HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

DO WE NEED TO BELIEVE IN GOD TO BELIEVE IN REASON?
 
We need reason as a tool to help in the search for truth and to avoid the perils of self-contradiction.

 

Reason must be connected to what your senses and the evidence says.  You get the information from them and think out the meaning and the implications.  Reason must not be a bubble. A symphony is ruined by one wrong note. In a math's exam, you are punished once for one mistake. After that though the logic is right the information is wrong.  That is why you must be firmly grounded in information and process it with logic.  Reason that is like the math's exam is worse than being irrational.
 
C S Lewis said that those who say we are made by pure chance are saying our reason may be defective and cannot be trusted. What does he want us to do? He wants us to decide that there is a God who gave us our reason and God is reliable so we can trust our reason. But it makes no sense to say that reason is reliable for you have reasoned that God is reliable. You are trusting reason by itself so what are you doing trying to bring God in for? You are trusting in reason to trust in God so how can you say your faith in God is the reason you trust your reason? That is lying.
 
God means the ultimate good - the only thing that matters. Thus Lewis as a Christian has to use trickery in case we see that God cannot be the ultimate good for reason does not depend on faith in him. Reason is independent.
 
According to Lewis, to say God didn't make us and chance started off the process of evolution which made us and that those beliefs are rational is self-refuting. He thought that if we are programmed and do not really have any free will then we cannot be sure we know what we think we know. It would be as silly as saying a calculator programmed by chance could be relied upon. He argued that unless there is a reasonable God who gives us the gift of reason then reason is a waste of energy. He argued that if the value of reason is in doubt then you cannot establish its value by reasoning. If thinking then is no good then thinking is never any good. Or is it?
 
* If there are reasons to distrust reason, it follows that it cannot be always wrong. Nobody argues that a liar must be disbelieved all the time.
* Reason can be understood as a sense - it senses what is contradictory or what make sense. If it is the product of chance, it is the same as our sense of sight, our eyesight. That would be the product of chance too but it keeps us reasonably informed about what is going on around us. So why can't reason be the same?
* If there are reasons to not always trust reason then we should not trust it if it tells us there is an all-good God who must get all our devotion ultimately. Or most of it. It would not be trustworthy enough to justify such a big doctrine. It is a doctrine even bigger than the doctrine that surgery can help cancer for both surgery and cancer supposedly depend on God. It is a bigger doctrine than they are if without God they cannot happen.
 
Interestingly if reason cannot be trusted and I trust it then what I care about is what I think and not the truth. That would provide a proof that I care about me and nobody else. Caring for others is really just using them to get what I want. And if reason cannot be trusted and I go along with it as opposed to trust it then I am even worse.
 
We all have doubts about the validity of reason for we are imperfect. We have difficulties with it too. Difficulties are not doubts but put you at risk of developing doubts. Difficulties about reason itself are different from difficulties about the truth and facts. Catholics say they may have difficulties about matters of faith but that a thousand difficulties do not add up to one doubt.
 
Lewis follows an out-of-date philosophy of mind. Beliefs and actions and reactions all go together. Lewis argues that if our reason is the product of chance it is no use so it can lead you doing strange things. For example, you might boil water in an empty pot. Or you might try to light a fire with ice. Our experience shows that he is wrong. He is stressing theory over reality. Reason itself says that even if the mind is just thrown together that in itself does not prove it has no capacity to discern truth. In theory a calculator can be made by chance and give 1 + 1 =2.
 
Those who say that our reason is no good if we are products of chance, do not argue that our perception is no good if we are the products of chance. They are dishonest in this. If you see a fire there is probably a fire there. Even if there isn't you still see it. Reason is trying to conform to reality. Evolution may have started off by chance but that does not mean the entities produced by evolution cannot conform to reality. A framework can start off by chance. It does not mean you are at the mercy of chance all the time - the framework reduces the chances. If we evolve lungs it is because the reality is that we need them to breathe. Lewis seems to think that if chance is behind all things that it means chance has it that your lungs stop breathing one minute and work the next and look for smoke one minute and decent air the next. Chance started off the framework and the structure - not a series of more and more chances.

Evolution has stopped belief formation that can destroy us. For example, the belief that life is not worth living so we must commit suicide. Being too divorced from reality will destroy us so evolution keeps us reasonably in touch with reality most of the time. It gives us beliefs such as the need for community. So evolution coming by chance does not mean that our beliefs are suspect for they came from chance. It means they might be true despite having come from chance. So it is rational for a person who denies the existence of free will or the supernatural to hold that our beliefs can be and often are correct.

Here is a variation of Lewis's argument, "I have a spiritual experience of God. God lovingly has given me free will and reason. I can trust them for I can trust this loving God whom I experience." Others may say that they have that experience too. But the fact remains that the experience is your experience and nobody else's. Many feel they have an experience of the absence as in non-existence of God. Using the scientific method to justify beliefs is better than resting on experience. Anybody can verify the scientific method. Science may have errors but it is better to start with doubt and us the scientific method to get out of it than to depend on anything else such as a religious or spiritual experience. With those you repudiate the reality check. So you end up diluting reason not serving it. You stop yourself trusting it properly.

If an experience of God is so great that it can support reason, why not just sense that reason supports itself? Why not have an experience of the power of reason? By bringing God in to justify reason you are doing that anyway but in a roundabout awkward and confused way. Why not just do it and leave God out?

Evolution does not always lead to entities forming reliable beliefs. To survive, we evolved a habit of lazy reasoning because of the better safe than sorry tendency we all have. It does us more good than harm. We think lightning is out to get us so we hide from it though if we reasoned carefully we would see it is very unlikely to hurt us. We tend to see inanimate objects and things as free agents who could endanger us. The way we use reason shows that it evolved and that God is not needed to explain it. Denying it evolved would be irrational.
Some strangely argue that if you reason that there is a God, then you fall into idolatry and end up worshipping a product of your logic and not God. This is nonsense. If God uses reason as a tool to bring you to him then it is not idolatry. You are not worshipping how you think but somebody who your reason tells you is there. Even if this were idolatry, it is still better than worshipping anything you have little or no evidence for and something you apply no logic to.

Lewis was wrong to think that belief in reason necessarily goes with belief in God. In fact trying to make reason depend on God destroys reason. Better to enjoy the reason we have even if we have doubts about it than to destroy it totally with belief in God. Belief in God should not be encouraged as it poses a risk to reason.

Religion says that God gave us the gift of reason to work out what the moral standard is. Religion usually teaches that God somehow IS the moral standard. So this is reason learning about God through learning about what God wants people to do.

APPENDIX

Religion says that love is voluntary. Only a being with free will to do extreme evil can give love. So they say God gave us all this freedom we have but we abused it of our own volition and so he is not to blame for evil. This reasoning is called the free will defence or the freedom defence. It is meant to clear God of the blame for evil.

Believers say that free will and belief in logic go together. They presume you need free will before you can reason and trust what you think. But free will is full of mystery and contradictions and nobody is able to explain how it works. Nobody is able to prove it actually exists. Feeling free does not mean you really are free. One function of free will is to enable you to use your reason and logic. To many, the problem of knowing if free will is really logical hinders your use of free will. They suppose that if you have free will then it is limited by default. In fact the news is worse than that. Rather than limiting free will, it debunks it.

If we have free will and free will does not make any sense to us and seems to be full of contradictions and paradoxes then what? People believe that reason is only of any value if you believe in free will because you need free will to exercise it. In other words, what you think is doubtful if you are programmed. This overlooks the fact that a computer can replicate reason because we program it. And it could be that reality programs us. So you can believe in reason and think free will is nonsense. So you don't need to believe in free will to believe in reason or vice versa. If our being programmed means our reason and logic is untrustworthy, the reason is that nobody rational programmed us. That is to say that a rational being with free will has to program us. If that view is correct, we still cannot show how free will is logical or have any reason to imagine that it is. So there is no way to be sure free will really supports reason at all. If free will is nonsense and we believe in it and claim that our reason is based on it then our reason looks like reason and acts like reason but is not reason. We are putting reason in an irrational framework. When you do that there is no reason left for there is no self-consistency. And you are left with nothing to say when somebody says a dog created the universe.

We conclude that free will is the enemy of reason.

If God gave us free will he limited our logic and therefore our free will. It makes better sense to hold that free will is nonsense and an attack on reason. Clearly if there is a God he has no right to let us create so much suffering. He cannot use respect for our free choice as an excuse.

 

Does our power to see through obvious contradictions suggest that thinking is man-made? Did we create the rule that a is a and cannot be non-a? Or did it come from a God of truth who wants us to discern?  Who cares where it came from for it is obviously right.  It is irrational to make out a God is necessary.