Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Reply to Thinking Nurse

I appreciate the comments provided by Thinking Nurse. He writes:

As I see it, your point is that in any society not based on religious principles, the ethical system of the person or group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail.

Not simply that it will prevail, it is that I can't think of any fact that would entail that that person or group ought not to prevail. Of course religious people have misused force; that doesn't make them right.

The implication is, that divine authority, with it's ability to save or damn our souls, is the 'biggest gun of all'.

No. The idea that I have is that the right and the power are grounded, according to theism, in a perfect loving being, whose has desires for us that coincide with the fulfilment of our natures as human beings. If the power were not concentrated in a perfectly good being, the presence of supreme power would not solve the problem.

The behaviour of many followers of religion implies that they too believe that the ethical system of the group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail, using violence through crusade, jihad and pogrom to assert their own faiths and wipe out the faiths of others. Less obvious, but equally insidious use of force includes denying children access to science, by teaching creationism as fact.

They may believe that. A great achievement of Christian thought after the 17th Century was the acceptance of the idea that Church and State can be separated; that governments should pursue the legitimate goals a human happiness and fulfillent, and leave the salvation of souls to the Church. The idea is in Thomas Aquinas, but it took awhile to sink in.

I don't know of anyone who is denying children access to science by treating creationism as a fact. If someone does teach creationism as fact, I take it is because they believe it to be the best science. They may be wrong about this, of course, but they teach what they believe to be the truth. W0uldn't you teach your children what you believe to be the truth?

Any system of thought based on faith rather than evidence must use force to assert itself, because rational persuasion requires the use of evidence to change people's minds. Without science and evidence, force is all that theism has left.

I would categorically deny that Christianity is based on faith rather than evidence. It is where, believe it or not, my understanding of the evidence has led me. My book is an attempt to defend an argument against philosophical naturalism. The argument may be unsuccessful, but I quite honestly think I have a good argument here.

C. S. Lewis wrote: " am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in." So why would I feel I had to use force, if I thought that the weight of the evidence was on my side?





5 comments:

Thinking Nurse said...

Thanks for this discussion Victor, I think we have both enjoyed it.

Here is my blogpost showing the full discussion: http://thinkingnurse.blogspot.com/2005/03/faith-and-force-dangerous-idea.html

Rakshasas said...

The idea that I have is that the right and the power are grounded, according to theism, in a perfect loving being, whose has desires for us that coincide with the fulfilment of our natures as human beings. This is neither a requirement of theism, nor is it the practical experience of all theists. Unloving Gods whose wishes for human beings range all over the place are fairly normative in the world's religions.

It is normative to MOST mainline Christian, Jewish and Muslem sects, but is not a given even in those realms. Plenty of sects emphasis the vengefull God as their diety of choice.

Victor Reppert said...

The deity you need to ground ethics is a deity whose interests in us and our fulfillment as persons coincide with one another. There are versions of theism that would not provide any basis for ethics.

Jason Pratt said...

I certainly agree there are versions of theism which would not provide any basis for ethics; but I think a deity whose interests in us and our fulfillment as persons coincide with one another, is the God of one such theism.

Such a deity would still be, in essence and in principle, indistinguishable from the arbitrary might-makes-right of Ockham. It would doubtless be convenient to us, but a benign arbitrary dictator is still a source only of dictated ethic.

If we use the notion of such a God as our ground of ethics, benevolent though He seems, we will be tacitly accepting might-makes-right. Will it be any surprise if we then go on to tacitly apply greater-force ethical theory? Which can still be done by democratic tyranny of mass (or republican tyranny of state representation.)

I don't believe that the presence of supreme power solves any ethical problem at all, nor ratifies or in any way grounds a valid ethic. Certainly it isn't the lesson of the Incarnation: I don't think Jesus rejected the temptations of Satan simply because the Adversary thought to offer them first. {s} The Son does only what He sees the Father doing... and the Son goes to the cross, allowing His enemies (including the ones who should have been most on His side) to slay Him unjustly.

If the grounding fact of reality, upon which everything in reality is based (including itself) is _not_ a mutually supporting active eternal interpersonal relationship; then there is no use looking to it, even as 'God', even if 'God' happens to be favorably inclined toward us in this-or-that way, as the objective standard for _our_ relationships with other persons. It will only be another power-dictated 'ethic'--which pretty much every sceptic recognizes to be no real ethic at all. It stops being an ethic when it starts being _arbitrarily_ impinged upon us.

So it's the Trinity (or at least the Bi-nity), or bust. And as far as I can tell, it has to be positive aseity, too (not privative.)

(Back to my hole for a while... {wave}{s})

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