I’m fine with the idea that reason doesn’t underlie everything— I may have my reasons for calling myself an atheist, but I didn’t reason my way into liking chocolate or disliking eggplant. That is not to say there aren’t underlying physical causes as to why I like or dislike something, but I don’t try to argue people into understanding or sharing my reasons for liking chocolate or disliking eggplant, I just do. They are non-rational preferences.
That’s why, after participating in debates like this and this, I am left mystified as to why many religious apologists feel the need to engage in pseudo-science and pseudo-reason in a vain attempt to shore up what is, at its core, simply a statement of faith— completely non-rational and unfalsifiable. In religion they find an ethical meta-framework, a culture, a comfort— in short, a flavor they like. But then, rather than let it stand on its own as a respectable preference, they feel they must actively begin to act like logicians and scientists and reason other people into agreeing with them.
I base my life on the idea that everything is open to question (including the proposition that everything is open to question!) This gives me the freedom both to hold beliefs I have found valuable, and discard beliefs that no longer have value. In this regard, I have found that experience, reason, and science are excellent tools in deciding what to keep and what to discard. But is it fundamentally logical that I think this way? Perhaps it has some evolutionary survival value, but that really doesn’t matter much to me as an individual— I really just like to think this way. It gives me peace and happiness to think this way. But don’t call it faith— “faith” as it is commonly used implies the willingness to hold some beliefs unconditionally. I do have beliefs, but my beliefs are provisional.
But for the faithful, reason and science are not very good tools for finding support. Throughout history we see that to the degree that free inquiry has flourished, religion has become marginalized and the church as a social institution has been diminished. To survive, religion has continually adapted, and one major survival tactic has been to try to assimilate reason and science as it has assimilated so many other heathen institutions. But while this works to some degree when it comes to assimilating other religions, it ultimately backfires for science and reason, because religion is not based on science or reason, but on non-rational preference.
So my modest proposal is that believers, particularly those who hold to some form of presuppositionalism, finally come clean and publicly declare that they believe for no reason at all, and that they will henceforth no longer attempt to use reason, science, or anything that looks like them to back their claims. It is time for them to proudly assert that their claims not only need no backing: their claims, their articles of faith are axiomatic, and no evidence or argument can ever refute— or support— them. They just are.
Believers, accept your inner fideist and come out of the closet!
I’ll still share my chocolate with you.
Update: T-shirt of the design Circular Reasoning now available.