Further Discussion On the Hallquist vs Rauser Debate

Previously I had argued that Chris Hallquist lost his debate with Randal Rauser. Here is our further discussion, below for learning and comment.

John, I'm honestly deeply puzzled by your position here. You say, "belief is always irrational" but also that "it is only irrational to continue believing in God once someone grants the arguments to God's existence fail." These statements seem flatly contradictory to me.

(There's also the fact that you have a book out called "The Christian Delusion," have called William Lane Craig deluded, etc. It sounds like you actually *agree* with my position in the debate.)

I agree we can rationally hold false beliefs, but only if our current evidence supports them. As I noted in the debate, I have *some* sympathy for believers who've been mislead by their religious leaders about evolution, Biblical scholarship and so on. It's hard to entirely rule out that theism might be rational for *some* people given their evidence, though on the other hand the best objections to theism are fairly obvious and the market for apologetics, creationism and so on is mostly people who want to shore up their pre-existing beliefs, which isn't very rational.

"Hallquist... thought if he could just show that believing in God was improbable then this is all he had to do."

It's not just a matter of showing belief in God is improbable in a vacuum. It's what's probable given your evidence. But believing something that's probably false given your evidence *is* irrational.

"Yet it is only irrational to continue believing in God once someone grants the arguments to God's existence fail..."

I disagree. I think clinging to arguments that you ought to be able to recognize as fallacious, that you would dismiss if they were presented in favor of any other religion, is irrational. Refusing to *recognize* that your arguments fail doesn't automatically make you rational.

"What Hallquist simply fails to understand is that there are many cognitive biases that keep honest people believing despite the strongest evidence to the contrary... surely he isn't ignorant about the effects of these cognitive biases."

I'm perfectly aware of them, but I don't see how they support the claim that belief in God is rational. On the contrary beliefs resulting from cognitive biases are an archetypal case of irrational beliefs. I'm left wondering what you think the word "rational" *means* here.
Chris, I'll have to respond later in greater detail. You seem to want to point out an inconsistency in me when you don't think belief is always irrational. If you think it is then why didn't you make that the focus of your debate? Since you don't think belief itself is always irrational then I was commenting on the issue of what makes a belief (in your sense) as irrational. No contradiction here. Sometimes we have to grant for the sake of argument someone's viewpoint and argue based on it. I can state everything I wrote consistently and make the same points. I'm away from home and using an iPad. It's difficult for me.
John (again):
Chris, I edited my OP inserting just one sentence in it:
Yet based on this standard of Hallquist's it is only irrational to continue believing in God once someone grants the arguments to God's existence fail, and these types of judgments are person related.
I think that clarification is all I need.

Faith or belief is always irrational because it is always a leap beyond the probabilities. Believing despite the overwhelming evidence is delusionary, hence the title to my book. That most emphatically does not mean people cannot be rational in their beliefs. It's an argument. They don't buy it because, as I argue, they are ignorant of the evidence, or even blinded to it.

Rauser is not being irrational. His faith is but he is not. Listen to him. He's perfectly rational. You will not convince him of this by arguuing on this or that point of contention. That is my point and why I would never debate him about it. Faith is irrational. He is not. He believes due to a delusion he cannot see, and your arguments won't convince him otherwise. The only way to convince him he's irrational would be to convince him faith is irrational. That's why you blundered in not making that case, and even then you wouldn't convince him.

Fred Phelps is rational in believing God hates fags as is Pat Robertson who believes God sends hurricanes for sins. They reason quite rationally, as did the Inquisitors in the 13th century, that infidels must die because heresy was the greatest sin of all that could lead others to hell. The problem isn't how they reason or even what they conclude. The problem is faith itself and you never broached that subject. Faith is irrational. Believers are not necessarily irrational. You will not convince them they are irrational until you help them see they are pretending to know things they do not know (ala Boghossian).

Believing in God is rational given their background knowledge and cognitive biases--which they are ignorant about, just as a Flat Earther is ignorant about science--so long as we grant that believing itself is rational, you see. But once you grant that believing is rational you lose, automatically. I don't grant it. If you grant believing is rational then you cannot convince them belief is irrational until they agree with your arguments. But they won't agree with your arguments because believing is the basis for them. You have therefore made it much more difficult, and even impossible, to get them to see this because you granted too much.
Not going to try to respond to all of this right now, but I'm not sure what you think the point of the Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson examples are. People can reason quite rationally from premises that they're irrational to believe.
Belief itself is irrational, Chris. That's my point. It's not WHAT Christians like Rauser believe. In other words, the content of one's beliefs can be rational in the same manner as a Flat Earther's beliefs, since rationality has to do with one's background knowledge. Given their background knowledge, even though it is based on utter ignorance, Flat Earthers are rational to believe the earth is flat. Rauser argued for this too, and he's right. My point is that you did not attack the whole notion of beliefs being irrational. You failed to cut his faith off at its source. Instead, you argued the content of Rauser's beliefs are improbable, and as such, he's irrational to believe. That is not the case at all. I maintain he is rational to believe based on his background knowledge, AND that Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson too are rational to believe and reason based on those beliefs. The problem is faith itself. It is irrational, and you cannot help them see this until you argue that faith is the problem, not the content of their faith.