Article claims rationality is overrated

I hate it when our commitment to rationality is attacked for no other reason than religiously motivated people feeling slighted from the accusation that rational thought is abrasive to belief. In light of a recent study that found rational thinking diminishes religious faith (at least temporarily), a few mouth-breathers are attempting to argue being rational isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s misleading for Harris to define faith as “belief without evidence,” Haught says. Faith, which is similar to “trust,” is embedded in our humanity. Atheists, for instance, act out of faith when they trust their partners, or even when they hope rationality is capable of solving every problem.

It’s interesting this author is trying to conflate the various definitions of faith. While it’s true I trust my partner will be faithful, I do so because I have plenty of evidence of fidelity in the past. This trust may not always be a “rational” thing to believe, but it is grounded in some degree of reality, something religious faith cannot claim. To use this shitty example against itself, if there was any proof my partner no longer deserved my trust, then it would quickly erode my “faith’. I can assure you there is little in the form of evidence that moves a religious believer away from their dogmatic commitment to bullshit.

Even though atheists are correct in saying many faithful people do come to irrational “supernatural” conclusions, Haught says theologians have for centuries offered a more complex definition of faith.

More sophisticated forms of nonsense are still rooted in nonsense, regardless of the relative intelligence of their proponents. Besides, so few believers are actually familiar with these arguments that one wonders if they should even bother to come up with more ridiculous justifications for believing in things without evidence.

The author seems to believe rationalists are incapable of imagination, or even intuitive thinking, when in fact, our commitment to rationality is a statement about knowledge itself. While I fully accept not all aspects of humanity should be governed by rationality, it does not mean the irrational ideas of the religious are suddenly true, or even meaningful.

In other words, as Einstein suggested, authentic scientists may well be rational and analytic — but they also have imagination, vision, empathy and a sense of values and aesthetics. All of which helps guide them in their intellectual pursuits…In that way, scientists are just like many spiritual people.

If you chose to so poorly define something, then sure, you could claim that. Or, if you used your brain for a moment, you would realize perhaps what these people have in common is imagination, although that similarity ends as soon as one group decides what they feel intuitively must be the truth without even bothering to back it up with any evidence. If scientists were more like spiritual people, then we wouldn’t have a lot of good science; just a bunch of meaningless, untested theories.

Ultimately, what Haught and the author fail to realize rationality is what grounds us in reality. While I don’t deny that we must let our imaginations soar once in a while, it does not mean that we should suddenly abandon what is still our most important weapon in our intellectual arsenal. To suggest rationality is overrated in a world still dictated by so much superstition is both dishonest and ignorant. Perhaps if our society was ruled exclusively by logic and cold rationality, I might agree. As it stands, I think the world could use a lot more of it, not less.

Comments (2)

  • avatar


    I got down as far as the quote about athiests believing rationality will solve everything.

    What do they think? That we believe rationality is magical being that will wave a magic wand and solve everything for us? That’s just like a religious idiot, isn’t it? Is that exactly what they believe on in the form of a bearded man?

    Are they really so narrow-minded that they can’t perceive any other form of believe beyond their own? That we can only believe in rationality the same way they believe in jebus?

  • avatar


    Another writer that apparently has never actually talked to an atheist. Half the stuff he says is forehead-slappingly “duh!” But then he accepts the theist argument that there’s some metaphysical place to run with that knowledge…and runs to that place.

    One has to be really unconscious of what they’re writing – or be terribly patronizing of the audience – to say something like “emotion isn’t rational”. Mr. Todd spends the whole article taking what is *not* meant by modern atheist arguments, and arguing against that. This guy basically spends the whole time gerrymandering everything into his sphere of argumentation, so that the atheist position sounds absurd. It’s a straw man column. Big freaking surprise: Scientists are humans too. It’s just that they have a little better view to their own biases than others do. Defining into his argument that scientists use imagination is like saying water is wet.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read an article so unaware of itself.

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