What is the rational position on religion?

With believers and avowed atheists energetically  locking horns as a consequence of events such as the Pope’s visit and Stephen Hawking’s latest offerings on  God to no certain purpose what, if anything, is an  objectively  rational position to take with regard to religion?

 It is reasonable to dismiss all religions as man-made artifacts because (1) they all rely on the supernatural, something for which there is no objective evidence, (2) particular varieties of religious belief tend to pass from parents to children, for example, Roman Catholic parents will tend to have children of the same faith, (3) religions tend to congregate in specific territories and (4) religions tend to reflect the cultures from which they arose. 

Atheism is intellectually unsound because like religious belief it is being dogmatism based on assertion.  The strongest philosophical position on whether there is a being we might call God is agnosticism. 

What is not reasonable is to assert is that there is definitely not a being with the attributes of a God. This is so for a beautifully simple reason: the very fact of existence.  That fact demolishes the argument that it is up to the believers to prove there is a God for the fact of existence creates the possibility of one, a possibility which has the same status as the possibility that there is not a God.

 The question of whether there is a God is unanswerable rationally. We could in principle discover if our universe had been created by an active intelligence, but that would not answer the question ultimately for the problem would then arise of who created the creator and so on ad infinitum.

There are further problems: while it might be possible to prove that the universe had an immediate creator, it would be impossible to prove that it had no beginning or end or that it came into existence at a particular point through no directed agency, that is, it simply arose. The former case would fail because it would involve proving that the universe had lasted for an infinite period and the infinite cannot be measured, and in the latter case,  no proof could be produced which would rule out the possibility of acreator, because there would be no way of demonstrating that what was perceived to be the spontaneous and undirected production of the universe was not in fact the result of a creator whose existence was as yet hidden.

 Because of these considerations the rational position is that the universe may or may not have been the result of active creation by an intelligence with the attributes we assign to the concept of a God.

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  • david james  On September 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    If once upon a time there was nothing, and then, low and behold, there was something, then there must have been a supreme force in action.

    Game set and match for the believers in a god.

    Now, what evidence is there that god was/is intelligent?

    If we are blessed with an omnipotent master then be very afraid. Just look at our faulty design, the suffering in the natural world, etc.

    No wonder god is hiding!

  • Tony  On September 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I can remember listening to a discussion on radio 20 odd years ago when one speaker pointed out each creature’s mouth is another ones death chamber, which is true, so we supposedly have a GOD Creator who devised such a barbaric system. Most creatures live their lives in fear. Not good, not as it should be. That religions are man-made is shown by the subjugation of women in the two founding ones, Judaism and Islam. What GOD would order women who have sex, willingly or UNWILLINGLY, outside marriage, be stoned to death. One has only to read the Old Testamount ( Jewish origin ) and realise it is all about HYGIENE, in that part of the world and in those times. Ask religionists why GOD took so long to reveal “himself ” to humans not until the very END of human existence on earth. What is happening in Western society is with education of the masses and who then think for themselves , conclude what the Churches have harped on about for years is not true.. But I do believe in levels of existence beyond this one.


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