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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