Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Small Venting of Futile Exasperation

Why is it that people always associate rationalism with atheism? Atheism is more of an empiricist thing (not, of course, that all empiricists have been atheists). Rationalists have a long tradition of being theists (not, of course, that all rationalists have been theists). Rationalism has always tended almost to be mystical at times, because reason is an almost mystical thing. To the extent that the label connects with historical realities at all, the label 'rationalism' should suggest (as a likely concomitant) 'theism'. If we're not using it in that way, it isn't clear what we mean at all. I don't consider myself a rationalist; but I am far closer to being a rationalist (and, what is more, far closer to being an 'Enlightenment rationalist') than any atheist I have ever heard of.

[Of course, on further thought, 'rationalism' is sometimes taken as a synonym of 'freethought', in which case it is more of a mixed bag. Freethought is a better term, I think; at least, it would simplify the distinction of various positions,and has a good history behind it.]

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