As many of you know, I participated in the Oxford Round Table at Harris Manchester College in Oxford in July. I presented a paper entitled “A Proposal for a Proportional Accommodation and Appreciation Model For Governing the Relationship of Church and State.” I am presently working to make that paper into a book.
However, because of the October 2010 proclamation of “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender history month in the city of Norman” and the current desire of the Human Rights Commission to change the wording of some governing documents of Norman to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as protected classes, as well as the intentions of others that are seeking to capitalize on what they see as a “gay sympathetic” Chief of Police, Mayor, and City Council, I wanted to blog an excerpt of the moral argument that I gave in the paper.
Once published, the book will give constitutional, intellectual, historical and moral arguments defending the right, need, and appropriateness of bringing our religious convictions into the public square. There will also be footnote references to the book in this blog. But in order to help us understand and articulate that appropriateness in light of the current local political situation, I am posting the moral argument. Prayerfully, the book will be out soon. Following is a section of the moral argument.
Thus, the question is, “Is it moral and rational to exclude religious opinions from our republic or democratic public marketplace of ideas just because those opinions involve an aspect of faith—a faith assumption?” For the following reasons, my answer is NO.
Everyone believes some unproven assumptions
Even the idea that the public square should be limited to what can be demonstrated by science, or that science should trump all other arguments including the religious just because it is science, is not a scientific concept. Phillip Johnson observes that even “the rationalist also has a first premise: the relativity of the autonomous mind and its powers of reasoning, powers that, according to scientific materialism, amount to nothing more than so many neurons firing in the physical brain…”1
Robert Bork points out that science is no different than other beliefs in regard to faith. “A belief that science will ultimately explain everything, however, also requires a leap of faith. Faith in science requires the unproven assumption that all reality is material, that there is nothing beyond or outside the material universe. Perhaps that is right…but it cannot be proven and therefore rests on an untested and untestable assumption. That being the case, there is no logical reason why science should be hostile to or displace religion.”2
Many scientists readily admit that science is religious or requires faith. “When the Royal Society of London was confirmed by the Crown in 1623, the pursuit of natural science was considered as a religious duty to the Creator. The Society’s charter ruled that scientific studies ‘are to be applied to further promoting by the authority of experiments the sciences of natural things and of useful arts, so the Glory of the Creator….true religion and true science ever lead to the same great end, manifesting and exalting the glory and goodness of the great object of our common worship.’”3 Einstein….said, “To the sphere of religion belongs the faith that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.”4 For German physicist Max Planck, “Science demands also the believing spirit. Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with’….German mathematician Hermann Weyl claims that ‘science would perish without a supporting transcendental faith in truth and reality”….5 Haskell [says] “Unified science is, like all religions, inescapably and directly connected with values, ethics and morals…In short, unified science gives the power of knowledge, of faith, and of efficient action to the individual and to the society. This power is the religious force of unified science.”6
In addition, von Weizsacker…maintains that “‘faith in science plays the role of the dominating religion of our time.’…He builds his case by relating science to what he calls the three ‘indispensable elements’ of a religion—a common faith, an organized church, and a code of behavior. As we have seen, these are common elements of religion….[and] we face science just as a believer does his religion…. According to Jaki…the man of science, just like his counterpart in religion, lives ultimately by faith…. For Whitehead, ‘science is an enterprise in which reason is based on faith.’… Lorsdale, a leading scientist, said, ‘The scientist, as well as the man of religion lives by faith and not by certainty.’…Coulson…says ‘that what we conventionally call science and what we conventionally call religion have so much in common….The first is that neither is just a collection of facts but a higher set of statements about what the facts mean….Second, both are full of presupposition, unproven assumptions, or faith statements. Third, the personal elements of humility, devotion, and interpretation are also present in each….”’7
Everyone holds to, and reasons from, some assumptions that have either not been proven and/or may never, in space and time, be proven to be true; thus, every worldview contains faith assumptions. For example, belief in macroevolution contains the belief that the speed of light has always been constant, which is a statement that cannot be proven. Norman Geisler notes, “It has not been proven that the speed of light has never changed.”8 Another example is radioactive dating of which Geisler says, “One must assume at least two things that apparently cannot be proven in order to come to the conclusion that the world is billions of years old. First, it must be assumed that there were no lead deposits at the beginning. Second, it must be assumed that the rate of decay has been unchanged throughout its entire history. This has not been proven.”9 The same could be said for the amount of salt in the sea as well as other presently unprovable ideas.
Now, perhaps light has always been constant or perhaps it has not. The truth is that neither of those beliefs is provable, and therefore each requires an element of faith. Philosopher of Science Larry Lauden points out “scientists often make claims before they can explain them by natural law. For example: Galileo and Newton took themselves to have established the existence of gravitational phenomena long before anyone was able to give a causal or explanatory account of gravitation.”10
That science accepts reasoning from unproven assumptions can be further illustrated by considering inferences drawn from the gravitational pull on Uranus’s orbit. Scientists hypothesized that there could be an unseen planet causing Uranus’s anomalous orbit prior to any empirical evidence. Neptune was finally discovered to be this unseen planet, which like atoms and DNA, was known by its effects before its existence was confirmed.11
Scientists often make claims such as, “the process of evolution is blind, mechanistic, purposeless, goalless, unplanned, and completely natural and material.”12 That may or may not be true, but what is absolutely true is that it is a faith assumption because it cannot be proven.
My point is merely to show that everyone operates based on some unproven or unprovable assumptions, and therefore the presence of faith13 is not an exclusionary attribute. Further, just because a belief is unproven or unprovable—at least for now—is not the same as being an irrational belief; moreover, it is not for secularism or its handmaiden scientism to define what constitutes acceptable faith so as to definitionally exclude everything but faith in Darwinism or natural faith, for that creates the very autocracy that America fled and the First Amendment prohibits.
Speaking as a physicist, Gerard’t Hooft remarked, “All we [physicists] wish to do is marvel at Nature’s beauty and simplicity. We have seen and tasted the beauty, simplicity and universality of our latest theories….We are now trying to uncover more of that. It is our belief that there is more.”14 Our belief—meaning our faith.
Nobel Prize winning physiologist George Wald once argued, “We choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance.”15 Physicist Gerald Schroeder notes, “There is no essential difference in the ultimate physical constituents of a heap of sand and the brain of an Einstein. Only blind and baseless faith in matter lies behind the claim that certain bits of matter can suddenly ‘create’ a new reality that bears no resemblance to matter.”16
I have continually argued that almost everything is learned by faith, and as David Berlinski concludes, that most of reality lies at the “end of an immense inferential trail, a complicated set of judgments.”17
In like manner, the existence of God or non-existence of God cannot be proved. Philosopher Alvin Plantinga “introduced the idea that theism is a properly basic belief. He asserted that belief in God is similar to belief in other basic truths, such as belief in other minds or perception (seeing a tree) or memory (belief in the past). In all these instances, you trust your cognitive faculties, although you cannot prove the truth of the belief in question.”18 Properly basic beliefs like there is a past, other minds, etc., do not need defended.
Every worldview bases some of its ideas on faith that cannot be proven now or may never be, but arguments only need to be rational, not proven. One scientist may believe in the big bang while others may not, but one’s beliefs must only be rational to be accepted in the debate, and then evaluated by arguments for and against.
Brendan Sweetman defined faith as “a belief or view for which the evidence is not certain or conclusive…an example would be believing that God exists. This commitment involves a movement of the will, as well as the intellect.”19 He further clarifies, “When I say that a worldview is based on faith, I mean that at least some of the beliefs of the worldview are accepted on evidence that provides less tha[n] one hundred percent certainty.”20 Similarly, secularists’ belief that God does not exist, has produced the world through only secondary causes, or is not knowable also involves the will as well as the intellect.
As an example of everyday faith, I may believe that a certain pill is going to heal me of cancer if I take it for five years.21 Regardless of whether the pill actually heals my cancer at the end of five years, the belief that it would contains an element of faith; however, that element of faith does not necessarily make the belief irrational. It may in fact be very rational, and that may be my primary reason or one of the reasons that I am willing to believe it will have a curative effect.
Now, depending on the amount of faith required, concomitant with the lack of objective evidence that the pill may be curative—is the pill made of sugar or a tested chemical that has cured others or that other rational people believe will cure—the belief may be irrational or rational. Therefore, an unproven or unprovable belief may be very reasonable—rational—because its inherent component of faith is consistent with and supported by arguments based upon or consistent with reason, objective facts, and human experience. Furthermore, whether the arguments that are offered in support of the belief are compelling or not can only be decided in public debate, not by being summarily dismissed because they are “religious.”
At the heart of this issue is the existence of God. His existence cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, but neither can his non-existence. A state that values the reality of the immaterial world assumes His existence, as is demonstrably true in America, whereas a purely secular state, like the Soviet Union or China assumes that He does not exist. Neither of these positions can be proven, but both have comprehensive and profound political and social consequences.
The very founding of the United States was premised upon the reality that all men were created equal and endowed with unalienable rights from their Creator, and the First Amendment was added to assure that no citizen would ever be deprived of the freedoms born out of that reality. Consequently, without the rational and yet unprovable assumption of God, America would not exist. Thus, it seems preposterous to assume that the Founders would smile upon our political, educational, and societal compartmentalization of religion and its concomitant hostility toward Christianity in today’s America.
Therefore, because everyone argues from some unprovable assumptions, and our founding documents are premised upon the existence of God, and they guarantee protection of that belief to be freely expressed in religious opinions both in private and public debate, public expressions of faith are to be particularly valued and protected.
Both secularism and religion are worldviews differentiated by the rejection and acceptance of a deity
Not only do all people operate from some “faith assumptions,” but also these faith assumptions are related to a worldview22 or perspective, whether that view is secular or sacred. Secularism can be seen to be a worldview like supernaturalism—except that secularism denies a deity, and a deity is a part of supernaturalism’s23 faith assumptions. Because both worldviews address, either explicitly or implicitly, questions like where did we come from (Big Bang or God), why are we here (no teleological reason or to serve God), what is our problem (religion or sin), what is the essential solution to the problem (education or education and repentance), where are we going (nowhere, we don’t know, or to heaven or hell), and are humans valuable24 (based upon evolutionary level, a certain quality, or created in the image of God)? Similarly, secularism can be seen to be a worldview or religion because it contains beliefs about “the three primary areas (the nature of reality, the nature of the human person, the nature of moral and political values).”25
An example of an overarching faith assumption that is a part of and colors much of one’s worldview for a Christian is that God exists, and for a secularist it is that God does not exist, or is not knowable, or that secularism is the best way to address human concerns or needs. Regardless of the answers to such questions, they have potential public impact, they are unprovable at the present and therefore require faith from which we formulate values, imposable values, and other ideas.26
Everyone argues from a worldview
Both secularists and those who believe in “traditional religions” rely on arguments that contain varying degrees of faith in such things as unproven assumptions, an authority, process, or tradition (like when secularists appeal to liberal political traditions or Christians appeal to church traditions), which are a component of their worldview rather than merely uncorrelated ideas.27
In addition, while these arguments may prove uncompelling to non-adherents, that does not exclude the argument from public debate. As a matter of fact, it may be impossible to exclude these assumptions, even though they may go unannounced, because most substantive disagreements—morals, laws, politics, nature, education—are in fact a part of a worldview that includes certain faith assumptions.
For example, the debate over appropriate speed limits is based in part on what is a human and what is the value of a human life. The argument that 40 miles per hour will save more human lives than 50 miles an hour can be a statement of science based upon raw data; however, when the argument moves to defending one limit over the other, the arguer’s view of human life is present regardless if known or stated. To argue that the speed limit should be slower to save lives, or that 50 miles an hour will cost no more lives, or the number of lives lost is offset by time saved, involves the view that human lives have a certain amount of value versus time and other considerations.
Further, just because a belief is associated with a particular worldview (whether secularism or supernaturalism) or is unconvincing to others, does not mean it has no place in the public square. Moreover, if a belief is rational, it is worthy of the marketplace of ideas; however, being rational and thereby worthy of the marketplace cannot mean that everyone has to agree that the belief is rational or find arguments for the belief compelling before it can be a part of public debate.
In fact, whether an argument is rational or compelling is itself a matter for public debate as opposed to being suppressed via a fallacious dismissal tactic that is not fair, accurate, democratic, nor constitutionally warranted. Brendan Sweetman notes “it is crucial to recognize that it is not necessary for me to convince the secularist that religious belief is rational in order for religious beliefs to have a role in politics; all that is necessary is that I hold that they are rational….And…that I can convince a significant number of people of this fact or…that a significant number of people are already convinced of this fact.”28 This is true for both secular and traditional religious beliefs.
Suitable publicly debatable ideas need only to provide some publicly accessible rational evidence
Religious and/or secular beliefs need only to be reasonable and supported by some evidence that is accessible to non-adherents—the public at large—in order to be worthy of the marketplace. Beyond being reasonable and accessible, the evidence that makes a belief worthy of the marketplace of ideas may be empirical, logical, historical, philosophical, religious, or drawn from human experience.
An example of such a belief drawn from Christianity is the belief in God. That belief, although drawn from supernatural religion, is worthy of being brought to the marketplace because many publicly accessible rational, historical, logical, and experiential arguments can be given in its support; in contrast, belief that God is a Trinity is derived exclusively from the Bible and is otherwise unknowable. However, even that does not make it irrational—internally contradictory or not held by reasonable people—but rather that it is knowable by faith alone.
Further, just because a belief is a part of a religious worldview—belief in God, marriage between a man and a woman, absolute truth, homosexuality is abnormal, stealing is wrong—does not thereby exclude it from being argued and considered in public debate or education any more than beliefs of the secularist are off limits because they are a part of his worldview, which contains faith or religious beliefs, e.g. morals are relative, the big bang, matter is all there is, science can tell us all there is to know or can be known, there is a scientific answer to the origin of the universe, appeals to secular liberal tradition, or that humans are not different in kind from animals, etc.
For example, whether education is to be founded upon the worldview of secularism or supernaturalism is a question for public debate. The religious worldview is not to be excluded a priori merely because some of its beliefs, although not irrational, cannot be known apart from religious authority as well as a greater amount of faith than is required for the belief that God exists and man is more than matter, and the same is true of secularism. Further, the reality that “supernaturalism” was the basis of American education until the burgeoning of secular education in the 20th century affords testimony to its rationality and constitutionality as well.29
I also would add that even though beliefs that can only be known from an authoritative text of a religion may not be imposed upon non-adherents, these beliefs still have public debate appropriateness in at least five ways.
First, if some or all of the citizens believe in the same faith, or a particular candidate espouses his worldview or religion, then it is quite appropriate to invoke commands or principles of that faith in discussions with one another or about an adherent whether in private or public because no one is thereby forcing religion upon another person, but merely discussing or questioning their consistency, seriousness, etc., which is a very rational thing to do. A fortiori, if an adherent running for public office is inconsistent with his espoused faith or feels no shame in publicly conflicting with its beliefs, which he claims are essential to who he is, there seems to be no rational reason why one would not assume that he may be equally inconsistent in public office. For example, he may claim to support one view on the campaign trail, but, once in office, fail to carry out the wishes of those who elected him.
Second, religion, worldviews, or “faiths” do not exist exclusively in the private world of an individual, and to require such is to require what is extraordinarily unreasonable. People know intuitively that what a person really believes, whether known publicly or not, affects what they do in private and public. For example, the free thinker Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, believed that Quakers were unfit for certain public offices because they were pacifists. To deny a connection between what a person really believes in private and how he behaves in public or with public trust is indeed an article of faith and quite unreasonable.
Third, it is always appropriate for someone to argue a position drawn from or consistent with his deeply held faith, and to not do so is irrational.
Fourth, some beliefs about right and wrong are not and cannot be merely personal; for example, the command to not lie, whether found in Judaism, Christianity30 or other religious texts does not merely mean that it is good that I do not lie, but rather that lying is not right. Therefore, if I seek the good of society, and believe that there are publicly accessible truths to support this command, I must endeavor to influence society to do what is good and in this case, to not lie. In addition, my argument may very well quote the Scripture, logic, history, etc., because a good argument should include as many reasons as possible why one should accept the arguer’s position. The inclusion of Scripture does not force anyone to accept Christianity, but only emphasizes that something said in the Bible and elsewhere is beneficial for all of society. In other words, when a Christian is against abortion, which she believes is the wanton taking of an innocent human life, she does not merely mean that she does not want to have an abortion, but rather she believes it is not right for anyone to have one, or for society to sanction abortions, any more than she thinks it is right to wantonly kill grandmothers.
Fifth, if the belief is something that any free and equal person could be conceived of as believing based upon evidence, it is appropriate for public debate. For example, Christian doctrines such as Jesus is savior, Jesus is God, Jesus was resurrected, or Jesus told us to minister to the least fortunate (Matthew 25:40) should not be federal law, which requires penalty for disbelief; however, this genre of beliefs should not be excluded from public discourse because there is evidence for the claims of Scripture and Christ based upon reason, history, and revelation that free people have and do believe, and of which others are being convinced, without coercion, daily.31 Thus, even these ideas should not be banned from the public square.
Why just sequester religious beliefs, more specifically Christian, or conservative Christian, beliefs? Like Brit Hume’s recommendations to Tiger Woods to turn to the Christian faith after his wife had discovered his marital indiscretions.32 Not only were Hume’s comments in accord with the First Amendment, it was also consistent, even admirable, for one to offer the best advice he knows of with regard to a particular situation. The advice was intended to help Woods, and there is enormous evidence that it has helped countless people with similar or worse problems.
Christianity does include teachings relevant to sociology, psychology, physical health, etc., and many would aver that accepting Hume’s advice from others was the most helpful of any advice they had ever been given. Now, why should that kind of advice be excluded from the panoply of advice? Reasoning from religious conviction does not seem to be epistemologically different than from any other worldview. And “inaccessible” knowledge cannot mean knowledge that someone is unwilling to accept while others do accept it, because that would eliminate all debate. We must be careful not to confuse invoking reason with actually providing a reason.
Charles Darwin’s dictum is wrong. He said, “false facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path toward error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”33 While I agree with the injurious nature of false facts, I disagree with the benign nature of false views doing little harm, and that everyone takes pleasure in proving them wrong. History has repeatedly disproven that theory.
The fallacy is that this idea is built upon a view of man, science, or both that seeks to extenuate quite deleterious human weaknesses that are prone to concepts like the influence of greed, pride, political agendas, biases, or transforming science into scientism, all of which have led to an undermining of the peer review process. Examples of such are plentiful: global warming, movements like eugenics, Lamarckism, 30 year unchecked exaggerations of human and chimpanzee similarities, German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s doctored drawings of ‘Ontogeny and Phylogeny’ that remain in textbooks for years as illustrative of evolutionary themes or truths even after they had been determined to be fraudulent.34 In fact, Haeckel’s concept was actually presented as science in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade abortion case —see areas in this book where this is dealt with more extensively.
Unfortunately, and sometimes tragically—as in the case of eugenics—by the time false theories or views are discovered to be false or unfounded, significant damage has often already been done, most never know the facts, and disproven disastrous theories are followed by a plethora of new theories of which some will again surely be found to be misleading, false, or contrived, and often considerably damaging; hence, self-policing of science by scientists is not the trustworthy guardian it is proclaimed to be. We have traveled this road already with science and a similar road when the media, what is now called mainstream, claimed to be the watchdog of corrupt politicians, religious leaders, etc., but the need for its own watchdog has become glaringly undeniable in recent years.
Of course, that is in part what I am presenting here: that free, flawed human beings living in a free society must have a public square where there is the exchange of ideas, regardless if they are secular or religious, lest one bias be enthroned as an unelected despot whose malversation continues undetected. Therefore it is essential to remain cognizant that while science may tell us whether we have the ability and technology to perform embryonic stem cell research, clone, or perform an abortion, it is undeniably beyond the authority of science to decide whether we should. In discussing the should, it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to enter the fray in order to debate the issue, and being a scientist affords no special status in this arena. Hunter Baker notes, “Discovering what can be done through the manipulation of the natural world is scientific, but actually doing those things is a human decision not delimited by the scientific method. Thus, we discover that we can split atoms, harvest cells from embryos, alter human brain chemistry, or implant foreign objects under human skin to create pleasing shapes.”35 However, implementing such discoveries must not be left to scientists, politicians or an unelected court, but only to “we the people.”
The separation model not only delegitimizes religious opinions in the public square, it also has the unstated goal or indubitable consequential effect of either seeking to exclude it from public dialog or at least making the scolding for expressing it such that few have the spiritual fortitude to withstand the backlash. For example, on Fox News Sunday, January 4, 2010, Fox anchor Brit Hume, along with other panelists, was asked by host Chris Wallace to predict the biggest sports story of 2010. Hume’s response to the question was, “Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him. I think he’s lost his family, it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal — the extent to which he can recover — seems to me to depend on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.'”36
For this, Hume has been invectively vilified. For example, CNSNews.com reports that “MSNBC host Keith Olbermann accused Hume of an ‘attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity.’ MSNBC anchor David Shuster blasted Hume, saying he had no business mentioning Christianity on a political talk show. ‘I do think (talking about Christianity on a political talk show) diminishes the discussion of Christianity,’ Shuster said. ‘My Christian friends have said as much, that it diminishes the discussion of Christianity and faith when you have a conversation out-of-the-blue on a political talk show. This wasn’t the ‘700 Club,’ this wasn’t ‘Theocracy Today.’’ Tom Shales, media critic for the Washington Post…demanded that Hume apologize and called his Christian remarks ‘even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year.’”37
Hume told CNSNews.com: “There is a double standard. If I had said, for example, that what Tiger Woods needed to do was become more deeply engaged in his Buddhist faith or to adopt the ideas of Hinduism, which I think would be of great spiritual value to him, I doubt anybody would have said anything.”38
Now, those who disagree with Hume’s remarks have every right to disagree, but on what historical, moral, rational or legal basis do they found their remarks that Hume’s opinion “threatened”, “had no business mentioning Christianity on a political talk show”, or that public expression of the Christian faith diminishes it? Apparently their understanding of history and the First Amendment only protects religious expression on religious property—“700 Club” or “Theocracy Today”. Of course, the separation model, which seeks to transmogrify the public square into a religiously sterile sphere and education into a bastion of secularism all in the name of “science” based education, results in either inaccurate or insufficient coverage and appreciation for Christianity and religious expression in American history. Thus, the separation model actually engenders such paroxysmal responses.
Commenting on the media’s response to Hume’s comments, Michael Gerson well said, “But the American idea of religious liberty does not forbid proselytization; it presupposes it. Free, autonomous individuals not only have the right to hold whatever beliefs they wish, they also have the right to change those beliefs and to persuade others to change as well. Just as there is no political liberty without the right to change one’s convictions and publicly argue for them, there is no religious liberty without the possibility of conversion and persuasion.”39
The truth is that Hume wasn’t imposing anything on anyone, but rather proposing. He gave his opinion, which is what the First Amendment is to unceasingly protect, particularly a religious opinion. Had Hume recommended a scientific solution such as psychological help, counseling, or something like mediation, getting in touch with his inner self, and even most likely any of a host of New Age or Eastern metaphysical concepts, no one would have said a word. As a matter of fact, talk show hosts, guests, experts, etc., are not the least bit timid to say that someone needs to see a psychologist, get counseling, or the like.
Consequently, it is utterly unreasonable to ask people to be satisfied with wanting what they believe to be best, right, or good only for themselves and not for everyone. In fact, all public debate, laws, education, elections, and policy debate are about different groups or an individual seeking to impose their beliefs about what is best upon everyone, and most, if not all of these ideas, are connected to faith assumptions.
The source of an idea is not sufficient cause for a priori exclusion of the idea from public debate
Arguments can come from a source (whether religious or not) that others reject, e.g. recent study, opinion poll, scientific experiment, or the Bible, as long as there is evidence that is reasonable and accessible to all (history, archeology, logic, human experience, internal consistency) supporting the reliability of the source regardless if everyone agrees on the sufficiency of the evidence.
Further, to use an authority does not mean that everyone has to accept the claim of the authority, be it the latest poll, study, experiment, Bible, etc. For example, Brendan Sweetman says most people believe in God “because they believe (deep down) that it is rational to do so, even though they may never articulate their specific reasons for believing or ever engage the philosophical debate about the existence of God. There is a difference, after all, between having a reasonable belief and being able to show that your belief is reasonable.”40
It is not necessary for every secularist to be able to articulate—or even know—all of the rationally accessible evidences for secularism before expressing his secular views, as long as the beliefs can be shown to be rational by someone. In like manner, what is true for secularism is also true for supernaturalism as well.
In addition, one’s ideas should not be excluded from public debate because of his faith in God as is so often done in debates regarding Darwinism or the overextension of science into naturalism. It is also tactically used when Christians seek to have more than another comparative religion course as a means of emphasizing the place of religion in American history, or religious expression in education and public policy. To seek to dismiss or discredit positions favoring ideas like Intelligent Design, marriage between a man and a woman, or pro-life arguments because they come from Christians or are in part religiously motivated and therefore somehow violate the First Amendment or seek to establish a theocracy is at best faulty logic; moreover, while such tactics are often emotively persuasive, they are both subversive of the First Amendment and palpably undemocratic.
For if public square arguments could be dismissed because of one’s motivation or faith, it seems only equitable to exclude arguments to the contrary if the proponents of such are atheists or humanists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, the sixty percent of scientists who do not believe in God, and others involved in the debates concerning public education and policy like Barbara Forrest and physics professor Lawrence Krauss.41
Associated faith assumptions do not disqualify all associated beliefs
Religious beliefs cannot be dismissed from the marketplace because the adherents of a particular faith, e.g. Christianity, have some beliefs like the Trinity, which are derived from their authoritative text. Not all religious beliefs are derived exclusively from religious texts, personal subjective experience, tradition, leader, etc., but are drawn from or contain a significant amount of rationally accessible support.
There is, in fact, a crucial difference between faith in “the sense that describes believing on faith alone without regard to the evidence and the sense that describes believing on the basis of reason and evidence as much as possible….”42 Sweetman gives another source of religious belief in addition to the more commonly associated sources like text, authority, and subjective experience. He says “a sixth source of religious beliefs [are]—beliefs based on rational argument, evidence and human experience.”43
One other note that is often missed by secularists when they opine against the dangers of seeking to impose one’s religion upon others, is that secularism is not benign. “Secularism is highly intrusive in the imposition of secular liberal values. It establishes public schools that systematically indoctrinate young people in secular humanism and prohibit the free expression of religion; it attempts to redefine masculinity and femininity by changing the culture of the family, the workplace, and the military; it launches its own versions of moral crusades, such as anti-smoking…in trying to restructure a private association like the Boy Scouts to diminish its moral opposition to homosexuality and to repudiate its religious roots [and so on].”44
Secularists have often been quite vocal in their quest to rid society of religion, like physicist Steven Weinberg, who states emphatically, “I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I’m all for that! One of the things that in fact has driven me in my life, is the feeling that this is one of the great social functions of science—to free people from superstition.”45 Weinberg further states that priests and ministers “will come to an end, that we’ll see no more of them.”46 Secularism and materialism’s record for coexistence with religion should be enough to merit the sober embrace of religion’s place in the public square for all but the blindest of materialists; for example, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Hitler, eugenics, abortion, etc.
Faith truly cannot be excluded from the marketplace of ideas
It is in point of fact impossible to eliminate faith from public debate because the marketplace—education, law, politics, public morals—is a place of imposing one set of beliefs upon society and by that necessarily displacing another set of beliefs. For example, the acceptance of secularism in education results in things like “values clarification” which is premised upon the belief that there is no one standard of right and wrong which is suitable for public policy other than the standard of values clarification, which is actually a derivative of a scientistic view of the world.47
To say that individuals can still choose to believe in some absolute moral code misses the point, because by moral absolutes these individuals do not mean absolute for a person but rather absolute for every person or society. Further, just like those who believe that values clarification is for everyone, so do those who hold that it is not good, meaning not just for them but for everyone.
Because faith assumptions are always present in substantive deliberations and discussions, it is not reasonable or moral to summarily dismiss an argument in a democratic society because it is associated with a certain set of faith assumptions as long as the argument affords accessible evidence for its support or source.
Because it is inevitable that ideas based on or associated with one set of faith assumptions will be imposed upon all of society through public policy, it is thereby immoral, in a republic or democratic society, to aprioristically exclude rationally accessible evidenced ideas from public debate merely because of their derivation, which is the logical fallacy known as the genetic fallacy.
Thus, religious arguments should not only be a part of public debate, they are in fact inevitable, and thereby leave only one question to be answered: which religious arguments? My answer is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment results in a free and unshackled public square where the atheist, scientist, naturalist, religionist, and Christian are free to articulate their opinions.
A fortiori, religious arguments are essential if democracy is to prevail. Scientists are as free as other citizens to inform policymakers of their scientific conclusions, but they have no right to demand that their voices are the only voices that can be heard, or that policy can be made only on scientific conclusions, or the scientific conclusions of some scientists,48 for that is precisely what is happening in this scientific liberal culture, and it is highly subversive of democracy. Scientists have been and can be as biased and wrong as anyone and have been egregiously so in the past.49 Therefore, as in the founding and history of America, free religious expression is essential to the preservation of our republic. As John Adams so perspicuously declared, “You have Rights antecedent to all earthly governments; Rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; Rights derived from the Great Legislator of the universe.” And again, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”50
When Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of Columbia University (1948-53) “he initiated a conference called the American Assembly, designed on a town-hall concept to bring Americans of divergent viewpoints together to talk about different issues.”51 The 96th American Assembly was held in 2000, including “fifty-seven men and women from government, business, labor, law, academia, the media, nonprofit organizations (such as People for the American Way and Americans United for Separation of Church and State), and fourteen religious and faith-based organizations…‘to define policies and actions concerning the role of religion in American public life.’”52 They concluded,
Our deep commitment to these principles leads us to emphasize the importance of vigorous religious involvement in public policy and civic life. Americans should recognize they live in a country with strong and flexible institutions and a remarkable capacity for living with and sometimes resolving intensely conflicting views without recourse to violence. Religious voices are a vital component of our national conversation and should be heard in the public square.
We reject the notion that religion is exclusively a private matter relegated to the homes and sacred meeting places of the faithful primarily for two reasons. First, religious convictions of individuals cannot be severed from their daily lives. People of faith in business, law, medicine, education, and other sectors should not be required to divorce their faith from their professions. Second, many religious communities have a rich tradition of constructive social engagement, and our nation benefits from their work in such varied areas as social justice, civil rights, and ethics.
We encourage people of faith to foster the emergence of a new American generation, one that better comprehends the significance of the increasing religious pluralism in this nation and its implications for advancing civic dialogue. This will require people of faith to seek to communicate with one another and Americans of no religious convictions in ways that enhance mutual understanding and respect for the civil liberties of everyone.53 (italics added)
Dr. Richard Land, President of the Religious Liberty and Ethics Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, participated in the conference and summarized, “Our conclusions called for a renewed appreciation of the importance of religion in all spheres of life and stressed the need for robust public dialogue.”54
- Phillip E. Johnson, The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate, (Downers Grove. Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 91. [↩]
- Robert Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, (New York: Regan books, 1996), 281-282. [↩]
- William F. Cox, Jr., Tyranny through Public Education, (Fairfax, VA: Allegiance Press, 2003), 334. [↩]
- Ibid., 334. [↩]
- Ibid., 335. [↩]
- Ibid., 336. [↩]
- Ibid., 334-335. [↩]
- Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 649. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2006), 132-133. [↩]
- John Polkinghorne, in his study Reason and Reality said, “We habitually speak of entities which are not directly observable. No one has ever seen a gene (though there are X-ray photographs which, suitably interpreted, led Crick and Watson to the helical structure of DNA) or an electron (though there are tracks in bubble chambers which, suitably interpreted, indicate the existence of a particle of negative electric charge of about 4.8 X 10-10 esu and mass about 10-10 gm).” The Reenchantment of Nature by Alister McGrath (New York: Doubleday, 2002), 176-179. [↩]
- Steven Schafersman, head of Texas citizens for science. John G. West, Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized, (Wilmington, DE.: ISI Books, 2007), 255. [↩]
- Faith exists when the evidence for the belief is either not certain or conclusive and involves the will and intellect. Sweetman, Why Politics Needs Religion, (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 38. It is worth noting that secularists’ belief that God does not exist, or is not knowable, also involves faith and the will as well as the intellect. [↩]
- David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, (New York: Basic Books, 2009) 45-46. [↩]
- Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, (New York: Harper One, 2007), 131. [↩]
- Ibid., 174. [↩]
- Berlinski, Devil’s Delusion, 49.) He goes on to note that materialists hope that nature’s essentials are “a finite number of elementary particles. This is a matter of faith.” ((Berlinski, Devil’s Delusion, 53. [↩]
- Flew, There is a God, 55. [↩]
- Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 38. [↩]
- Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 40. [↩]
- I am indebted to Brendan Sweetman, Why Politics Needs Religion for this example, although I have modified it some. [↩]
- For a fuller exposition of the components of a worldview see Sweetman, Why Politics Needs Religion page 35 ff, some of which include: it is a philosophy of life concerning the nature of reality, nature of humans, nature of moral and political values, contains a number of life-regulating beliefs, contains some beliefs which cannot be fully proven, contains certain rituals or practices…motivates certain types of behavior as well as prohibiting others—a theory of morality, has organs, outlets, spokesmen and authorities, publications, and engaged in missionary work. [↩]
- This would exclude some religions like the strain of non-supernatural Hinduism. [↩]
- This question is at the heart of the abortion debate. Christians asseverate that human life begins at conception and is intrinsically valuable, whereas abortionists often base their views of abortion on evolution or Darwinism. “Ohio surgeon George Crile argued that the determination of when human life begins should be answered ‘through the eyes of Darwin and evolution.’” West, Darwin Day, 329. Also a letter citing Haeckel’s work to justify abortion to the U.S. Senate, (Letter from Milan M. Vuitch to Senator John East, April 22, 1981, in the Human Life Bill Appendix: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-seventh Congress, first session on S. 158, a Bill to Provide that Human Life Shall be Deemed to Exist from Conception, April 23, 23; May 20,21; June 1, 10, 12, and 18. Serial No. J-97-16 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), 105 as quoted by Wells, Politically Incorrect Guide, 163.) The same could be said about racism and eugenics (Wells, Politically Incorrect Guide, 162-163) although others justified the same on different grounds. [↩]
- Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 77. [↩]
- See section in the book entitled, “Religion defined as including both natural and supernatural faiths and as a worldview. [↩]
- By traditions I mean to include things such as long established ways of thinking or acting that influence what one sees as problems, solutions to problems, what one presupposes as the best way, authority, etc., to arrive at truths, or what truth is knowable or is. Out of these traditions emanate a galaxy of habits, beliefs, and accepted goals that are held by a community based upon varying degrees of faith and/or evidence of one sort or another. [↩]
- Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 107. [↩]
- See the sections in this book that deal with history, as well as my paper entitled “The Decline of Religion in Public Education and the Decline of Public Education,” http://wmh.24c.myftpupload.com/publications/ [↩]
- Exodus 23:1, 7; Deuteronomy 5:20; Matthew 19:18. [↩]
- I am indebted to Hunter Baker, The End of Secularism, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009) 116 for this suggestion, although some of the reasons are mine. [↩]
- David Sessions, “Brit Hume: Tiger Woods Should ‘Turn to the Christian Faith’”, Politics Daily, 1/14/10, http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/01/04/brit-hume-tiger-woods-should-turn-to-the-christian-faith/, accessed 1/11/10. [↩]
- Charles Darwin, Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, (originally published 1871: reprint with introduction published New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004), 544. [↩]
- Hank Hanegraaff, The Face that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution, (Nashville, Word publishing, 1998), 93-96. He quotes Stephen J. Gould as recognizing the fraudulence of the drawings, but then overlooking the deception of the drawing, Gould says, “Properly restructured, it stands as a central theme in evolutionary biology…” Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny, (Cambridge, MA: Bellknap Press, 1977), 1-2, as quoted by Hanegraaff , The Face, 201. This very drawing was in my oldest daughter’s college science book at the University of Oklahoma in the 1999 spring semester. When a student mentioned the inauthentic nature of the drawing, the professor said it was still illustrative of the truth. [↩]
- Baker, End of Secularism , 173. [↩]
- http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/01/04/brit-hume-tiger-woods-should-turn-to-the-christian-faith/accessed 1/11/10. [↩]
- Karen Schuberg, “Brit Hume: ‘Jesus Christ’ the ‘Most Controversial Two Words You Can Ever Utter in the Public Square’ Today” 1/7/2010, CNSNews.com, http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/59396/ accessed Thursday, January 07, 2010. [↩]
- Schuberg, “Brit Hume: ‘Jesus Christ’”, http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/59396/. [↩]
- Michael Gerson, “Brit Hume’s Tiger Woods remarks shine light on true intolerance”, 1/8/2010, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/07/AR2010010703244.html, accessed 1/11/10. [↩]
- Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 91. [↩]
- Barbara Forrest and physics professor Lawrence Krauss, both of whom are associated with secular humanist organizations, West, Darwin Day, 254, as most of the leaders in progressive education movement, rejection of ID being considered science, proponents of global warming, etc. [↩]
- Sweetman, Politics Needs Religion, 94. [↩]
- Ibid., 95. [↩]
- Ibid., 148. [↩]
- West, Darwin Day, 255. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- It is consonant with a Scientific Liberal Culture. It is like science in that it is an open-ended experience, but like naturalism in that science is the best process to determine what works best for society and the individual. [↩]
- Areas like abortion, global warming, euthanasia, sex education, embryonic stem-cell research. [↩]
- See section in the book, It either minimizes or ignores the biases of science. [↩]
- http://www.ourrepubliconline.com/OurRepublic/Author/56 [↩]
- Richard Land, The Divided States of America, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007), 240. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Ibid., 240-241. [↩]
- Ibid., 240. [↩]