by Tom Gilson
“Stephen” commented on my introductory post, Finally–A Blog For You!,
Maybe this website should be renamed “the rationalizing Christian”. That’s not the same as the “thinking” Christian, but the name seems to fit based my first impression. When we talk about “thinking” we generally consider that our thinking falls out on a spectrum between good and bad thinking. Certain values come into play to make that evaluation. One important one (my evaluation) is that we don’t rationalize. I’m using rationalizing to mean defend our beliefs. In science and philosophy, this is not “good” thinking. Unless our beliefs are honestly on the chopping block, we can only achieve rationalizing – confirmation bias – we are not really thinking or really learning. This is a tremendous challenge to religion, or the religious that think there can be something beyond faith, something called “thinking”. Why did the word “faith” emerge if it wasn’t to make noble, stuff that goes on in our head that does not qualify as “thinking” or “reason” or warranted assertion?
I’ve relocated his comment here with his permission.
I didn’t get a chance to inquire how he acquired his first impression. His analysis of thinking is fine, except that I’m not at all sure that defense of beliefs is equivalent to rationalization. Scientists and philosophers defend their beliefs all the time, and do so legitimately, based on solid evidences and reasoning.
To place all of our beliefs on the chopping block is to practice global skepticism. Have I been alive more than five minutes? I think so; I don’t think I was created moments ago with the illusion of a past. But if I have to have all my beliefs on the chopping block, then I think that means all.
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Some beliefs just don’t belong under the guillotine. We don’t need to doubt our existence, our humanness, our basic history as persons, certain moral facts, the value of knowledge, and much more. Consider whether this belief should ever be placed on the chopping block: no belief is immune from the chopping block.
I don’t think we need to be overly tentative as to whether the sun is an astronomical object that provides energy to the earth. We needn’t doubt that light travels faster than sound. We don’t need to wonder whether Napoleon or Washington lived in the early modern era.
There are some, though, who place religious belief in a separate category, compartmentalized away from actual knowledge. There are some who consider faith to be what’s left over after knowledge comes to an end, or even that it’s “believing in something you know isn’t true.” If that were so, then Christianity could never really be thinking but only rationalizing…
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