07.09.22 EChurch@Wartburg Dr Meghan Sullivan: Is Belief in God Irrational? A Philosophy Professor’s Perspective

White concrete chapel, Trentino, S.Tyrol, Italy, link

A Morning Prayer link from the Syrian Clementine Liturgy link

O God, Who are the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love,
the fountain of blessings, and the bestower of affection,
Who sends peace to those that receive it; open to us this day the sea of Your love,
and water us with the plenteous streams from the riches of Your grace.
Make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace. Kindle in us the fire of Your love;
sow in us Your fear; strengthen our weakness by Your power;
bind us closely to You and to each other in one firm bond of unity;
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

A prayer link of Basil of Caesarea (329-379) link

Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour,
where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict.
Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment,
so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go.
And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course,
even when the sea is rough and the waves are high,
knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

-Dr Meghan Sullivan is Wilsey Family College Professor of Philosophy; Director of Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study. Here is her bio at Notre Dame.

This hymn is the first one I heard when I became a Christian at the age of 17. It brings back so many memories.

Benediction link

Through the dark hours of this night
protect and surround us,
Father, Son and Spirit, Three.
Forgive the ill that we have done.
Forgive the pride that we have shown.
Forgive the words that have caused harm
that we might sleep peaceably,
and rise refreshed to do your will.
Through the dark hours of this night
protect and surround us,
Father, Son and Spirit, Three


07.09.22 EChurch@Wartburg Dr Meghan Sullivan: Is Belief in God Irrational? A Philosophy Professor’s Perspective — 11 Comments

  1. Thanks, Dee. Looking forward to listening, probably tomorrow, or at least, soon. Middlebury is familiar, as is Notre Dame. Checking out the philosopher professor.

  2. Is it just me or does Sullivan seem to ramble on almost to the point of incoherence?
    I remember going to a talk by an academic luminary in my area some years back and he had the Theorem of Pythagoras, so complicated, and so re-skinned that it became unusable.

  3. Muff Potter: Is it just me or does Sullivan seem to ramble on

    Muff, not ‘just you’, no . . . but Dr. Sullivan is a philosophy professor so she is coming to her topic from that perspective

    try listening starting at marker 38 where she engages in a discussion with another professor about the existence of evil in the world and the rationality of believing in a morally just God who is all-powerful . . . . .

    at that point, she is more in her element AND is confronting a subject that most of us have pondered as to the known existence of evil in Creation and the belief in an all-powerful God and how to ‘rationally’ confront this paradox. At least at that point, some of the discussion may be more familiar to what you have had thoughts about. (?)

    Frankly, philosophy and ‘logic’ to me are poor substitutes for what ‘awe’ and the contemplation of the ‘holy’ can accomplish in the midst of our wounded existences. . . . . but that is my own personal opinion.

    We all bring our own view points to the discussion and take from it accordingly that which provides us with ‘something to consider; something to ponder’, and that is a positive about listening to someone from a different perspective (yes, IF you can get passed the ‘rambling’, I agree). It’s worth trying.

  4. I also had a bit of a hard time following her. She seemed to talk so fast. I even had closed captioning on and that couldn’t keep up with her! But, as Christiane mentioned, I stuck it out and found her discussion of the existence of evil in the world to be more understandable.

    As always, I do appreciate the variety of speakers here on echurch and pondering on their presentations.

    Thanks, Dee

  5. Dee,

    Last thing I remember
    I was runnin’ for the door
    I had to find the passage back to the place I was before…

  6. I liked this, hearing from a Christian female philosopher. Thanks Dee.

    The structure of her talk, to me, seemed interesting and helpful for philosophically thinking through the topics. I’ve been in a few friendly and unfriendly discussions with people in the academic world and with church people, where it was/is not easy to have respectful discussion of areas of disagreement.

    I appreciated her testimony, including what/how she was thinking/feeling along the way, what was helpful along the way, getting to a more confident place for digging deeper into her own questions about rationality and religious faith. I like her break down of 3 objections to rational faith:

    1. Faith based on chance events has to be irrational. She pointed out that we form many beliefs based on chance events. She also acknowledged her metaphysical realism, that there is an objective reality.

    2. Religious belief is formed in a weird way, therefore irrational. Here I like her succinct clarification that inference and introspection, as means to acquire knowledge, as well as direct observation of the world are justifiable ways of forming belief, she believes. Although, she acknowledges that others may have a more narrow view only allowing direct observation of the world as the only way of forming beliefs.

    3. Pluralism: the mere fact that there’s so much disagreement is evidence that deep religious belief is irrational. Some of her responses: Respectful listening and “expressing religious belief ought to be a good part of living in a democracy.” “This objection tends to overgeneralize in ways that are not helpful,” although she thinks this ought not result in “suspending belief until more evidence comes in.” Disagreement is understandable due to the difficulty of the problem and differences. I like the way she expressed how she found the Bible instructive in the examples of Mary and Jesus.

    In the discussion, regarding the problem of evil, I found her “burdens are unfairly placed in the dialectic” and “divide and conquer” structure for talking/thinking about this topic an interesting, helpful approach. She categorizes the problem of evil into: God not overriding free will, which according to her thinking “handles some types of suffering.” Natural disasters, she acknowledges, are a harder category to discuss. Her interest in the hiddenness of God has clear breakdown of talking points that “God does not coerce, but rather wants us to come of our own free will” and the importance of community learning.

  7. Dee, Thank you so much for the Prayer of Basil. As lay leader of our local UMC church, I have to report on the current situation of the UMC at our church board Monday night. We will be starting a discernment process. I will share the prayer with our dear group, and am praying it for myself and my family’s situations. Thank you again.