How Do We Rationalize Our Faith?


Religious people find themselves in a bind.  Sometimes they are forced to make up an explanation for what they see when what they see makes no sense.  Religion is full of such rationalizations.  Some rationalizations occur within the individual, others are on the institutional level.  I will spell out a few here but others are easy to see in almost every section of this site.  Most often, rationalizations are proceeded by a phrase like, “believers may argue...”, or “apologists may contend...”  I have listed a few obvious examples below.


It turns out that prayer really doesn’t work if we are looking for information from god.  See my discussion on prayer in this site.  One of the problems that we see is that when we ask for wisdom from god he answers in whatever way or time frame he wants.  This is just what we expect if there is no god...random answers.  Here is the rationalization.  If we pray and we get and answer (or we make one up), then god has blessed us.  If we pray and do not get an answer, then we are not worthy, it is not the right time, we are unwilling to hear the answer, or we have asked the wrong question.  Either way, successes are his, failures are ours.  Furthermore, when scientific studies prove that prayer doesn’t work, we rationalize by saying that studies cannot prove or disprove god because he must remain hidden.  If that is the case, then god breaks his promise to answer prayers, in order to thwart our attempts to find him.  We have invented a reason for the obvious fact that god is not detectable rather than accept the possibility that he may not exist.

Hardship and Random Events

If we look at hardship in a world without god, we assume that bad things happen because the world is full of randomness.  That idea may be hard to accept because we like to believe that things happen for a reason.  But what if they don’t.  What if all we get is random events.  If we make that assumption, then when we can see why hardship and pain occur in the world.  There is no purpose, things just happen.  It makes some sense.  It’s not comforting, but it does make sense.

In a world where god exists, however, when good things happen to us, god has blessed us.  When bad things happen there are two possibilities.  Either, we have brought these things upon ourselves with personal unworthiness (punishment), or god is allowing us a test to see what we will do in the face of hardship.  Satan is free to tempt and test us to see if we will deny our god.  These are great arguments, but there is no basis for such a belief.  Satan has never been documented, and life events are adequately random that if we remove god and satan from the picture, events still look the same.  It is true that we can bring hardship on ourselves with bad choices, this is natural law.  But sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things fall into place for bad people.

Accidents happen every day.  Auto accidents are part of our everyday commute (unless they involve you).  People die of disease.  Children are hit by cars, bitten by dogs, burned in fires, etc..  In all this randomness, there are a lot of near misses.  Those near misses are labeled “miracles”.  The hand of god is recognized in those events.  But when a tire blows on the freeway and a car rolls and a passenger is ejected and killed, the hand of god had nothing to do with it.  Sometimes god even gets credit when nothing happens.  10,000 vehicles a day drive between LA and Las Vegas.  Some of those drivers will thank their god that they made the trip safely.  A few will not make the trip safely.  Who is to blame for that?  What is the great plan?  Believers will say that “the ways of God cannot be known by us.”  So God is off the hook.  We know he can’t make a mistake.  So, if a child dies of the H1N1 virus, rather than a random, unfortunate illness, it is the will of God.  This may be true.  But there is no evidence to back that up.  The fact is that we insist on believing in God and when we don’t understand a purpose for some event, we rationalize by saying, “I don’t know why, but God does”.  God is off the hook.


The fact that we rationalize our belief in God is not proof of anything but our desire to believe.  The main objective of this section is to point out the obvious fact that we do this.