Is it more rational to be an atheist than a Christian?

I have for a while persuaded myself that knowledge is simply justified belief rather than justified true belief. Obviously, some justifications are more persuasive to me than others.

With regard to belief in god, I am an atheist because I find the idea of god implausible. The idea seems to me to be anthropomorphic, many different people have had different ideas about god(s), evolution provides an account as to how life forms evolved without active divine intervention, biblical scholars have pointed out anachronisms in the bible etc, etc. The fact that other people may assert that they have experienced god does not carry much weight with me. The concept of god simply doesn't fit very well with the rest of my experience.

However, ever since I watched the series called "Civilisation" by Ken Clark a few years, I have also sometimes thought about his remark that in the medieval age people's "sense of evidence was different".

Today Ralph Dumain in a discussion entitled "Van A. Harvey on historical-critical method vs hermeneutic subjectivism" in the Philosophy Group of AN referred to an essay by Van A. Harvey entitled "Religious Belief and the Logic of Historical Inquiry" in Free Inquiry, vol. 28, no. 1, Dec 2007 / Jan 2008, pp. 24-29.

What caught my attention in the essay, and what I think could be of general interest to atheists, is that, according to Harvey, a philosopher called Plantinga argues that it is just as rational to believe in a sensus divinitatis (a sense or feeling that god exists) that provides awareness of the truth of theism and, further, to believe that the Holy Spirit testifies that the things of the Gospels found in the Scriptures are true, as it is not to believe in these things. I don't have any formal training in philosophy but it seems to me that Plantinga, like me, thinks that knowledge is simply justified belief.

Roche reportedly criticizes Plantinga's argument on the basis that the ordinary Christian who has no knowledge of biblical languages, textual criticism, theology, or even of history can, by Plantinga's argument, never­theless know that the Gospel events are true by simply appealing to the Holy Spirit and that, furthermore, his or her knowledge need not, by Plantinga's argument, trace back to knowledge on the part of someone who does have this specialized training.

For me, the most interesting part of Harvey's essay is when he refers to the historian, Marc Bloch, because it brings up the issue that Ken Clark mentioned. Bloch reportedly once pointed out that it was not long ago that three-fourths of all reports by alleged eyewitness were accepted as fact. Apparently, if someone said that an animal spoke or that blood rained from heaven, the only question was not whether it happened but what significance it had, and not even the steadiest minds of our predecessors escaped this credulity. Bloch reportedly argues that "by the patient labor of an experiment performed upon man [with] himself as a witness. . . . We have acquired the right of disbelief, because we understand, better than in the past, when and why we ought to disbelieve."

So perhaps Roche can be countered by the reply that the problem to which he refers is not so much that the Christian is irrational but that he is reasoning from a limited experience.

Tags: epistemology, evidence, rationalism

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I find Plantinga's argument to be indefensible. I posted a rather lengthy reply to this topic in the Philosophy group forum, so I'll just leave the link to his main argument here.

I would describe Plantinga as a Post-Modernist and a relativist, both of which are curse words in my vocabulary.
Thanks. I'll have a look at what Plantinga says.
I take back that last statement about him being a Postmodernist.

I still don't think he has any respect for truth though.
mthoreau, I doubt you can actually be a postmodernist without being a relativist too, since the postmodernist stance is to consider no school of thought better than the other. :)
mthoreau - give LeaT a cookie. Postmodernism is a disease.
(I would peg him as more of a traditionalist)

Am I a traditionlist or is Platinga one? Regardless, giving me that cookie when I am waiting for my dinner is not kind :(
I was talking about Platinga.

I also have difficulty in understanding how Plantinga can sincerely be a Christian unless he has a very limited experience which, given the position he holds, seems implausible. Surely he must be aware of the work of biblical historians? How does he deal with that? Does he just bury his head in the sand and say that "because I am a Christian it is functional for me to ignore any doubts that I may have"? If a Christian comes across a reason to doubt Christianity, the functionality of continuing to believe in Christianity is simultaneously placed in issue. That's exactly how people stop believing in god.
If you lived in the United States it would be easy to understand because you would witness it everyday.


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