What is rationalism?
Rationalism is the belief that the world we live in can be understood by the use of reason. The Rationalist Association argues for a rational approach to human problems, proposes reasoned alternatives to religious dogmas, aims to advance a secular system of education and wishes to defend freedom of thought and civil liberties.
Reason is a tool for solving problems, creating strategies, debunking nonsense and undermining dogmas. However, feeling, compassion and imagination are also important in driving and enriching our actions and thoughts. The strength of reason is that it is a powerful tool of understanding and a means of arriving at rational decisions. Human choices are not always made with complete rationality, but it is preferable to aim for the reasonable than to choose without thought.
The scientific process is powered by the use of reason. Much progress has come through scientific understanding, although the application of science, such as atomic explosions or genetic modification, can sometimes be dangerous. Imagination and empathy enable us to envisage the outcome of the application of science. The arts too can enlarge our concept of being human.
Rationalists have questioned the claims of religious thinkers and religious institutions. They may be agnostics or atheists, but they doubt the claims of the supernatural on the grounds of lack of reasonable evidence. The attitudes and injunctions of religions seem unconvincing when examined in the light of reason.
Rationalists envisage that the use of reason will lead to human progress - even if not in a steady upward course. Rationalists reckon that the sum of human progress may be increased by the careful and consistent use of reason.