worth taking seriously (that is, it is not wholly irrational to accept them)?
How do you deal with the number-of-unnecessary-entities argument? Or, IOW, why are you a Christian, specifically?
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 12:44 AM (00:44)     3        41818
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How do you deal with the number-of-unnecessary-entities argument? Or, IOW, why are you a Christian, specifically?
What is the "number-of-unnecessary-entities" argument?

I interpreted your question as referring to why I am a Trinitarian - so I am guessing that the argument you're referring to basically asks "Why are three Persons necessary?" but I would need to know the specific form of the argument so we're not talking past each other.
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 12:57 AM (00:57)     4        41819
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How do you deal with the number-of-unnecessary-entities argument? Or, IOW, why are you a Christian, specifically?
What is the "number-of-unnecessary-entities" argument?

I interpreted your question as referring to why I am a Trinitarian - so I am guessing that the argument you're referring to basically asks "Why are three Persons necessary?" but I would need to know the specific form of the argument so we're not talking past each other.
Me being opaque, my apologies. I found it interesting you are well-prepared, in that you raised the possibility of arguments for theism that "it is not wholly irrational to accept them". The very next obvious step is to say, OK, but once you make those arguments, they leave open a wide range of options and possibilities. Then when you pick one, it gets to the question, just why that particular one, and not others.

It's basically the usual saying of atheists, "I just believe in one less God than you do", or IOW saying any conception of God is an unnecessary multiplication of entities, and thereby to be held for the chop by Occam's Razor.

Mind you, I am jumping several steps ahead, and this was not the topic raised in your OP, so please pardon me, and if you would prefer to talk about that particular topic in a different thread, then I'll shut up. It was impolite of me not to specifically address the topics you did raise, rather than going much further down one particular avenue as I did, my apologies. So if you prefer the discussion stays on the very specific points you raised, no worries, and I'll shut up about this one.
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 01:27 AM (01:27)     5        41820
Matthaios
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No apologies required Gurdur!

1. Re: "it is not wholly irrational to accept them" - this was included really to give non-theists the option of saying that theism does have some fairly good arguments in its favour which are perhaps outweighed by stronger arguments against, or arguments which are prima facie convincing but on closer inspection aren't sound.

2. Re: applying Occam's Razor - I'm not really sure how you would go about making an argument out of this...be interested in the steps you would go through.

3. No rudeness on your part whatsoever - always good to have interesting tangents! If you like we could discuss it on a separate thread to keep things tidy - you're the boss after all!
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Old 11-Nov-2010, 05:49 PM (17:49)     6        41827
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why do we create dichotomies between people who believe in creator gods and those who do not believe in creator gods? Why do we believe it is important if others share or do not share a belief in an intangible idea? What is the judgement that leads to these beliefs based on?
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Old 12-Nov-2010, 01:38 AM (01:38)     7        41835
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Originally Posted by alicat View Post
why do we create dichotomies between people who believe in creator gods and those who do not believe in creator gods?
Because they are conceptions of the world that are so different that the people that hold them often can't understand anything the other person says.

I'm still thinking about the original questions, but want to thank Matthaios for clearly defining the terms from the beginning.
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Old 12-Nov-2010, 01:44 PM (13:44)     8        41845
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Originally Posted by alicat View Post
why do we create dichotomies between people who believe in creator gods and those who do not believe in creator gods? Why do we believe it is important if others share or do not share a belief in an intangible idea?
The dichotomy is there just because in this scenario there are two irreconcilable worldviews coming into play. Now that wouldn't really matter at all, except that some people decide to act on their beliefs, and legislate them on others who want no part of it. They also tax others for their beliefs. They also insist that others believe------or else! Were it not for those factors, few people would ever give a damn what anyone believed.
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Old 12-Nov-2010, 02:08 PM (14:08)     9        41846
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yes, Seeker I agree. I think it was brought up here as fun little intellectual exercise. But people use these dichotomies to stir up hatred and even war. It's really a continuum, I think both extremes are irrational, making strong judgements and getting fired up and emotional over an unprovable belief they have formed in their minds based on no concrete evidence.
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Old 12-Nov-2010, 08:30 PM (20:30)     10        41850
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All that is true, yet the whole Hub is basically a place where people can bring up these dichotomies -- which do exist -- and yet here slowly work out ways of productive coexistence. So this thread is a useful way on working things out slowly, including mutually acceptable and productive coexistence of diametrically opposing viewpoints.
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Old 12-Nov-2010, 08:42 PM (20:42)     11        41851
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Originally Posted by Matthaios View Post
*In this thread, theism is defined generally as the belief that there exists a transcendent personal good creator of this universe, whose existence is necessary (as opposed to contingent).
You lost me at "good". Never pondered "necessary", but my assumption is that my gods aren't, so I am... Stuck with the atheists? Somehow? At least according to your definition here.

I'll stay out of the argument now, I really haven't got much to say.
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Old 13-Nov-2010, 06:12 PM (18:12)     12        41869
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I wondered if someone would notice that the word "good" was slipped in there. I figured it was the job of a theist to argue that point though. I don't really have much to say on it.

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[*]Are there any sound arguments** against the rationality of theism (that is, arguments to support the proposition that theism is irrational)?
I can think of arguments against the rationality of theism simply in terms of there not being anything going on in the universe that would require the existence of a god to make it all work. It's sort of like believing that there is invisible scaffolding holding the clouds up. Sure you can believe it, but we understand perfectly well why the clouds stay up in the air and it doesn't take an invisible (or at least un-measurable) force.

What's more interesting to me though is why people choose to believe in some gods and not others. I don't understand how someone could claim that it is rational to believe in gods, then make the claim that there is only one or some limited number. That seems extremely irrational. I could see someone saying something like "all the gods people worship exist, but mine is better/more powerful/sparklier.....," but saying "the god I worship exists and everyone else is misguided/irrational" makes absolutely no sense to me. If you're going to take the step of believing in the supernatural, how could you possibly have a way of knowing which gods are the real ones. I'm sure it makes perfect sense to the person who holds that belief, but it seems like cognitive dissonance in the extreme to me.
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Old 14-Nov-2010, 02:57 AM (02:57)     13        41876
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Originally Posted by homo hirsutus View Post
I wondered if someone would notice that the word "good" was slipped in there. I figured it was the job of a theist to argue that point though. I don't really have much to say on it.
I'm sure there are fellow pagans who wouldn't bat an eye at the "good" part, but since I view my Gods more as primal forces of the universe, good and evil simply don't apply to them. They are what they are, and no less. To peg Eris or Chronos with "good" or "evil" would just be silly.

IMHO it's always a little presumptuous to add "good" in the list of things a god is... Good and evil are human concepts, not divine ones.
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Old 14-Nov-2010, 11:55 PM (23:55)     14        41884
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You can see nothing as a miracle or everything as a miracle (?paraphrase of Einstein ? or someone). Divinity is limitless, gods are in cats and rocks and piss and shit. Is it rational to expect the universe to be rational? We think our brains should be rational, but, well, they're just not made that way.
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Old 15-Nov-2010, 11:54 PM (23:54)     15        41891
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I am largely lost in this, but that is because I am not equipped liguistically - a rare things for this verbose man!

With Mak though - the applications of constructs like human ethical labels is futile at best and presumptuous at worst.

For me, 'God is' - and to add 'good' is a finite judgement as is 'bad' as is 'green' as is 'fluffy'
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Old 16-Nov-2010, 01:47 AM (01:47)     16        41893
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With Mak though - the applications of constructs like human ethical labels is futile at best and presumptuous at worst.

For me, 'God is' - and to add 'good' is a finite judgement as is 'bad' as is 'green' as is 'fluffy'
Agreed.

Although the phrase "God is green and fluffy" does have some amusement factor to it.
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Old 16-Nov-2010, 01:48 AM (01:48)     17        41894
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For me, 'God is' - and to add 'good' is a finite judgement as is 'bad' as is 'green' as is 'fluffy'
I'm not sure how you can compare "good" to "green" or "fluffy" other than that they are adjectives. "Good" implies that the creator has a moral sense while "green" and "fluffy" are physical traits. It looks more like a semantic game than anything else. I'm not usually one to use Bible verses in debates, but doesn't the Bible say God "loved" the world? Saying it can love at the very least implies that is has some sense, no?
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Old 17-Nov-2010, 12:04 AM (00:04)     18        41907
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why do we create dichotomies between people who believe in creator gods and those who do not believe in creator gods? Why do we believe it is important if others share or do not share a belief in an intangible idea? What is the judgement that leads to these beliefs based on?
As homo hirsutus was saying, theistic worldviews and atheistic worldviews are radically different. For example, on theism, the world was created with purpose and that has to have massive consequences for how we should live (if the creator is good, then the creator's purpose for the world is good, so we should align our purposes with those of the creator). On atheism, there is no such purpose for the world, so we must (if we value purpose) create purpose for ourselves.

If theism and atheism really are radically different (in terms of the way we should live), then I think we have an obligation to discuss the justification for the view that we hold - and if view is justified to hold then we should hold it, and live according to it. That seems to me to be intrinsic to what it means generally to be rational - to hold beliefs which are justified, and live according to those beliefs.

Our judgement for the justification of beliefs can be based on different things - our immediate experiences of the world, the experiences of others, philosophical arguments, scientific and historical study, and so on. Our beliefs will be justified when (to give a very loose conception) they are supported by and coherent with all these different things taken into consideration.
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Old 17-Nov-2010, 02:14 AM (02:14)     19        41914
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the·ism
–noun



1. the belief in one god as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation ( distinguished from deism).

2. belief in the existence of a god or gods ( opposed to atheism).
Matt, are you taking the first approach here, or the second? I've seen evidence to support both in your writing, and I'd like to define terms... Because theism(1) doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with theism (2).
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Old 17-Nov-2010, 07:47 AM (07:47)     20        41923
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Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Post
Quote:
the·ism
–noun



1. the belief in one god as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation ( distinguished from deism).

2. belief in the existence of a god or gods ( opposed to atheism).
Matt, are you taking the first approach here, or the second? I've seen evidence to support both in your writing, and I'd like to define terms... Because theism(1) doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with theism (2).
The definition I gave in the OP runs somewhat between the two definitions you've got here (and there are plenty more definitions and distinctions around - it's not an either/or).

My definition can include deism - though the notion of "good" would be somewhat different from a more relational conception of God.

It also leaves open the possibility of the existence of other "gods", though their existence would be contingent.

"Atheism", given my definition, is the belief that God (so defined) does not exist. Atheism here, then, would be compatible with polytheism provided none of the gods created this universe.

Pantheism is incompatible with theism here, as God is the creator of this universe, and so distinct from it.

I hope that clears a few things up!
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Old 17-Nov-2010, 08:19 AM (08:19)     21        41924
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Let's just stick with one or two of your opening points, if I may suggest so, in order to get it moving; may I suggest, Matthaios, that you flesh out why you think a God:
a) necessary
b) good

and what does "good" mean here?

If you don't mind explaining why you hold these positions, and what you think of the arguments for and against, then we can have more specifics to discuss. These are only my suggestions, and I make them solely in the interests of advancing the discussion; if you prefer to do it a different way, please feel very free.
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Old 17-Nov-2010, 03:05 PM (15:05)     22        41927
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Why would the existence of other gods be contingent? (I take it implication is contingent on the creator god).

In Buddhist traditions, lots of gods, no creator god. Some of the gods may become deluded and believe they are creator gods.

I believe a definition of "good" must emphasize compassion. To me, this puts the Christian trinity at 2 out of 3, yet 1 is the creator. Also, Christianity seems weak on respecting nature and the environment and living in harmony with the universe, which again to me, is also part of "good". So good purpose= live in harmony and feel compassion. I believe good purpose becomes natural more through the heart and intuition rather the mind and logic ( you can rationalize a lot of crap!)

Matthaios, the list of justification of beliefs you gave is all based on external factors. Do we have an intrinsic moral compass? If we're a creation of a good god we should have one right? Tht creation story teaches that original sin was recognizing good and evil (a dichotomy).
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Old 22-Nov-2010, 10:22 PM (22:22)     23        42076
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Quote:
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Originally Posted by FrDavidCloake View Post
With Mak though - the applications of constructs like human ethical labels is futile at best and presumptuous at worst.

For me, 'God is' - and to add 'good' is a finite judgement as is 'bad' as is 'green' as is 'fluffy'
Agreed.
Assuming that there is "God," then, by Matthaios' definition he is "good" because he is the measure of all things. That which is not of the character of God is then "evil." By the same reasoning, "infinite" is not a good descriptive word for God--it is beside the point, but "perfect" fits perfectly, just as I am a perfect muddle.

Let's drop that last, ok?

But "good" basically is defined by a creator God's character, trite as it sounds and like it or not.

Assuming a multiplicity of supernatural beings without one creator God (and that was where I was for a few years) then there is no absolute good or evil. If one works with a being that was what most humans would call loving, then one would more likely to be a survivor, I suppose, but my investigations were in a different area at the time. I would not have called myself a theist at that time, though I was neither an agnostic nor what most would call an atheist. All the good names were taken!

@Matthaios
As to "rational," I was rationally an atheist, a pagan, a theist, a Christian, and a trinitarian, in that order. The first by logic limited to material things, the second and third through experience of spiritual beings, and the last two by logic using different premises than I had as an atheist. Your mileage may differ.

As for sound arguments, what do you accept as "sound"? As soon as you speak of a personal God, you open the door to the possibility of one who refuses to openly show himself so that we won't have our choices overwhelmed.

One sound argument for theism is based on trust in those who are already in it. I cannot hear, but (even if I lived two hundred years ago) I can trust those who tell me that birds sing. This is in spite of the fact that they argue what "singing" is. I admit I still feel incredulous, but, yes, I'll take it that birds sing. This is a sound argument, but hardly overwhelmingly conclusive. I opine that there should be no overwhelmingly conclusive arguments for theism.

Practically I've yet to find any argument conclusive in either direction.
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