Is it rational to believe in God?
Yes, it is.
But to reach that conclusion I have to consider what the question means. It is a question of possibility. 1) What is the status of the claim? Is the claim of a rational belief in God’s existence a legitimate or an illegitimate claim? Is claiming to have a rational belief on such a topic even possible? And, 2) What is the status of the process? Is it possible to think rationally about God’s existence, regardless of whether the activity itself is rational? Is it possible to have a rational conversation about something irrational? I think certainly yes. That's what psychotherapy and psychiatry are predicated on. But if the first is negative - that the claim to a rational discussion about God’s existence is illegitimate - does that disqualify the second?
On Sunday, May 14, 2017 I watched a video on Facebook tagged “Is it rational to believe in God?” narrated by Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College in Massachusetts.
He reviewed Thomas Aquinas’s 13th century argument of the existence of God from First Cause, God as the Unmoved Mover to demonstrate the function of Reason in the practice of theology. It was a concise, elegant, easy to understand lecture.
I have long understood that theology is highly rational, but I think it's a mistake to review and present Aquinas' First Cause theorem as an argument for the rationality of faith. It is interesting, but it's such an antique argument that now it is more fitting to a history class. It’s old news. There ought to be a better approach to the suggestion that Theism is at least equally rational as atheism. (Atheism is not of itself make one more rational than a belief in or practice of religion.) I disagree with his statement that "An absolute beginning is what most people mean by 'God'." Not me. An "absolute beginning" is only what people mean by 'God' if they are arguing the First Cause theorem. When I think of God I am more apt to think of Paul Tillich's ontological, existential exposition about the ground of our being and everything that extends from that proposition. God is the definition of Existence. God is being, and through Christ we aspire to New Being.
One FB commenter wrote, "Conclusively believing that a God does or doesn't exist is equally irrational. The only rational conclusive belief is that a God may OR may not exist... and that belief also falls under atheism." So he frames as irrational any attempts to make statements about divinity (pro or con) no matter who makes them, and he frames the video as intellectually dishonest. I guess he just doesn`t appreciate attempts to talk about God. Maybe he doesn't believe in God and thinks that theology is folly. Or, maybe he does believe in God but still thinks its folly to make any positive statements about Him (which is a valid point). I had a handful of Facebook exchanges with him and got the impression that he thinks it is irrational to talk about anything that you can`t know for certain, which covers just about everything to my way of thinking. In addition, I am confused by his use of the word “conclusive.” I think he is misusing it.
If the process is logical, reasoned, sensible and cogent we may describe it as "rational" even if it is not true, or not empirically verifiable, or not independently testable.
I doubt that belief or disbelief in deity is "equally irrational," or even irrational at all. I think both are rational. (I reserve comment on their equality.) "Rational" describes a process of thought, not a content of thought. The process may or may not reach a verifiable conclusion, but the definition of "rational" lies only in the nature of the path that leads us there. If the process is logical, reasoned, sensible and cogent we may describe it as "rational" even if we disagree with it, it is false, or not empirically verifiable, or not independently testable. Now, there are different kinds of "logic," so describing something as "logical" might not describe its character to mutual agreement. I suggest that belief in God is not only rational but also true, partly because of a logical thought process, partly because of common, shared, verifiable experience, but ultimately, because of a transformational experience which is, admittedly, subjective and defies communication.
Attacking your opponents’ rationality and using that as grounds to ridicule them, then disqualifying their argument, and finally invalidating their position reveals both an invalid position and a suspicious agenda.
Although we regret to admit it, people with whom we disagree typically are not irrational in their thinking. They are perfectly rational, but merely arrive at different conclusions. Attacking their rationality and using that as grounds to ridicule them and their position, then disqualifying their argument, and finally invalidating their position reveals both an invalid argument and a suspicious agenda. Our opponents might not be correct in their thinking, but that is a completely different matter than being irrational. I mean, it’s entirely possible to be soundly rational and yet completely wrong.
On a similar note, I confess to being thoroughly suspicious, unimpressed, unconvinced and unsold on the practice of citing Reason, or Rationality as a measure of mental health and competence. (I’m rather critical - not without reason - of the mental health industry.)
I think most people are in agreement with their opponents about most things, and that our disagreements are largely cosmetic. Do you believe in gravity and a breathable atmosphere? That is 99% of our commonality right there. Religion, politics, economics, social vision, etc. are almost marginal.
Maybe I am confusing “rational” with “rationale.” One is an adjective, the other is a noun. I don’t think I am, but I could be wrong.