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

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict