Phil Stilwell on Quora

I’m starting to post answers on Quora.

Here’s the link.

The following was my latest posting of an answer.

The most basic false belief within Christianity today is the notion that salvific faith is rational. 

Salvific belief (belief that leads to salvation) is treated as binary in the Bible: either you believe in Jesus or you don’t. This is consistent with the binary dichotomy of Heaven and Hell, but it is not consistent with rational belief.

Rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the evidence. For every proposition that requires an inductive assessment (this excludes our immediate perceptions), evidence, both confirming and disconfirming arrives incrementally.

Consider the following scenario. Continue reading


Is Biblical Faith Rational?

A response to a Christian claiming biblical faith is rational.

This notion that faith is rational is a new invention recently promoted by apologists who increasingly find the irrational faith happily promoted for centuries untenable in a world that increasingly values rationality. This might be considered a good step in a good direction were it not so mendaciously inconsistent with what the bible says about faith. Until recently, faith was proudly considered to be an irrational commitment to some god, and the more the gulf between your faith an the evidence, the more virtuous you were. Luther called reason a “whore”, a consistent notion throughout all the history of christianity. Were the millions of christians consciously and proudly accepting Jesus based on this irrational faith actually damned to hell? Are you willing to say that, those now admitting their faith is irrational, can not be real christians?

In the bible you actually have a man coming to Jesus to request that he heal his son. When Jesus asks whether he believes, he actually responds, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief”. This is biblical faith; when in doubt about the credibility of someone, ask that someone to help you believe more. Jesus also blesses those who believe without actually seeing the evidence rather than those who request evidence.

Your claim that your faith is rational would seem much less dishonest if you were first teaching little children the foundation of rationality BEFORE you introduced them to your particular god. However, what you are doing is the opposite; you first get them to commit to “Jesus”, then build your “rationality” around that. Do you understand how absurd it then sounds when you claim your faith is based on rationality?

Finally, simply consider where prior commitments to faith or rationality take people. Those who contemplate gods prior to learning rationality often end up believing quite the opposite to someone doing the same on the other side of the world. In contrast, those who are first introduced to the basics of rationality BEFORE they are introduced to various notions of god tend to converge in their conclusions; most consider a personal god improbable, and an Einsteinian god uncertain. Simply consider the converging philosophies of all the world’s scientists who grew up in various religious contexts, yet were taught the proper need for rationality prior to assessment.

So, this silly claim that your faith is rational does not stand up historically, biblically, nor experimentally, and runs counter to your own practice of promoting your god to children before equipping them with the tools of rationality.

King in the Woods

The rumor spread quickly. There was a king in the woods. Some young lad had returned to the village the night before, and had said he had chatted with a king somewhere in the small woods next to the village. A king! The villagers had never seen a king, and they were excited by the prospect of having their own king living in their very woods!

In fact, the next day 131 of the villagers, nearly half of the village, equipped themselves with cameras and flashlights and king-detectors of all sorts and rushed off to the woods, Continue reading

Faith Is Rational Without Evidence Debate: Challenger’s Rejoinder

Debate structure

  1. Justin’s Opening
  2. Phil’s Rebuttal
  3. Justin’s Rejoinder
  4. Phil’s Opening
  5. Justin’s Rebuttal
  6. Phil’s Rejoinder (this post)

    NOTE: It appears that as of Feb 12, 2011, Justin’s blog is off-line.


Response to Attempted Rebuttal #1

The Evil Demon Scenario

In “The foundation of rational belief” section of my opening, I argued that foundational mathematical parsimony warrants our belief that the world we perceive is objectively real is more probable than an illusory reality in which an evil demon is manipulating our perceptions. I argued this as follows.

With every additional entity, quality and relation, there is an exponential increase in the number of structural nodes in the ontology. Accompanying this increase in structural nodes is the higher probability of logical contradiction or existential incompatibility found within the corollaries of the original proposition. The rational mind, apart from the need to instantiate the variables and thereby independent of induction or empirical fact, can perceive that, as the number of variables increases in any particular claim, the chance of incoherency in the form of logical contradiction or existential incompatibility also increases. This breaks the evidential symmetry between the two notions that 1) the perceived world is real and that 2) the world is a product of an evil demon, and the epistemic agent can then rationally extend a greater degree of belief to the notion that the perceived world is real.

To this, Justin responds as follows.
Continue reading