Question: Is it rational to believe in God?
We don’t have a proof of God’s existence
The Evidential Argument from Evil gives us some reason so think that God doesn’t exist
Maybe there are also some reasons to think God does exist – reasons we haven’t considered
In order to answer the question, we need to know what it means to be rational.
Two conceptions of rationality:
Epistemic rationality aims at maximizing truth.
Belief B is epistemically rational for S iff:
S has reason to think B is true.
Epistemic aim = Maximize truth and minimize falsity
Pragmatic rationality aims at maximizing selfinterest.
Belief B is pragmatically rational for S iff:
S has reason to think believing B is in her longterm self interest.
Pragmatic aim = Usefulness of the belief set
Sometimes, the two aims coincide
True beliefs aroften more useful than false beliefs But, not always
A beliefcan be pragmatically rational but not epistemically rational, and vice versa.
Say you have good evidence that it is true that your spouse is cheating
Unexplained absences, credit card charges, phone calls, shifty behavior, ticket stubs in the jacket, lipstick
on the collar, witnesses
On this basis, it is epistemically rational for you to believe that your spouse is cheating.
But, it is in your own longterm selfinterest to believe that your spouse not cheating
Your spouse is the breadwinner, and you have no job skills, no education, and no work experience.
Your three young children benefit from living in a twoparent household.
Your friends, family and church frown on divorce.
Plus, you like your spouse and enjoy your family life.
On this basis, it is pragmatically rational for you to believe that your spouse is NOT cheating.
So, it can be epistemically rational to believe one thing, and pragmatically rational to believe something
Pascal argues that:
It is epistemically irrational to believe in God.
It is pragmatically rational to believe in God.
Pascal’s costbenefit analysis:
Two existential possibilities: God exists
(Two ways things might be) OR
God does not exist Two psychological possibilities: Believe God exists