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A Philosophical Defense of Rational Religion

June 28 2016

The common assumption that faith and reason are opposites, or mutually exclusive, is unfounded, argues Francis Beckwith in a new book, and leads to the mistaken position that, in a liberal and secular state, moral judgments “tightly tethered” to religion ought to be excluded from legal and political discussion. Matthew Franck writes in his review:

[I]s the fact that some views can be held on both religious grounds and non-religious rational grounds an entirely serendipitous state of affairs? Or is that overlap meaningful in some sense, expressive of a real relationship between faith and reason? Could it be that the teachings of religious faith—or at least of some religious faiths—make people better reasoners about what is true and good?

Beckwith does not venture an answer to this last question, or even address it. But the evidence of his book is that it may well be so. For at every turn Beckwith, a believing reasoner, shows that unbelieving reasoners, whenever they argue that faith and reason are strangers to one another, are guilty of circular reasoning, question-begging, non-sequiturs, and various other errors. . . .

Beckwith goes on to explain how a kind of bovine acceptance of secular rationalism leads judges to make crashingly illogical decisions, holding that laws supported by legislators or citizens with religious motives for their passage are unconstitutional “establishments” of religion in public policy. Neatly disentangling the motives of a law’s supporters from the purposes of the law itself, he goes so far as to argue that judicial decisions along these lines violate the spirit of the “no religious test” clause of Article VI of the Constitution.

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Law, Philosophy of Religion, Religion & Holidays, Religion & Politics, Secularism

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy