Is the nonbeliever at fault for rejecting God?

No, she is not at fault. Consider the following:

1. If one is adequately informed of the consequences of a decision, and willfully choosing to make that decision is clearly irrational, then it is irrational to willfully choose to make it.
2. If one willfully chooses to make an irrational decision, then one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective.
3. If one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective, then this defect was either the result of (a) choices that the agent herself made in the past or (b) external causes.
4. If one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective due to external causes, then it cannot be one's fault that one's reasoning faculties are defective.
5. If one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective due to choices that the agent herself has made in the past, then it cannot be one's fault that her reasoning faculties are defective.
6. If it cannot be one's fault that one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective, then it cannot be one's fault for willfully making an irrational decision.
7. Nonbelievers are adequately informed of the consequences of rejecting God, and willfully choosing to make that decision is clearly irrational. [assumed only for the sake of argument]
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8. Therefore, nonbelievers who willfully choose to reject God are irrational in choosing to make this decision. (from 6, 1)
9. Therefore, those nonbelievers' moral or reasoning faculties are defective. (from 7, 2)
10. Therefore, it cannot be the nonbelievers' fault that their moral or reasoning faculties are defective. (from 8, 5, 4, and 3)
11. Therefore, it cannot be the nonbelievers' fault for willfully choosing to reject God. (from 10, 8, and 6)

Some would question (5). Some, I suspect, are inclined to think that if one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective due to choices that the agent herself has made in the past, then it can be her fault that her moral or reasoning faculties are defective. Not so: we first have to inquire why the agent made the choices she did. Were they rational choices or irrational choices? Was she aware of the fact that her past choices would result in her moral or reasoning faculties becoming defective? If she was aware of this consequence, then her past choices could not have been rational -- hence they were irrational. But if willfully choosing to make those choices was irrational, then her moral or reasoning faculties were already defective.

At some point, after we have inquired into why the agent made the choices she did, we arrive at an external explanation. We thus arrive at conclusion (4): that if one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective due to external causes, then it cannot be one's fault that one's reasoning faculties are defective.

34 comments:

stevec said...

(playing devil's advocate) If one views a deity as the great quality control inspector in the sky, the distinction between "fault" and "defect" vanishes (and in the case of machines, one might say of an ornery lawnmower, "the fault lies within the carburetor." so even in casual usage, the distinction between "fault" and "defect" disappears).

That is, it may not matter to the deity where you perceive the "fault" -- the ultimate cause of the defect -- to lie, what may matter is only whether or not there is a defect.

(not that I think any of that is true.)

Spencer said...

I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying that from God's perspective, it doesn't matter if the nonbeliever is *not* at fault?

I think it clearly matters, or so Christians tell me. I have in mind the frequently contended notion that God "respects" the nonbeliever's choice in allowing him to perish for eternity. But if the nonbeliever's choice is the result of a cognitive defect, why should this choice be "respected?" What's "respectable" about it? Moreover, why would God wish to give up on this individual instead of helping him see the light? These questions don't have adequate answers.

Eternal Truths said...

How would you respond to the objection that those who endorse naturalism cannot reference immaterial realities such as "defective," "perfect," and "imperfect," because naturalism can only speak about material reality?

Spencer said...

Eternal Truths wrote:
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How would you respond to the objection that those who endorse naturalism cannot reference immaterial realities such as "defective," "perfect," and "imperfect," because naturalism can only speak about material reality?
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This objection doesn't apply to my argument because it says nothing about naturalism -- in fact, it assumes supernaturalism.

elbogz said...

I think back to the story of Adam and Eve. How could they know it was wrong to disobey God, if they had no knowledge of good and evil. So all mankind was punished because Adam and Eve behaved exactly how they were created to behave.

ahswan said...

I don't buy your first proposition; you never show that a decision is irrational. You only state that if choosing to make a decision is irrational, then it is irrational.

But, what if it is not irrational?

And, considering proposition 2, you fail to consider the Calvinist concept of prevenient grace.

If God does not allow us to make rational contrary choices, then we have no free will. If he does allow us to make rational contrary choices, then we are responsible.

Back to square one.

Spencer said...

ahswan wrote:
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I don't buy your first proposition; you never show that a decision is irrational. You only state that if choosing to make a decision is irrational, then it is irrational.\


But, what if it is not irrational?
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You misunderstand the first premise. It only asserts what *would* be an irrational choice if certain things were true - if the agent were aware of the consequences of a particular decision, and if that decision were irrational.

My argument only applies to irrational decisions, and rejecting God, according to Christians, qualifies.

you wrote:
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And, considering proposition 2, you fail to consider the Calvinist concept of prevenient grace.

If God does not allow us to make rational contrary choices, then we have no free will. If he does allow us to make rational contrary choices, then we are responsible.

Back to square one.
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Calvinism does not call into question the truth of premise 2.

Steve said...

I think this entire argument needs a great deal of work - it is arguing using an atheistic manner, however assuming a supernatural world.

Let me explain - defective, perfect, and imperfect are all words that are defined by humans, and are imprecise as to meaning - everyone has their own slightly varying interpretation of them.

For instance one can say that suicide is not a rational decision, however there can be no rational basis for a decision about life - (how does one logically reason out that living is good and dying is bad?? For the most part that is simply human instinct)

Therefore even in the case of a supernatural world, it would not necessarily be irrational to reject a deity.

Also, who decides what a "fault" or a "defect" is in your argument? If you are assuming the supernatural, wouldn't it be whatever respective supernatural power??

The problem lies with perspective - you are arguing from a human perspective, however the judging perspective to a Christian would be God - not an "imperfect" human.

Spencer said...

Steve wrote:
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Therefore even in the case of a supernatural world, it would not necessarily be irrational to reject a deity.
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No Christian would deny that rejecting God is irrational.

Steve said...

Spencer said...
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No Christian would deny that rejecting God is irrational.
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No Christian would deny that suicide is irrational.

No Christian would deny God his right to condemn the unbeliever either??

I'm trying to get at your point here - this article is useless for a nontheist because they don't believe in God, and also useless for a theist because they won't agree with your reasoning.

You could try something a little more interesting and tell me exactly why suicide is irrational.... If you can.

Spencer said...

Steve,

If you wish to reject the conclusion, you need to reject one of the premises.

Steve said...

I take exception to points 1 and 2 because they do not define defective and irrational - in an argument one must define terms before using them.

That is my general point - Your argument is a nice little "rational" dance, but has no application because it uses your closed definitions.

Spencer said...

Steve wrote:
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I take exception to points 1 and 2 because they do not define defective and irrational - in an argument one must define terms before using them.

That is my general point - Your argument is a nice little "rational" dance, but has no application because it uses your closed definitions.
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The definitions are not necessary. No matter how one defines "rational" and irrational," premises (1) and (2) would still be true.

Steve said...

My point is this: You cannot use your argument on anyone who does not agree with all of your premises regardless of whether they are logically true. For example:

2. If one willfully chooses to make an irrational decision, then one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective.

If I disagree with the above statement then you have no argument - this statement is an assertion which must be proven in order to be used in a logical argument.

Your argument also assumes Christians would say it is illogical to reject God - which is not necessarily true. I know many Christians who agree it is logical to reject God, they simply don't believe logic should be used to decide that.

RichD said...

Hi Spencer,

Looking at both 1 and 2, I had something to throw your way. 2 commandments in the Garden, don't eat the fruit and multiply and replenish the earth. So Eve eats the fruit is going to be booted out of the garden. Now Adam has 2 wrong choices to make. He must choose to disobey God and eat the fruit, willfully, or stay in the garden, willfully, with no chance to multiply. Either choice to him presents a problem of "sin".
At this point he has to break one commandment, and he chooses to eat fruit and get busy having kids. Which choice then was irrational? Or did Adam actually make the rational choice to break one commandment and remain with Eve so they could fulfill the other?

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Spencer,

As noted there are bold problems with your first 2 premises as stated. You said:

1. If one is adequately informed of the consequences of a decision, and willfully choosing to make that decision is clearly irrational, then it is irrational to willfully choose to make it.

There are a lot of people who use rational means to make and irrational decision. Such as the bank robber who studies the bank, knows the routine and plans the heist. He/she may get away with it but it is an irrational move but thought through rationally. (in many cases)one can't simply say that just because you know the result that it's irrational to do the crime. I don't believe that atheists are irrational. I believe they use a rational decision making process to reject God. They're wrong but the point is rational thinking doesn not make one do right by itself.


You also said: 2. If one willfully chooses to make an irrational decision, then one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective.

To willingfully choose something is to use a rational process. If one willingfully chooses that which is irrational it may be a number of reasons and not just based on moral reasoning or basis. example: a father wanting to feed his family and having no money, may reasonably conclude that the best possible route is to shoplift some food. Irrational? Yes. Defective moral reasoning? No entirely. Bad decision? Yes!

So if you were trying to streamline this argument into something specific there's work to do.

Is it your fault to reject God? Ultimately yes, can others assist you in that rejection YES! will they also be held accountable? YES!

So this is a pretty deep question and I commend you for undertaking it.

sconnor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sconnor said...

A person can not reject a god that was fabricated in the confines of your limited imagination; which is based solely on your idiosyncratic interpretation of scripture -- this god is imaginary.

Your god-concept is a sadistic torturer of souls who is so petty and insecure (his poor little feelings were hurt -- po wittle baby) he will torture the majority of his earthly children in the flames of hell for an eternity simply, because they perpetrated the most vile heinous of sins: (massive sarcasm) UNBELIEF -- rejecting your delusional concept of god.

Again, as always if god exists, then god knows, exactly, where to find me -- he can tell me, exactly, and concisely, everything he needs me to know, himself -- this way, I can be absolutely certain, what god wants from me, and I don't have to rely on some fallible, deluded whack-job christian asshole, that makes extraordinary, interpretive claims, he can't substantiate -- M-kay?

--S.

Spencer said...

Steve wrote:
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2. If one willfully chooses to make an irrational decision, then one's moral or reasoning faculties are defective.

If I disagree with the above statement then you have no argument - this statement is an assertion which must be proven in order to be used in a logical argument.
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And do you disagree with the above premise? Do you think making an irrational decision is *consistent* with one's moral or reasoning faculties functioning perfectly?


you wrote:
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Your argument also assumes Christians would say it is illogical to reject God - which is not necessarily true. I know many Christians who agree it is logical to reject God, they simply don't believe logic should be used to decide that.
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We're talking more about "rationality" than logic. Is it rational to wish to jump into a volcano?

Spencer said...

Harvey wrote:
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There are a lot of people who use rational means to make and irrational decision. Such as the bank robber who studies the bank, knows the routine and plans the heist. He/she may get away with it but it is an irrational move but thought through rationally. (in many cases)one can't simply say that just because you know the result that it's irrational to do the crime. I don't believe that atheists are irrational. I believe they use a rational decision making process to reject God. They're wrong but the point is rational thinking doesn not make one do right by itself.
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So do you think the atheist's rationale for rejecting God is rationally defensible? If not, then despite *attempting* to use rational thinking to reject God, atheists will have erred along the way.

Your bank analogy is off: it's one thing to use rational means to achieve an end, but it's another thing to be rationally justified in achieving that end. The decision *to* rob a bank is not rationally defensible (let's say), even if the means to achieve that end are rationally defensible.

you wrote:
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To willingfully choose something is to use a rational process. If one willingfully chooses that which is irrational it may be a number of reasons and not just based on moral reasoning or basis. example: a father wanting to feed his family and having no money, may reasonably conclude that the best possible route is to shoplift some food. Irrational? Yes. Defective moral reasoning? No entirely. Bad decision? Yes!
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Irrational? No. Defective moral reasoning. No. Bad decision? No. The decision to shoplift some food can be both morally and rationally justified in certain circumstances, so your example is off.

But let's suppose your example is not off. On your view, it's possible to make an irrational decision even if one's moral or reasoning faculties are functioning properly. If so, then how do you know it's an irrational decision at all?

Suppose you assert the irrationality of doing x, and I assert the contrary. If none of my reasons for asserting the contrary are flawed in anyway, then how can you claim doing x is irrational? You can only claim this if the reasons for doing x *are* irrational.


you wrote:
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Is it your fault to reject God? Ultimately yes, can others assist you in that rejection YES! will they also be held accountable? YES!
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If you reject my argument's conclusion, then you need to reject one of the premises.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Sconnor,

" I don't have to rely on some fallible, deluded whack-job christian asshole, that makes extraordinary, interpretive claims, he can't substantiate -- M-kay?"

Boy SConnor sounds like you're having a bad day???

sconnor said...

I see the universe is still revolving around your head, oh delusional one.

--S.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Spencer,

You said: So do you think the atheist's rationale for rejecting God is rationally defensible?

Could be. Why? To the Jews Christ is a stumblingblock, does that mean soethign is wrong with their though process? No, The messiah doesn't meet their expectation.
I'm not afraid to admit that some will miss it and rationalize it away until it makes sense to them...When and if they get and epiphany, they'll know the truth and they will be freed just like I was.

You said: "Irrational? No. Defective moral reasoning. No. Bad decision? No. The decision to shoplift some food can be both morally and rationally justified in certain circumstances, so your example is off.

My example is not off. It is irrational to steal under any circumstance whether it's for the benefit of the family or not. Maybe one could have asked and received without committing a crime. You hold an alternate view and that's where we differ. That's why I said:

Irrational? Yes. (there was a better alternative that could have been sought) Defective moral reasoning? No {not}entirely. (it was done for the right or a good and selfless cause) Bad decision? Yes!(there was another way which could have been better and achieved the same or better results)

So I don't acquiest to your line of reasoning here.

You said:"On your view, it's possible to make an irrational decision even if one's moral or reasoning faculties are functioning properly. If so, then how do you know it's an irrational decision at all?"

From my argument it's possible to reason things through and still do the wrong thing. I think that's easily revaled during the process of rational thought. You make the assumption that everyone thinking through things rationally makes the rational choice or decision...I say that's not always the case. Biases, control belefs presuppositions etc, all come into play. John, in my opinion, is an expert on those type of issues and has written quite a bit about that type of thing and as I review his material he makes some interesting points. It's possible to go against what a person rationally concludes based on other criteria. That may not tell you it's irrational to do so, but there are other factors to consider...What it sounds like you're asking is , can logic fail? And the answer is YES.

Sconnor,

It's not only revolving, it's spinnin' now too...

Spencer said...

Harvey wrote:
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Could be. Why?
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If it's rationally defensible to reject God, then rejecting God is not irrational.

you wrote:
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My example is not off. It is irrational to steal under any circumstance whether it's for the benefit of the family or not. Maybe one could have asked and received without committing a crime. You hold an alternate view and that's where we differ.
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False: under certain circumstances, it would be perfectly rational and moral to steal. Why do you think otherwise? Why am I wrong and you're right?

you wrote:
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From my argument it's possible to reason things through and still do the wrong thing. I think that's easily revaled during the process of rational thought. You make the assumption that everyone thinking through things rationally makes the rational choice or decision...I say that's not always the case. Biases, control belefs presuppositions etc, all come into play.
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The fact that someone attempts to reason things through does not mean that person will reach a rational decision. I never claimed otherwise. In any case, you still haven't addressed the issue: how do you know when a decision is irrational if it's rationally or morally defensible?

sconnor said...

It's not only revolving, it's spinnin' now too...

Of course it's spinning -- your delusional mind is in overload, trying to pretend you have knowledge of your imaginary god.

I tell you what I told richard2 (another christian who thinks he knows the will of god too but has an entirely different deluded notion -- imagine that?)

Bottom line, you do not possess ANY knowledge of god either -- except what you rationalize from your own idiosyncratic interpretation of spurious scripture and flights of lunacy
-- you have zero credibility. And specifically, harv, you have a bogus sense of authority that's based on bs.

--S.

Gandolf said...

Sconner said...."I tell you what I told richard2 (another christian who thinks he knows the will of god too but has an entirely different deluded notion -- imagine that?)"

Crikey!.....What the?? they have relative belief translations as well??.....Ohhh i tells ya its a slippery slope :)

Goodness me faith believers each deciding on their own interpretations??.Wallowing in the evilness of individualism etc.

Ohhhh dear me, that nasty relativism raises its bloody ugly head everywhere dont it.

Shock horror!! ....Quick get the absolutist police.

busterggi said...

Now which god is it rational to reject?

Yahweh, Shiva, Zeus, Thor, Ra, Cthulhu, etc?

The only evidence for any of them is stories written by falible human beings.

Richard2 said...

People reject God because of deception and sin, not because of "rationality". People reject what they do not understand or comprehend. Satan has blinded the eyes of unbelievers, but Jesus came to set the captives free from sin and deception. Salvation is God's job, not ours. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can ultimately reveal the truth.

So if you REALLY want to know the truth, then ask God to show you.

busterggi said...

Richard2

Remind me again, why did the all-knowing Yahweh create an angel that would rebel against him?

Why did he allow said rebel angel into his paradisical garden to screw with Adam & Eve's minds?

Why was humanity punished for being deceived instead of the deceiver being punished?

Sorry but Satan makes even less sense than Yahweh.

Richard2 said...

I agree. Satan makes no sense to me either.

Richard2 said...

So now what?

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Spencer:

You said:"False: under certain circumstances, it would be perfectly rational and moral to steal. Why do you think otherwise? Why am I wrong and you're right?

Prohibition against stealing is one of those objective moral values that you believe is only a subjective moral value. Under your construct you believe there are occassions when stealing is morally correct. I totlly object. Stealing may be in order or necessary, let's say in Louisiana when the floods came, however to take those type of circumstantial exceptions and further make a moral value statement, is well beyond what should be done. IF there is stealing let's sat to save a life, there should be a replacement or payment made for what is stolen at the earliest possible convenience. So NO crime is NEVER morally correct under any circumstance. Once again, there are absolute, non evolved values. Our understanding of those values may evolve, but not the values themselves.

You said: how do you know when a decision is irrational if it's rationally or morally defensible?

1- rejection of God could be based on rational means, but it is NOT morally defensible. So that settles that issue.

2- You'll only know what you're asking if you belive in objective moral values instead of subjective or relative values that you espouse.

Thanks.

Spencer said...

Harvey wrote:
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Prohibition against stealing is one of those objective moral values that you believe is only a subjective moral value. Under your construct you believe there are occassions when stealing is morally correct. I totlly object.
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Stealing in general can be absolutely wrong and yet permissible under certain circumstances. No inconsistency here.

you wrote:
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1- rejection of God could be based on rational means, but it is NOT morally defensible. So that settles that issue.
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Can the rejection of God be rationally defensible? Yes or no?

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Spencer,

You asked: Can the rejection of God be rationally defensible? Yes or no?

I believe there is a rationalle, that would allow the rejection of God. Personally I tie that process to the Sin Nature or man, but let's set that aside for a minute.

One can rationally conclude that there is no God. That statement is packed or loaded to a lot of Christians, but I believe we need to look at it. I also believe that one can rationally conclude that God exists.

Atheist's (at least most that I know) are NOT DUMB or unable to think properly. When I hear you imply that reasoning is somehow flawed and there's a black/white to the issue, that signifies a flaw in thinking etc. and is totally backwards similar to Dawkins believing that believers are somehow "deluded". That's not the case and things like that don't help make an argument.

I don't even believe that Paul thought that unbelievers were irrational. He summed his argument up by saying that the "carnal mind" was the prohibition from man doing the will of God,(Rom. 8) not a "twisted" or "defective" mind.

So in short, my assessment of the question is not based one's inability to reason, it's based on how one categorizes and compartmentalizes or accesses, prioritizes and evaluates the information. Only God can speak to a man's spirit, but that's another conversation all together.