Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is it reasonable to believe in God? (The Reason for God part 3)

(I'm reading through Tim Keller's book "The Reason for God" and taking my small group through a DVD study based on the book. Over the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about the book, the study, and the discussions occurring in my group.)

In recent years, a number of books on the topic of atheism have been published.  Their authors (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, etc.) insist that there really aren't any sufficient reasons for believing in God.

But what do they mean by sufficient?

Keller argues that these popular atheist writers are demanding a "logical or empirical argument for God that is airtight and therefore convinces almost everyone.  They won't believe in God until they get it."

These authors are looking for evidence for God based on verifiable sense experience or a logical explanation that any sane, clear thinking person simply could not reject.

Keller also notes that some Christians are guilty of this same demand when they claim their arguments for faith are so strong that only the close-minded, stubborn or fearful would reject them.

He thinks that the demand for what some have called "strong rationalism" is problematic, given that the majority of philosophers think that strong rationalism is impossible to defend.  For starters, this position is self-refuting.  The belief that "I only believe what my five senses tell me" is a statement of  philosophy about science.  It can't be verified empirically.  It is ultimately a belief. 

Another problem with strong rationalism is that it assumes "that is is possible to achieve 'the view from nowhere', a position of almost complete objectivity" that is simply not possible.  When we evaluate ideas, we all bring experiences and beliefs that influence their thinking and reasoning.  Because of this, it's not fair to demand an argument that all rational people would have to assent to. 

What do you think of this point?  Are these pop-atheist writers demanding too much?  Do Christians at times claim too much?

Keller proposes a way forward, beyond strong rationalism and relativism.  A position that he calls "critical reasoning."  I'll discuss it in my next post.

1 comment:

J at said...

I've heard SO many people on both sides who I think demand too much, and at the same time, deny too much. The atheists you mention are so strident, and only look for the bad in religion, which I don't find useful. There is a lot of good in religion, as well as many flaws. Just like secularism, I would say.