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Opening Arguments

True believers.

So, are you an irrational atheist or are you irrationally religious. This writer seems to thing it's an astonishing discover that not believing in God isn't always based on reasoned arguments:

Religious people sometimes try to give proofs of the truth of their faith—Saint Thomas Aquinas famously gave five in his Summa Theologica. But for many people, belief comes before arguments, originating in family, social and institutional context, in desire and need. The arguments are post-hoc rationalizations. This can be true of atheism as well. For me, it's what I grew up with. It gets by in my social world, where professions of religious faith would be considered out of place. My non-faith is fundamentally part of how I connect with others and the world.

The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false. This accounts for the sense that atheists such as Christopher Hitchens or Dawkins are arrogant: Their line of thinking often takes the form of disqualifying others on the grounds that they are irrational. But the atheist too, is deciding to believe in conditions of irremediable uncertainty, not merely following out a proof.

Religious people have often offloaded the burden of their choices on institutions and relied on the Church's authorities and dogmas. But some atheists are equally willing to offload their beliefs on "reason" or "science" without acknowledging that they are making a bold intellectual commitment about the nature of the universe, and making it with utterly insufficient data. Religion at its best treats belief as a resolution in the face of doubt. I want an atheism that does the same, that displays epistemological courage.

I've probably heard every logical and rational argument there is for and against the existence of a surpeme being, and not a single one of them has moved me much one way or the other. Something that big -- whether or not there is anything after this life -- is really a matter of faith; you either believe or you do not. If you do, there is not an argument in the world that can shake loose your faith. Efforts to prove something you do not believe are likelise futile.

"Post-hoc rationalizations." Boy, lot of that going around these days. You firmly believe something, so you come up with logical reasons to believe that and pretend -- or at least want people to believe -- that those reasons are what led you to the belief.

Posted in: Religion