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.

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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy