Thanks for your post this morning about reasons for (and against) belief in God. And thanks to you and John for having me on the show this morning.
A few very brief responses to today’s program on "Believing in God" and to your blog:
* Did we resolve the issue, either by agreeing that there are rationally compelling reasons for the existence of God, or rationally compelling reasons against God’s existence? No, clearly not. But then again, none of us thought that we would do so.
* Did we talk about religious issues – issues of ultimate concern – in a rational and civilized manner, despite the deep differences between our three positions? Yes, I think we did actually. Now perhaps some would say that’s not much of an achievement. But I disagree. In a world in which people are willing to commit violent acts because of the presence or absence of belief, and a world where religion seems to be the one topic that no one (even professional philosophers) can discuss rationally, I think that’s no mean achievement.
* Indeed, isn’t that what philosophy is all about? We take on issues that can’t be resolved by scientific study or direct observation -- issues that others seem willing to resolve by dogmatic assertions -- and we try to be influenced in our believing and disbelieving by the force of the better reason. I am a theist, which I suppose makes me religious. Yet if the reasons that I have for this belief turn out to be inadequate, I will follow where the arguments lead. And I presume the same is true of you.
* (Of course, none of us do this perfectly. Believing and disbelieving religious claims seems to be one of the areas most resistant to reason. [The other one is falling in love with those you "should" fall in love with and not with those you shouldn’t.] Perhaps you need to do a show on "the failure of philosophy" -- on what the Greeks called akrasia, the failure of the will to follow what reason tells us is the best course of action.)
* What we didn’t get to talk about – perhaps this is an even more urgent topic for a future show – is exactly how one goes about reasoning about one’s "worldview-level beliefs." Surely we have to admit that the hold of reason is rather less firm at this level than at the level of our more specific beliefs. And yet philosophers – and indeed all rational persons – are compelled to at least attempt to reason about their worldview-level beliefs.
* Reflection at this sort of level is what the tradition has called metaphysics. It comes in many flavors: theistic, of course, but also naturalistic, physicalist, humanist, etc. Unfortunately, metaphysics – at least in the "grand tradition" that once played a central role in Western philosophy – has sort of fallen out of fashion. It’s too bad, in a sense, because human reflection does tend to move outward to these broadest of all questions. Those are the questions that we began to discuss today. I wish we’d be able to delve into them more deeply. Maybe next time...