Imagine a young man named Nick in ancient Greece committed to the notion he should not believe anything to a degree beyond the degree of the evidence. Nick rejects the local belief that lighting, disease, and reproduction are caused by the gods. Nick’s mother confronts him asking what ideology has replaced the gods. “None” he responds. “How can you have no ideology?” She asks. “Everyone has faith in some ideology!” Nick explains “I’m just committed to mapping my degree of belief to the degree of the relevant evidence. I don’t have faith in anything if faith means going beyond the degree of the relevant evidence.” His mother retorts “But you have to believe in something? What is the cause of lightning?” The young man says “I don’t know.” His mother is incredulous. “How can you say you don’t know? You have to have some belief that accounts for lighting!”
Do you think Nick’s commitment to rationality is an ideology? Is this commitment improper in any way? Is his mother’s willingness to go beyond the degree of the evidence proper? Do you think it is incoherent to say “I don’t know” when you do not have sufficient evidence for an actual cause as was often the case for phenomena observed by ancient peoples?
Many Christian leaders claim everyone must place their trust in some ideology. Some even claim everyone worships something, whether it be themselves or money or perhaps someone significant in their lives. Do you think this is true? Do you not think that any degree of belief in anything that goes beyond the degree of the relevant evidence is not a rational belief?
And once we do honestly map our degree of belief to the degree of the relevant evidence, does our belief then become immune to revision as we encounter new confirming/disconfirming evidence? Or should we alway be willing to re-evaluate and revise our degree confidence in any of our beliefs?
Is the person without an ideology to be disparaged or pitied? Or is the person without an ideology, who is simply committed to rationally mapping their degrees of confidence to the degrees of the relevant evidence more honest than those who do not?
The world manifests itself in different ways to different people. An individual may have had honestly explored the cognitive and emotional weaknesses and biases of their psyche, and are now honestly convinced that it is an actual invisible God speaking to them. If the degree of their belief maps to the degree of the relevant evidence, and this person is still open to new evidence and remains willing to change their mind, this person is rational. However, as many Christian acutely recognize, rationality of this sort is not often promoted by Christian leaders.
We do not need an ideology in order to live life rationally. Wouldn’t adopting an ideology to which we are committed beyond the actual evidence be irrational?
A common fallacy employed by Christian leaders is the “tu quoque” fallacy that a teen might express as “Well, you did/do it too!” Most adults recognize the silliness of this argument, but it is often thrown around by Christian leaders. The following are just a few cases:
“But you are fallible too!” This true claim is often employed to suggest an equivalency: that everyone is equally likely to be right or wrong. The fact that humans are all prone to error does not make humans equally erroneous in their set of beliefs.
“Well, you have an ideology too!” This claim often equivocates between a simple collection of rational and revisable beliefs and more religious ideologies that are 1) based on confidence that surpasses the actual evidence, 2) that are held with unshakable certainty, and 3) that can not be modified after their acceptance. One can always find another ideology which is held irrationally just as you can find another person who irrationally gambles their money away. That does not excuse your own gambling. Someone else’s logical failure parallel to our own logical failure does not make our own failure any less of a failure.
“Well, you have to have faith in something too!” This claim equivocates between a rational degree of certainty based on the evidence, and an irrational positioning of the degree of certainty anywhere but at the degree the evidence warrants. If, before throwing a die, we determine the odds of rolling something greater than a “1” to be 5:1, we are not “placing faith” in the rational assessment that we have a 5:1 likelihood we will roll something greater than a “1”. It is an honest attempt to quantify the probabilities, and then to map our degree of confidence to those probabilities. And if non-believers irrationally do practice faith in this or that as faith is commonly defined, this does not make faith rational. Their faith does not make our own faith any less irrational.
“Well, you must start with presuppositions too!” This claim suggests there are some things we must accept without evidence. Once example is logic. It is claimed that science can not get off the ground unless logic is taken as an unevidenced presupposition. This is not true. If we wish to remain rational, we merely place a degree of confidence in logic that the reliability of logic warrants. For most of us, logic has been quite reliable. Instead of presuming logic, the rational individual will position their degree of confidence in the continued reliability of logic to the degree they have experienced the reliability of logic. (See “Supplementary L”.)
Attempts to equate one’s blunders with the perceived blunders of others in an attempt to strengthen one’s position is intrinsically irrational.
(See also “Supplementary D”.)