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, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East