June 15, 2020 Is belief in God irrational? Meghan SullivanNotre Dame University Jump To Comments At a Veritas Forum from Middlebury College, Notre Dame philosopher Meghan Sullivan explores the questions that defined her journey to the Christian faith. Share This Talk Audio Only https://s3.amazonaws.com/static2.veritas.org/Is+Belief+in+God+irrational%3F+%7C+Meghan+Sullivan.mp3 Topics Featured Reason Download Podcast | At a Veritas Forum from Middlebury College, Notre Dame philosopher Meghan Sullivan explores the questions that defined her journey to the Christian faith. 33 thoughts on "Is belief in God irrational?" The Thinker says: August 7, 2016 at 11:11 pm Even though she makes good points that those objections are not necessarily good reasons to discount the Christian faith, there are plenty of other reasons not to be a theist. The concept of the traditional “God” is incoherent. There is no evidence for free will and so the free will defense to the problem of evil doesn’t work. The positive arguments for god all have problems too. Reply openheart says: August 29, 2016 at 10:14 pm The problems which arise with atheism is to explain existence itself. The expanding universe gives rise to the reason that the universe had a beginning so to argue there is no god, is to beg the question what made the universe? It is neither scientific nor does it make a logical step to claim forces produce physical matter. A deity explains the presence of a universe perfectly logically. Evidence of free will is shown whenever a person makes a pronouncement freely. It is very difficult to explain why different people react in different ways such as angrily, sympathetically or kindly to the same stimuli. Free will explains this, not lack of it. Reply The Thinker says: August 30, 2016 at 7:11 pm Many people falsely assume the the big bang entails there there was a state of nothingness, and then *poof* you get a big bang. That’s not what it says. That’s not even what inflationary theory says. They both simply say that there was a first moment when t=0. There wasn’t anything prior to that; there was no state of “nothing” from which everything came out of. And since space and time are tied together, as Einstein showed, with no space prior to t=0, there was no time. So you can say that the universe always existed in that at every moment of time the universe exists. In this sense, the universe is omnitemporal. That means there was always something. Somethingness might be the ontological default, and not nothingness. The free will that you’re talking about is really just compatibilistic free will, it isn’t the libertarian kind. Reply openheart says: September 23, 2016 at 8:50 pm Nothing has to exist before t=0, is a statement which makes complete sense because time also will not have existed before the universe began. It would be non-existent, before it began to existent, because time is dependent on the universe, not the other way round. As I believe you’ll agree. Howver, I am not such a fan of definitive big bang models. This has been adapted, readapted, redefined into a multiple of ways over the years, so you may feel this is a settled idea, but it isn’t really. It will be further changed as by some astro-physicist soon, no doubt, says something which grabs the attention of the ever hungry science theorists. Therefore, to say whatever happened at t=0 is nothing but a claim. It is just as logical to claim that the universe was never “small”. It never could have fitted into a suitcase. This idea that the universe has always been fatatically big, is simply rejected because it would mean that the universe was created. And of-course if that were the case, it would have been expanding for only the past x thousand or x million years, and more so, a creator would exist. My point is, to explain existence, requires Existence to already exist. Self-existing Existence already was present before the universe began. As you indicated, even time cannot be a property which is self-existing because it had a beginning, and is not self-governing because it is affected by gravity. Self-existing Existence would not be affected by gravity or anything else. It itself would be the ultimate origin which permits gravity and all other matter to exist. Therefore time, would be property perhaps even an attribute of it, as it would be timeless, and as would the matter in the universe, as it would be in everything, everywhere. Reply The Thinker says: September 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm Sorry, but don’t see how anything you wrote makes sense. However, I am not such a fan of definitive big bang models. This has been adapted, readapted, redefined into a multiple of ways over the years, so you may feel this is a settled idea, but it isn’t really. It will be further changed by some astro-physicists soon, no doubt, saying something which grabs the attention of the ever hungry science theorists. Therefore, to say whatever happened at t=0 is nothing but a claim. The big bang model is pretty settled and very unlikely to change dramatically. But what I’m using here is logic, applied to the big bang. Even if there is time prior to the first moment of our big bang (t=0) then the same logic applies because it is always possible that there was spacetime prior to the big bang. If there’s an infinite amount of spacetime prior to our universe’s big bang, then the universe doesn’t need to be, and cannot be created. And if there is a finite amount of spacetime prior to our universe’s big bang, the same principle applies to the absolute origin. …a creator would exist which is objected to out of belief not reason by some. This makes no sense to me. Therefore time, would be a property perhaps even an attribute of it, as it would be timeless. Again, this makes no sense. This issue also includes free-will. Free-will also has to exist dependent on existence already pre-existing to it, to permit it to be able to exist. No matter what classification of free-will this is. This seems like a complete oxymoron. Otherwise where did free will come from? This begs the question. Where did awareness come from, so that an organism is aware of its surrounds? This happens when brains evolved. Like the garden of Eden, with the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, had to both exist, before the choice could be made by Adam and Eve. I hope this is just an analogy. BDelaplain says: February 2, 2017 at 11:32 pm Hi Capt Havoc. I see you’re doing well here. Pierre says: May 31, 2017 at 4:07 pm “The problems which arise with atheism is to explain existence itself.” Atheism is not on the hook to explain existence. Atheism is only the lack of belief that a god exists and does not pertain to one’s position about existence. “The expanding universe gives rise to the reason that the universe had a beginning so to argue there is no god, is to beg the question what made the universe?” That would then beg the question of what made the thing which made the universe. The expanding universe doesn’t suggest at all that the universe had a beginning. It only suggests that it has always been expanding. “It is neither scientific nor does it make a logical step to claim forces produce physical matter. A deity explains the presence of a universe perfectly logically. Evidence of free will is shown whenever a person makes a pronouncement freely. It is very difficult to explain why different people react in different ways such as angrily, sympathetically or kindly to the same stimuli. Free will explains this, not lack of it.” How does a deity explain the presence of a universe? Reply Kevin W says: June 12, 2017 at 8:20 pm Hi, I’m curious why on would apply an evidentialist requirement to a experientially self-evident principle like free will. There is no evidence for morality or other selves that would satisfy a strict evidentialist either, it would seem. If it could be shown that a materialist worldview does not necessarily entail illusory free will, would you still be a determinist? I’m also curious about what you mean by a “traditional ‘God'”. Perhaps the sort of God your interlocutor believes in is not logically incoherent. What, in your view, would be a coherent concept of God? I’m curious because I find many people use ‘incoherent’ to mean ‘unfalsifiable’ or ‘having no analog in common experience’. Thanks for your reply. Reply The Thinker says: June 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm Free will isn’t self evident, that’s the point. On a deterministic world, your subjective experience of free will would be identical. The brain would create mental states that you would experience as being free, simply because you will not and cannot be conscious of the things causing that mental state. And also, libertarian free will itselfis incoherent. The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible. I argue that that’s impossible. For example, a timeless changeless mind by definition is impotent. Reply Kevin W says: June 16, 2017 at 12:24 pm Interesting. Ì agree that materialism entails that the deliverances of introspection, like “I chose to act”, “it is wrong to be cruel”, “Other persons have rights”, which most people take as basic features of personhood, are illusory. It seems likely that this extends to one’s perception of the external world. Perhaps not that there exists some external world impinging on what one takes to be one’s senses, but that one’s set of categories overlaid on these neurological events must be in whole or in part illusory. But thats probably irrelevant, since I know the deliverances of my own introspection regarding my mental life can be trusted, absent defeaters amounting to more than propositions about hypothetical and undetectable neurological activity. In any case, I wonder if what you mean by “incoherent” means ” proposing non-material causation”. This would seem to be circular, and quite a small circle at that. But you probably don’t mean that. Such is the limitation of these sorts of discussions. Reply The Thinker says: June 16, 2017 at 4:06 pm I don’t think that materialism entails that all those claims are necessarily false or illusory. Some of them need to be redefined. For example, “I chose X” on materialism really means “My physical brain (which is a physical system following the laws of physics) compelled me to chose X”. But you are your brain. So your brain choosing X is you choosing X. It’s just that your brain is a physical system with antecedent events that you have no control over. Other mental states such as “it is wrong to be cruel”, “Other persons have rights”, are not illusory. Materialism doesn’t entail all mental states are illusory. If a mental state comports with external reality (assuming realism) or a correct logical concept then it is not illusory. Also, there being no free will is not dependent on materialism. Libertarian free will itself is conceptually self refuting. The following argument can demonstrate that: P1: Our thoughts (mind or will) is either caused or uncaused, no other option is available P2: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are caused we cannot be in control of them P3: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are uncaused we cannot be in control of them P4: It is logically impossible to choose our thoughts P5: Being in control of our thoughts (mind or will – or whatever caused them) is a requirement of libertarian free will C: Therefore libertarian free will is logically impossible Kevin W says: June 17, 2017 at 12:21 pm Thanks for the clarification. What I mean by “illusory” is the simple meaning of the term. I introspect and find I have free will, i.e. I believe I could have chosen differently in most of my acts of chosing, given the exact same circumstances (arrangement of elementary particles/forces, or “given the same brain state”, to keep it simpler). Currently I think some kind of substance dualism makes sense, so I don’t hold that “I am (only) my brain”. By the same token, I introspect and find that certain acts are wrong or right to do, independent of the personal preferences or mental states of any person or set of persons. Now, if I am only my brain because only elementary particles and physical forces exist, then these apprehensions are indeed illusory — they are false. To belabour the point further, I may ‘think’ that there is some non-material moral law ‘out there’ that I sense constraining my moral categories, but if materialism is true, there just isn’t such a thing. By the way, your anti free will has premises which entail from materialist metaphysics, so it should be restated “given materialism, libertarian free will does not exist.” I understand that this would not be immediately apparent to a strict materialist, as adhering to materialism necessitates a paring away of categories, epistemologically speaking, which are necessary in thinking cogently about about non-material entities like moral duties and free will. Of course, you may assert that such entities are not real things, so one is not within ones epistemological rights to maintain them. Kevin W says: June 19, 2017 at 11:21 am Greetings, I’m not asserting that mental states themselves are illusory on materialism. What I am saying is that the object or observation of the introspection is false — does not really exist ‘out there’ if materialism is true. This would include my experience of free will, as well as my apprehension of the objective existence of moral categories like good and evil, or right and wrong. It seems these are in a similar category of proper basicality as my experience of the external word through my physical senses. This is why materialism, it seems to me, leads to a radical skepticism a fortiori. Fortunately for me, at least, I have good reasons to reject materialism, and so don’t need to be concerned about living in the absurd world it entails. Also, the assumption that an unembodied mind would not be able to interact with the physical world seems to take materialism as a given. The same with your anti-free will argument. I wonder if you would take any and all evidence of numinous causation in the physical world as suspect, ala Hume? Lastly, ì don’t see how having complete autonomy over one’s thoughts is a necessity for free will. What is necessary for free will is just freedom of the “will” which is categorically distinct from “thoughts”. All that’s required is that, in morally charged situations, a free moral agent be free to choose the right or the good. This would many times be in spite of at least some of his or her thoughts, i.e. apprehensions about cosequences of choosing the good. It’s more like a bacteria moving against brownian motion in its environment than movement through a decision tree. The Thinker says: June 21, 2017 at 5:45 pm What I am saying is that the object or observation of the introspection is false — does not really exist ‘out there’ if materialism is true. This would include my experience of free will, as well as my apprehension of the objective existence of moral categories like good and evil, or right and wrong. But what if the object of your introspection is that you have no free will? Then it’s correct right? It seems to me that the object of your introspection is only false on materialism, if it’s false. But that’s true on any ontology. A person’s deep belief that Zeus, Thor, or the Hindu deity Ganesh is real is false if Christianity is true. I don’t see any real difference. And again, you don’t experience free will. You experience exactly what you would experience if determinism were true. If you disagree, then you need to make an argument. And as you must know, many things we think are true are illusions. Can you make a positive argument showing objective morality exists “out there’ without (1) making a circular argument, (2) claiming morality is arbitrarily decided by a god, or (3) showing morality has nothing to do with a god? This is why materialism, it seems to me, leads to a radical skepticism a fortiori. Fortunately for me, at least, I have good reasons to reject materialism, and so don’t need to be concerned about living in the absurd world it entails. Do you really have good reasons to reject materialism? I doubt you do. And materialism doesn’t lead to radical skepticism. We have good explanations for why certain things would be illusions on materialism, and other things wouldn’t. And no, you cannot use “basic belief” as a justification of moral objectivity or free will, especially since the latter is self refuting. Also, the assumption that an unembodied mind would not be able to interact with the physical world seems to take materialism as a given. I never made such a claim here. But we do have good evidence (not assumptions) that unembodied minds cannot interact with physical matter, as they would violate the laws of physics. And we humans do not in any way violate the laws of physics. The same with your anti-free will argument. I wonder if you would take any and all evidence of numinous causation in the physical world as suspect, ala Hume? Irrelevant. Things either have a cause or they don’t. And in neither scenario can libertarian free will persist. If you disagree, please show me how I’m wrong. Lastly, ì don’t see how having complete autonomy over one’s thoughts is a necessity for free will. It isn’t. But one has to be able to have any autonomy for free will, and I’m arguing that is not the case: it’s impossible. What is necessary for free will is just freedom of the “will” which is categorically distinct from “thoughts”. All that’s required is that, in morally charged situations, a free moral agent be free to choose the right or the good. This would many times be in spite of at least some of his or her thoughts, i.e. apprehensions about cosequences of choosing the good. It’s more like a bacteria moving against brownian motion in its environment than movement through a decision tree. Is that moral choice caused or uncaused? If it is caused it has a causal antecedent, and isn’t free. If it is uncaused it isn’t free, because you cannot have control over something uncaused by definition. So there’s no room for free will under any ontology. Hopefully you will understand the dilemma you’re in. Kevin W says: June 23, 2017 at 2:02 am “Can you make a positive argument showing objective morality exists “out there’ without (1) making a circular argument, (2) claiming morality is arbitrarily decided by a god, or (3) showin g morality has nothing to do with a god?” Substitute “the external physical world” for “morality” above and the argument is the same (2 would be “created by a god” — you get it). You are a scientific materialist, it seems. You don’t accept properly basic beliefs, except perhaps “one is should only accept what can be proven.” And “quarks and leptons (throw in a vacuum and dark matter/energy if you like — anything detectable) are all that exist.” If you do hold both or either of these to be true, then they are basic beliefs for you, and from them you make all the arguments in your comments. But you can’t argue FOR these beliefs, it seems to me. I beleive we can be justified in believing things like “I have free will” or “murder is wrong” without having to argue for them. I will readily agree with you, however, if you can positively demonstrate that the physical world is all there is. Then I will abandon my childish substance dualism-ish notions of mind. I also believe a free moral agent just can decide without a constraining antecedent cause (but not without influencing causes). This is my experience. It also avoids the issue of counting on an infinite regress of antecedent causes to result in a mind which which has the miraculous (sorry, I meant ‘randomly determined’) ability to comprehend some scientific concepts, mathematics, and the issues we are discussing at present. Of course, you may feel that I don’t understand these issues. I’ll certainly grant that as a possibility. I am not as bright as I once thought I was. “But what if the object of your introspection is that you have no free will? Then it’s correct right?” Well… can we trust our mental life or not? We are only epistemologically responsible for what our minds DO IN FACT apprehend. Hypotheticals are almost always a waste of time. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I am still under duty to hold to the worldview which best comports with my apprehension of reality. In any case, I welcome anyone’s well meaning efforts to disabuse me of childish falsehoods. Especially if it means I can frolic in the brave new world of no-love, no-meaning, no-good, no-purpose, no-choice. Now, cest la vie (cest la mort?) If that happens to be true. But I have seen no good reason to believe it is. And I have accumulated plenty of good reasons, over the years, to believe the opposite. Kevin O. Gaona says: August 8, 2016 at 3:03 am If there is no free will, how can one be a free thinker? That appears self-contradictory, unless you believe one can think freely but not act freely. Just curious. Reply The Thinker says: August 30, 2016 at 7:07 pm “Free thinker” means thinking free from religious dogma and free from thinking based on tradition. It has nothing to do with the idea of libertarian free will. Reply clifford cook says: September 24, 2016 at 7:03 am Belief in god is rational , becuase of the diversity of complex life on our planet , we are more alive than nothing , yet we cant create life , so if conscious inteligent beings cant create life them how can nothing do so , So we are more powerful than nothing , and we cant create life, so then there has to be a higher power that can create life , that higher power is god , when god was first created , god was a spark of light the size if a golf ball and a feeling of love , And god at that stage in his development could not create life he did not have the power too , it took god 80, bilion years of growth and exploration of himself and his abilities , to be able to create life, the human body is an abundant complex biological machine , which has many working parts working together for the function and benefit of the body , God has instilled a belief in him in all people and animals , so everyone believes in god , so perhaps questioning why someome asks the question as to weather believing in god is rational , when god has already instilled that belief in us , that is important too , and a part of our learning Reply Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks | BeautyCribTV Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks – Blogger Blog Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks « Fribliss Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks | Caribbean Focus :) Pingback: Viral Nova » Get all the newest fascinating, hilarious, and thoughts-blowing tales on the Net. That is the stuff everybody's speaking about. » Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks | KrazyWorks Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks - Feedlinks.net Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks | Jamaican Moments™ Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks | Intelligent Jamaica Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks | The New Peoples Almanac Pingback: Top 10 Smart Alternatives to TED Talks Terry Lenick says: December 25, 2016 at 6:18 pm A philosophical discussion of Christ without a discussion of love is a nonstarter. Love is the starting point not reason. Can you rationally define love. Of course not. However, from love comes free will because the former does not occur without the latter. An example may be in order. Can a dog explain his master. No but a dog does love, doesn’t he? You can tell it by looking into his eyes and his wagging tail. One cannot rationally define this loving relationship. One can only experience it. Nor can the dog, like man, explain it. Christ’s death mends the loving relationship between man and God. It is that simple and like all love, that un-rational. Reply tadeger says: April 6, 2017 at 9:12 pm Dogs are pack animals and their relationships with their humans and other dogs are defined by their place in the pack, even if that’s a pack of two (you and the dog) They don’t think of you as their master, that’s a human construct, you are simply the head of the pack and they behave accordingly and do not ponder the relationship further. We on the other hand do have the ability to contemplate our relationships so your analogy with dogs is nonsensical. The assertion that love is requisite to achieve free will is clearly false as plenty of heartless bastards exercise “free will” daily. Also, finding solace and meaning in the necessity of a blood sacrifice of a son to mend a relationship with an angry invisible deity (father) doesn’t really sound so loving and what is truly “unrational”. Reply Terry Lenick says: April 7, 2017 at 1:53 am You stated that I said love was a prerequisite to free will. I did not say that. I said you cannot have love without free will, namely you must be able to choose to whom you may love. Can you exercise free will for a different purpose? Of course. However you cannot experience love without an act of free will. Finally, at the risk of confusing you more, you cannot know evil without knowing good. Evil is a derivative of good because it is defined by the failure to meet the standard of good. However good is not the derivative of evil. You can easily define a good without any reference to evil. Now what was the name of the tree in the garden…..knowledge of good and evil…until then there was innocence and our free will to lose it. It is still all about the free will act of love Reply Leave a Reply Cancel replyYour email address will not be published.Comment Name Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.