Rationalizing Faith or Rationalizing Doubt?

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 On CARM, (message board) Derrick writes:

It is my opinion that it is rationalizations based upon my perspective of the facts. When a Christian encounters a ridiculous amount of suffering in their life they interpret this through their beliefs that god loves them and is disciplining them, etc. This to me is rationalizing, which does not speak to whether or not it is true, but simply plausible to the person experiencing the suffering.
Tralala writes: "What bad things did god do to you? All of them? Just certain ones? How do you know which is which?Could something bad have happened just by chance with no meaning what so ever?."

I've seen these two statements put over in a thousand different says in a thousands different venues. It's quite common to hear this, when good stuff happens we just credit it to God regardless of the evidence for that, when bad stuff happens we refuse to ever blame God. As though blaming God is a real option if you believe he exists. Let's stop and think about the question begging going on in these statements. Look at the loaded nature of Tra's statement "what bad things did God do to you?" Even though she's supposed to believe there is no God of any kind, she wants us to blame God for the bad things that happen. Is that rational? Or if she's just making the point that crediting God with the good  requires that we balance it out by blaming God for the bad, that makes about as much sense as blaming our parents for misfortune. Before we go any further it's important to point out that I have what I feel is a rather air tight answer to the problem of pain. So there is no logical reason to blame God.

There's nothing illogical about refusing to blame God. Calling it rationalization is just a propaganda ploy. The obvious truth is that the one saying that we should blame God is the one doing the rationaling. Look if I feel that I know God is real and that he is loving, if I feel that I have air tight reasons for such notions what kind of sense would it make to blame him for the misfortunes that befall us when in fact Jesus warns that we will have tribulation in the world? "I tell you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33). That would be the essence of irrationality to say "Ok I know God is loving and would never just whip upon me for no good reason, but I'm going to chuck that because it must be rationalizing and I'm going to take the bad as a sgin that there is no God or that God is a big meanie." That makes no sense at all. Moreover Tra's statement is so loaded she needs to be careful where she points it. That's like asking "are you still beating your wife?" What bad stuff has God done to you? Fraught with silly assumptions. Why should I blame God when I know better? That is not only begging the question but also rationalizing.

Obviously the doubters are the ones doing the rationalizing. They are rationalizing the witness of good things that happen and trying to force an erroneous conclusion that we not to accept for the bad things. I know my own life, why should I accept their appraisal of it? They were not there when I had a single one of my experiences of God, where do they come off assuming that my experience is just my hysteria and their silly little bitter doubt is the right way to look at it? Derrick tells me "I was so spiritual. I was really serious firebrand for God, I knew the bible and I studied Greek." That all may be true but he didn't know God. He knew what to say in a church to sound right but he didn't know God. If he knew God he would not be denying God. If he had the experience of being born again and baptism of the Holy Spirit he could not deny that reality, unless his experiences were superficial and he didn't bother to cultivate the reality of it. Then to assume that his doubt sweeps away my reality and thus my faith has to be the rationalization is merely begging the question.

It is not logical to deny what I know. Given the primes I maintain, that God is real and God is good, that there is a logical reason  for God's allowance of pain  in life it is ratioanl, not rationalizing to credit God with blessings and refuse to blame him for crap that happens. I don't believe in God because good stuff happens. That's not my original basis for bleief. If it was they might have a point. Since it's not, financial windfall and escaping wrecks and so forth, that is just icing on the cake. I am grateful for icing, I love the icing. But it's not my reason for belief in the first place. So there's nothing inconsistent about refusing to blame God for the trammels and trials that come my way. The good stuff is confirmation, especially when it comes in answer to prayer. That's another piece of the puzzle they seek to avoid thinking about. That's a huge aspect of rationalization. Their reasons for dismissing prayer and answers to prayer is purely ideological. They have no proof that prayer doesn't work, they weren't there when my prayers were answered and they don't know the circumstances. The only reason they object is becuase it disproves their world view and their ideology tells them they must reject it out of hand without even knowing the facts.

Talking of rationalization hit the atheists with evidence of miracle and watch them come up with infinite reasons to doubt it. Meet every standard of proof they bring up and watch them continually raise the bar to ridiculous levels. Start with the general miracle claims they say there's no scientific evidence. Would Xrays be scientific evidence? No Xrays can be faked. Well what if you had Xrays of lungs ravages by TB and the new Xrays taken the very next day showed a new pair of lungs, you could guarantee it was valid Xray of the same guy really taken the next day? The only thing in the mean time that changed was prayer? That's impossible, no such case has ever been recorded. Yes I'm afraid it has, Charles Anne had such an experience in the 1920s. Xrays didn't exist then. Yes they did, they came into use in 1917 (see page 28) I believe. Then they counter, but these Xrays were fake. The recording procedures and documentation for the saint making committee is such that they could NOT fabricate such xrays. But then they began to deamnd that I find some way to verify that the xrays exist. I contacted the Lourdes miracle committee and exchanged email with a committee member who assured me that they do exist. He had seen them, he is a medical researcher and a doctor he knows how to read Xrays he knows they are not fake. Of course he's lying, you can't trust a religious guy. Member of the committee just means he's real good lying about stuff. Unless I get the actual Xrays in my hands they wont accept it. But why should they believe me? Do we see who is rationalizing the evidence away here? I went out and found evidence they previously stated could not exist, so of cousre they refuse to accept it's validity but I'm rationalizing my own faith?

O but look at the nature of religion and religious people. It's all based upon lies and religious people are hysterical and stupid so of course it has to be that I'm just rationalizing. They are not rationalizing they are brave men of science. This is kind of perpetual knee jerk doubt is just the kind of penetrating insight people have when they become incurably skeptical. But where I come from we have another name for it. It's called "bigotry." I define rationalization as the refusal to think deeply about an issue but putting up a self deceiving pretense of thought by going through the motions of critical thinking without looking deeply at one's own interest or prejudices. That's what those guys are doing. I'm not doing that becuase I was an atheist. I had doubt. I was one of those perpetual doubters who said as long I have an excuse for doubt or a breath I will continue to doubt. I struggled thought that by honestly confronting the nature of my experiences and thinking as deeply and logically as I could about them. I came to the conclusion of faith. I don't see any evidence that would disprove or overturn the warrant for belief that I have discovered. I don't see any reason not to credit God with the good and refuse to blame him for the bad. That is logical and consistent given what I know about God. What is not logical is the circular reasoning that says "there's no evidence for God's reality, but the evidence that people put forward must be wrong, must be rejected, because there's no evidence."


Jason Pratt said…
That X-ray paragraph was classic! {g!}

I think it's okay to acknowledge that Christians can rationalize as much as anyone; and I think it's okay to acknowledge that atheists can be rationally evaluating, not just rationalizing, as much as anyone. Not everyone in either camp is only rationalizing. (Unless certain atheistic theories of epistemology are true and everyone is only rationalizing at best about any and everything -- including about atheism and about that theory of universal rationalization! To be fair, that would be just as self-refuting if, let's say, a hardcore Calvinist Christian tried the same theory.)

There is a distinction between faulty rational evaluation (drawing inductive, abductive, or deductive inferences, from bad data and/or invalid logic) and mere rationalizing, although mere rationalizing can factor into faulty rational evaluation. It's self-critically important, regardless of our current worldview beliefs, and regardless of whether our current beliefs are correct or incorrect (to whatever degree), to check ourselves for rationalizing behavior.

Meanwhile, as I pointed out three years ago in a Cadre article (among other places) -- which will allow me to test some reported problems with html linking codes in the comments while I'm at it -- there is a significant and important difference between God having authoritative responsibility for my sin and God being ethically blameworthy for my sin. But it's naturally easy to mistakenly elide between the two concepts; and anti-theists will of course have a natural motivation to shuffle the concepts. But shuffling the concepts by accident, or even on purpose, doesn't necessarily amount to rationalization -- it could be faulty rational evaluation. Similarly, I'm not necessarily rationalizing a distinction there, even if my distinction is mistaken in one or more ways.



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