Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I need to refer back to something in that Bill Mahar clip that I linked to a short while ago – something that simply does not sound exactly right.

Mahar lumped 20% of the population who has no specific religion under the heading ‘rationalist’. While I wish that this were true, it is not true.

Just because a person does not believe in God, this does not mean that he is particularly rational. And, in fact, the greater the numbers who do not believe in God, the more likely it is that those who become atheists will do so for the same reason that people become Christians today – because they unthinkingly absorb whatever views they pick up around them. The only difference is that they happened to pick up (in an unthinking and unreflective way) a different set of beliefs.

In order to be a rationalist, I would argue that some additional criteria are required. An individual has to have a familiarity with logic. He should not only be able to identify at lest the most central concepts in logic, but also be able to recognize at least the most common informal fallacies and actively worried about having a fallacy show up in his arguments – and embarrassed when one is discovered there.

Equating ‘does not believe in God’ with rationalism is a stretch.

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