Monday, August 6, 2012

Is it irrational to believe in God?

 Suppose you are a rationalist, e.g. a Mīmāṃsaka. You are aware of the fact that all ontological arguments for the existence of God risk to be seriously flawed. If God has created the world, He needs a body for it, but the notion of a body generates enormous problems. If He has not a body, how can he act upon matter? Suppose that, unlike all other beings we know of, He can act upon matter through His will alone. Did He create the world according to the karman of the people who lived in the previous worlds or not? If He created the world using karman, why not leaving aside God and letting karman alone do the job? If He did not take karman into account, why did He act unjustly? And so on.
It is not the case that these problems cannot be solved. Acute theologians have tried (and possibly succeeded) to solve them. But, at least, it is hard to say that God is the solution for ontological problems. He may solve some problems, but He does also open new issues.

Thus, why would a rationalist decide to believe in God? Suppose that all personal reasons (such as one's family's choices, or one's personal devotion) do not count. Is there a rational argument for believing in God?

I have dealt with a theist Mīmāṃsaka (Veṅkaṭanātha in his Seśvaramīmāṃsā) in this post. In case you think that Veṅkaṭanātha was first a theist and then a Mīmāṃsaka, my 2012 book is dedicated to an author who only wrote about Mīmāṃsā, but was also a theist.


Anonymous said...

Is it rational to believe? And what it is, to believe in God? Is it possible to describe it in rational terms?
Probably a rationalist can believe in God because of some personal (that is irrational) experience.

On the other hand, does being a rationalist in philosophical issues implies being rational in all spheres of one's life?

elisa freschi said...

Hi Evgenija and thanks for the comment!
I agree with you (anyone who does ont?) that one can perfectly rational in a certain sphere, while being irrational in a different one. Even a logician falls in love or prefers a certain flower out of whimsical reasons, I suppose. I was just trying to leave all personal experiences out of the picture. What remains is the question: is it intrinsically anti-rational to believe in God? I will try to answer in a next post.

Amod Lele said...

Absolutely, at least if by "rational" you mean "comparably strong to most atheist arguments" rather than "absolutely convincing" (the latter would seem to require that God actually exist). I dealt with what I think is the most compelling such argument in this post:

It was the culmination of the argument I developed in these:

It sounds like it was a similar line of reasoning - though not an "argument" as such - that ultimately persuaded Leah Libresco.

elisa freschi said...

Hi Amod,

I agree with your point, although I am not sure that there is only one way to phrase what should be true in order for the sentence "God actually exists" to be true. I am afraid the sentence is too much ontologically oriented and thus risks to remain within the precinct of an ontological God (see this post:
and this one:

Phillip said...

Who is Karman, by the way? Is he related to Shaktiman?

elisa freschi said...

The idea of Naiyāyika, Śaivas and the others who try to build rational theology is indeed to say that karman is a śakti and that God is the śaktimān. In general, the idea of śaktis of God have been used a lot also by Vaiṣṇavas. The Mīmāṃsaka would still object that we postulate that karman is a śakti only in order to accommodate the śaktimān.

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