Is There a Difference Between Theist and Atheist “Irrationality”?
by Tom Gilson
Defining “Irrationality”: It seems to me there’s a difference between theists’ and atheists’ ideas of “irrationality.”When Christian apologists speak of reason and rational thinking, more often than not they’re talking about the practice of moving from carefully evaluated evidences and premises through a valid process of logical reasoning to a sound conclusion. They’re talking about reasoning. Irrationality, for apologists, is typically definable as, applying unsound and/or fallacious reasoning.
In my experience with leading New Atheist authors and in online debates, more often than not their conception of reason and rational thinking is that rationality is defined by rejecting all knowledge that cannot be acquired through empirical methods, preferably scientific. Irrationality for them is often definable as, concluding that the supernatural exists when there is no empirical evidence for it.
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I am not saying that atheists care nothing for logical validity, but rather that (in my experience) they tend in practice to make empiricism primary, and to subordinate the quality of reasoning processes to the acceptability of the reasoning outcome.
I’m also not saying that theists never commit the same error. I’m saying rather that the most prominent anti-theistic apologists do seem to do it much more than the leading theistic apologists. I say this with full recognition that I can’t demonstrate this through any quantitative analysis. In my reading, however, of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Coyne, Krauss, and others of their tribe, I have seen much more emphasis on “you must rely only on empirical results” than “you must exercise reason validly.”
Atheist Irrationality: Disclaimers made, there is folly in what I have observed as atheists’ outcome-centered way of assessing rationality: it encourages people to consider themselves rational if they deny the supernatural, regardless of how they reached that conclusion.
Here’s how I explained it…