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[Ilya Somin (guest-blogging), April 7, 2006 at 11:32pm] Trackbacks
Pope Benedict Gets One Right:

As both a libertarian and an atheist, I rarely find myself in agreement with Pope Benedict XVI, who tends to be socially conservative and economically statist. Benedict also suffers by comparison with his predecessor John Paul II, who played a key role in the fall of Communism and did much to combat anti-Semitism and improve Catholic-Jewish relations. As John Allen shows, however, Benedict seems to have gotten at least one important issue right that John Paul did not. An excerpt:

There is, however, one intriguing area of contrast [between Benedict and John Paul]: Islam. To put it bluntly, Benedict is more of a hawk, pursuing a kind of interaction with Muslims one might call "tough love." ......

In his March 23 session with cardinals, much conversation turned on Islam, and there was general agreement with Benedict's policy of a more muscular challenge on what Catholics call "reciprocity." In essence, it means that if Muslim immigrants can claim the benefit of religious liberty in the West, then Christian minorities ought to get the same treatment in majority Muslim nations.

To take the most notorious example, if the Saudis can spend $65 million to build the largest mosque in Europe in Rome, in the shadows of the Vatican, then Christians ought to be able to build churches in Saudi Arabia. Or, if that's not possible, Christians should at least be able to import Bibles, and the Capuchin priests who serve the Arabian peninsula ought to be able to set foot off the oil industry compounds or embassy grounds in Saudi Arabia without fear of harassment by the mutawa, the religious police. The bishop in charge of the Catholic church in that part of the world recently described the situation in Saudi Arabia as "reminiscent of the catacombs."

It's the kind of imbalance that has long stuck in the craw of many senior figures in the Catholic Church, but these complaints were largely suppressed in the John Paul years as part of the pope's Islamic Ostpolitik. John Paul, who met with Muslims more than 60 times over the course of his papacy, and who during a 2001 trip to Damascus became the first pope to enter a mosque, believed in reaching out to Islamic moderates and avoiding confrontational talk.

Benedict XVI clearly wants good relations with Islam, and chose to meet with a group of Muslim leaders during his August trip to Cologne, Germany. Yet he will not purse that relationship at the expense of what he considers to be the truth.

The rest of the Allen article contains a lot of interesting information about Benedict's policies and a critique of the conventional wisdom that he is a heavy-handed conservative. I don't know enough about the issues involved to know if Allen is right or not, but it's certainly an interesting take on the Pope.

UPDATE: I think that some commenters have been confused by the article's reference to "reciprocity," which they interpret as implying that the Pope believes that Muslims in Europe should only have freedom of religion contingent on the granting of similar rights to Christian minorities in the Muslim world. I highly doubt that this is Benedict's position. At least since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has consistently taken the view that adherents of all religions should have freedom of conscience (even if it has often failed to speak up actively against religious repression in the Muslim world). I am not aware that Benedict has done anything to change the Church's position on this, though I admit that I haven't followed his policies closely.

Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Deus vult!
4.8.2006 12:39am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
"As both a libertarian and an atheist, I rarely find myself in agreement with Pope Benedict XVI, who tends to be socially conservative..."

how many Popes have you been in agreement with?
4.8.2006 12:50am
Taimyoboi:
"Benedict also suffers by comparison with his predecessor John Paul II, who played a key role in the fall of Communism and did much to combat anti-Semitism and improve Catholic-Jewish relations."

Those are high expectations to be met with less than a year under his belt
4.8.2006 12:52am
Taimyoboi:
How come an atheist's performance metric hinges on how well the Pope builds Catholic-Jewish relations?

Wouldn't an atheist be concerned with how well Catholic-Atheist relations progress?
4.8.2006 12:54am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Well, Stephen V was a bit of a libertarian. He dealt with a famine by using his own family's money, and got consecrated without waiting for the Emperor's approval. Since he's been dead for 1100 years, it's hard to say much about his politics beyond this.
4.8.2006 1:01am
Lev:
Strange that JP had the number of the religion of communism but was oblivious to its close friend the religion of islam.
4.8.2006 1:28am
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Interesting link about Pope Steven, Dave Hardy.

"When writing against Photius, he begged the emperor to send warships and soldiers to enable him to ward off the assaults of the Saracens."

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose. :-(

Barbara Skolaut
4.8.2006 1:36am
Peter Wimsey:
How come an atheist's performance metric hinges on how well the Pope builds Catholic-Jewish relations?


Because of the church's long history of anti-semitism and antagonism toward Jews?


Wouldn't an atheist be concerned with how well Catholic-Atheist relations progress?

Catholic-Atheist relation have never been particularly bad. Father Coughlin was anti-semitic, but not, apparently, anti-atheist.

how many Popes have you been in agreement with?



Perhaps Urban II? :)
4.8.2006 2:15am
Fishbane (mail):
Catholic-Atheist relation have never been particularly bad. Father Coughlin was anti-semitic, but not, apparently, anti-atheist.

An incident does not data make, and I do wonder how many you'd count if you turned the criteria around.

While I'm not one to hold early history against long lived institutions which have changed, one can easily trace an antipathy to atheists through the history of the catholic church, with varying flavors of enthusiasm, and only a variation in intensity, rather than kind. That isn't to fault them for good causes, or to tar present day catholics with past sins; it is simply a statement of fact. I was in a catholic church last week, in fact; I don't have an issue with the lay congregation, most of whom, at least in my experience, seem much more cosmipolitan about differences in morality. However, the church politicians have held a line that is anti-liberty for a very long time.
4.8.2006 3:16am
Splunge (mail):
But perhaps as a libertarian and an atheist, you have mistaken the Vicar of Christ for a politician or some such plebeian riff-raff. I do not think John Paul II opposed Communism because it merely imprisoned its subjects' bodies, but because it oppressed their souls.

Communism, like most of the malignant mass philosophies of which the 20th century was sadly filled, elevated the "system" (in its case the socialist state) over the individual, and denied the Christian assertion that all good must be rooted, ultimately, in the quality of the individual soul and its concomitant moral choices. To John Paul, I suspect this was anathema, inasmuch as it denied the centrality to all human endeavors of the relationship between each man and his God, and degraded the nature of a man from being the image of Christ to being a replaceable cog in a glorious (they said) machine.

Islam does not suffer from the same faults, and so probably did not concern John Paul the same way. That it denies Christians equal rights of free worship is no doubt regrettable, and to be opposed, but it does not deny the meaning of Christian faith the way Communism did.
4.8.2006 7:06am
fred (mail):
1) John Paul II, for the most part, did not live in an age of Muslim terror. Only in the very last years of his pontificate was this a problem. And when he met with President Bush after 9/11, he was quite insistent that something needed to be done about this malignancy. So to compare JP II and Benedict is not quite fair. Benedict has had the benefit now of seeing exactly what the radical Muslims are up to; JP II did not have our luxury of having viewed highly publicized cases of execution of apostates, riots because of cartoons, etc. It seems reasonable for John Paul II to pursue a course of bending over backwards to try to make friends. But now Benedict has been faced with the fact that those efforts have been not only rejected, but thrown back in our faces.

2) Father Coughlin was not representative of the Catholic church; he was roundly condemned by people such as Cardinal O'Connell of Boston starting in 1932. Once he started going off the deep end and attacking Jews round about 1936, his Catholic audience waned. In a pamphlet published by the American Jewish Committee in 1938, called "Father Coughlin His "Facts" and Arguments", Cardinal Mundelein wrote a summary of the actions that had been taken against him. The Vatican rebuked him twice in 1936, as his anti-semitic comments grew. This pamphlet contained a section (remember, this was a Jewish publication) on "The Catholic Stand Against Anti-Semitism"

3) "However, the church politicians have held a line that is anti-liberty for a very long time."

Well,if "liberty" here is doing whatever you want to do, i.e. licentiousness, than I guess you are right. If "liberty" consists of the right to dispose of an unborn individual - a genetically distinct individual who will never exist again and whose only chance at life is to continue on to full term - well I suppose you are right. If liberty is the right for gays to marry, and the necessarily, logically implied right of polygamists to form their preferred unions, and any other loose form of non-procreative assemblage to be "married", then I guess you are right. The catholic church still thinks that some things are good, some bad. It defines "freedom" in a way that might trouble some libertarians: It contains a component of responsibility. In their view, there is no TRUE freedom unless your actions are in the service of good. If they aren't, although it looks like you are free, you are really enslaving yourself by engaging in those acts.:

From the Catholic Cathechism:


1731: Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; ...
1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.
1738 ... Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order


Now, that begs the question of what is "good". But it's an awfully good base to start from.

To paraphrase: someone once said "In this world there are millions of people who don't like the Catholic church; but this is only because they believe things that aren't so; but there are only hundreds who still don't like it once they understand what it does teach."
4.8.2006 9:40am
johnt (mail):
The only thing Islam lacks is a Stalin, other than that it is an equal opportunity murderer. One edge it has over communism is it's longevity, give them time, as if they haven't had plenty, and the comparisons will continue to blur. It's interesting that many of the Soviet people held Stalin blameless for their situation as many Muslims remain yoked and faithful to a religion that subjugates all to doctrine.
4.8.2006 9:46am
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
> "How come an atheist's performance metric hinges on how well the Pope builds Catholic-Jewish relations?"

Because Jews remain Jews for their entire life, even if they cease to practice Judaism as a religion. Only if they become Christians do they cease to be ethnic Jews (see comments on this blog re: "Jews for Jesus").
4.8.2006 10:25am
MikeMike:
I am certainly sympathetic to non-Catholics who have concerns about the policies of a Pope and how they may or may not affect world politics, but frankly, any metric used to measure a Pope's "success" other than the salvation of souls is, for Catholics, meaningless.

Mike
4.8.2006 12:01pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
MikeMike,

that's what I don't understand about Catholicism in particular, and just about all religion in general. Assuming there is a God, what gives some on this earth the ability to divine his intentions, or desires, or, hey pet peeves? Is there a scoreboard in the Pope's office that tells him how many souls he saved? This, to me at least, is not a far cry from Falwell &Co., saying things like, "X happened because God hates Y."

I like the Pope. I don't agree with him on a lot of things, but I'll take him over the Chiracs of the world any day. I just prefer measuring his success with tangible tools that we have down here in this world.
4.8.2006 12:08pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Assuming there is a God, what gives some on this earth the ability to divine his intentions, or desires, or, hey pet peeves?
I think it is called the Bible.
4.8.2006 12:15pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
I guess what it comes down to then is that you believe in the Bible, while I don't. Therefore, in judging the Pope's performance, I have to look for some more palpable criteria, lacking the prophetic force that the bible empowers one with.
4.8.2006 12:20pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
fred said:
1) John Paul II, for the most part, did not live in an age of Muslim terror. Only in the very last years of his pontificate was this a problem.
Good point, and I would make the converse point regarding Benedict on the issue of Communism. Ilya said:
Benedict also suffers by comparison with his predecessor John Paul II, who played a key role in the fall of Communism
I don't think this comparison is fair. Benedict didn't have an opportunity to address Communism as a Pope; indeed, he wasn't even called "Benedict" at the time. :) Moreover, given his muscular response to Islam, one might infer that he would have dealt just as forcefully with Communism as John Paul II did.
4.8.2006 12:21pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Friedrich Foresight said:
Because Jews remain Jews for their entire life, even if they cease to practice Judaism as a religion. Only if they become Christians do they cease to be ethnic Jews
I am honestly confused by this. I thought that enthnicity, being hereditary and genetic, was the one thing one could not voluntarily change (or have changed involuntarily, for that matter). If a religious and ethnic Jew converts to Christianity, he is no longer an ethnic Jew???????

Conversely, if I convert to Judasim, do I become an ethnic Jew? If not, why not? Does the door swing only one way?

Also, is it really the case that if a Jew becomes a Christian, he ceases to be an "ethnic Jew," but if a Jew becomes an Buddhist, an athiest, a pagan, or a worshipper of Satan he remains an ethnic Jew? If so, why?
4.8.2006 12:31pm
Peter Wimsey:
Father Coughlin was not representative of the Catholic church; he was roundly condemned by people such as Cardinal O'Connell of Boston starting in 1932. Once he started going off the deep end and attacking Jews round about 1936, his Catholic audience waned. In a pamphlet published by the American Jewish Committee in 1938, called "Father Coughlin His "Facts" and Arguments", Cardinal Mundelein wrote a summary of the actions that had been taken against him. The Vatican rebuked him twice in 1936, as his anti-semitic comments grew. This pamphlet contained a section (remember, this was a Jewish publication) on "The Catholic Stand Against Anti-Semitism"



I'm happy that he was roundly condemned by some catholic officials. I'm not sure what form the vatican's rebuke took, but he wasn't told to stop broadcasting until 1942, so the rebuke must not have been particularly severe. The point remains that the catholic church was perfectly willing to tolerate Coughlin's anti-semitism. Even if, doctrinally, they did not agree with his excesses.

And Ilya's point was the comparison with JPII - can anyone believe that if a new Fr. Coughlin arose in the 80's, that JPII would tolerate him for ten years? For one year?
4.8.2006 12:47pm
SenatorX (mail):
Sure the Catholic Church is for freedom of choice (liberty). The Freedom to go to Heaven or Hell based on your choices. How else can you punish people for eternity if you can't blame it on them?

The problem is what others hinted at here. Namely who/what decides the values that are used for the criterion of judgment. The Bible? Well the PEOPLE who wrote it maybe. Or the people that told them to write it. Or the people who foment the ideas in the people who told the people to write it...You get my point I hope?

"Because Jews remain Jews for their entire life, even if they cease to practice Judaism as a religion. Only if they become Christians do they cease to be ethnic Jews"

Ahhh very interesting! Ok are there other criterion for not being Jewish anymore? For example can only "weak atheists" still be considered Jewish, relative to "strong atheists" who in the active Denial of God would lose Jewish status?

What about if a Jewish child was given up for adoption as a baby and was raised not knowing his ancestry. Then he was raised an atheist (or even a Christian - then turned Atheist). But later discovers his Jewish ancestry. Is he a Jew? Moses?

I hope these are not insulting questions btw. One of the many reasons I come to this site is because I get to learn about what it means to be a Jew. It's not an easy puzzle to figure out.
4.8.2006 12:50pm
Jim C. (mail):
Libertarians might have more points of agreement with the Pope than they suppose:

"[T]he idea of freedom is the characteristic mark of the Christian belief in God as opposed to any kind of monism. At the beginning of all being it puts not just some kind of consciousness but a creative freedom which creates further freedoms. To this extent one could very well describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (n/k/a Benedict XVI), "Introduction to Christianity"
4.8.2006 1:07pm
Ken Arromdee (mail):
Also, is it really the case that if a Jew becomes a Christian, he ceases to be an "ethnic Jew," but if a Jew becomes an Buddhist, an athiest, a pagan, or a worshipper of Satan he remains an ethnic Jew?

No, it isn't really the case. If you're a Jew, you're an "ethnic Jew". Converting to Christianity makes no difference in whether you are one.

What converting does mean is that other Jews are less likely to treat you as they normally treat most Jews. For instance, converts (to anything--Christianity isn't treated specially) won't get easy citizenship in Israel. It doesn't mean you aren't Jewish, though.

Jews for Jesus who converted from Judaism are still considered Jews. But their religion is Christianity. When people say that Jews for Jesus aren't Jews, what they really mean is that they aren't *practicing* Judaism, not that they literally aren't Jews.

(There's an exception for some Reform Jewish groups, where converting may disqualify you from being a Jew. But even then, the original statement is wrong; converting to Christianity is treated the same as converting to anything else.)
4.8.2006 1:24pm
Justin (mail):
As Ilya noted, the Catholic Church is not for a liberterian economic policy (and was not under John Paul II). The Church opposed Communism because its suppression of Christianity, freedom of expression, and its brutal treatment of political and ethnic minorities. So while I think Splunge makes good points, I also think he overgeneralizes. (As a socially and economically liberal Jew, I have no problem with either Pope's economic policy, but agree that this Pope is a far cry from JP II).
4.8.2006 1:26pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Assuming there is a God, what gives some on this earth the ability to divine his intentions, or desires, or, hey pet peeves?
I think it is called the Bible.
I guess what it comes down to then is that you believe in the Bible, while I don't. Therefore, in judging the Pope's performance, I have to look for some more palpable criteria, lacking the prophetic force that the bible
I didn't say I believe in the Bible. (Then again, I didn't say that I didn't. :) The point is that the Pope believes in the Bible, and that, for him, is enough.

Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments.

"If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything."
4.8.2006 1:30pm
MikeMike:
Mike BUSL07,

From your perspective, as a non-believer, there is not much I can say to convince you that the Pope is any different from Falwell, et. al. I believe he is. And with respect to certain things, Catholics believe that the promises of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit prevent the Church (and its Vicar, the Pope) from erring in matters of faith and morals. Unfortuntaely, there is nothing preventing a Pope from making bad prudential judgments.

As to your question of the scorecard: we don't have one. But we can look at things like: did a Pope do a good job teaching doctrine or suppressing a heresy? Did he promote the ability of Catholics to practice their faith to the fullest?

In one respect, JPII's pontificate was successful, because his hand in the fall of Communism destroyed a government that suppressed the Catholic faith.

But the rise of bishops defying Papal directives (see Cardinal Mahony) or unpunished dissenting priests (see Father McBrien) is probably a strike against JPII. He allowed dissent to flourish and Catholics to believe things that are contrary to doctrine.

I'm not saying that you must use this criteria to judge a Pope, I'm only saying that this is how a Pope probably judges his own performance and how I, as a Catholic, judge a Pope's performance. I realize that under JPII's pontificate, Church leaders became players in world politics, but perhaps they should not have, especially to the extent that their goals were other than teaching and promoting the faith and providing the Sacraments to the faithful. This is a long-winded and inelegant way of saying to non-Catholics: remember what the Church views its purpose as being. You may be delighted that a particaular Pope promotes freedom of thought and religion, but the purpose of his doing so is to promote the Catholic faith and enable evangelization.

Mike
4.8.2006 1:30pm
byomtov (mail):
I certainly agree that Christians ought to be allowed to worship freely in Islamic countries, but I can't buy Benedict's notion of "reciprocity." This idea seems to suggest that the religious freedom extended to Muslims in the west ought somehow to be contingent on the behavior of the governments of Muslim countries towards their religious minorities.

This is a dangerous and irrational idea. We are not negotiating trade deals here. We are talking about rights based on principles of individual liberty that we consider part of a just society. Religious freedom is not a concession in a negotiation, as Benedict would have it. It is something we value in our society for its own sake. To imply - as Benedict seems to - that if the Saudis, for example, do not grant religious freedom to Christians we should restrict the freedom of Muslims is to miss this this criticial point.
4.8.2006 1:42pm
lee (mail):
"I think it's called the Bible"
A book written by people who thought the Earth was flat--now, there's an authority.
4.8.2006 1:57pm
Justin (mail):
"Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments."

So says a devout follower of George Bush.
4.8.2006 2:00pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
I certainly agree that Christians ought to be allowed to worship freely in Islamic countries, but I can't buy Benedict's notion of "reciprocity." This idea seems to suggest that the religious freedom extended to Muslims in the west ought somehow to be contingent on the behavior of the governments of Muslim countries towards their religious minorities.
As matter of pure, precise language -- of "plain meaning," as it were -- I think you are correct. However, I don't think, considering the recent "legislative history" and purposes of the Catholic Church that Benedict really means to suggest that the treatment of Muslims in the West should be contingent on the treatment of Christians in Muslim world.

For what it is worth, I believe the sentence in the linked article:
In essence, it means that if Muslim immigrants can claim the benefit of religious liberty in the West, then Christian minorities ought to get the same treatment in majority Muslim nations.
should be read (and articuluated more precisely in the future as:
In essence, it means that since Muslim immigrants can claim the benefit of religious liberty in the West, then Christian minorities ought to get the same treatment in majority Muslim nations.
I'm confident that Benedict would agree with your statements that "Religious freedom is not a concession in a negotiation," and that "It is something we value in our society for its own sake." That view is consistent Catholic position on moral freedom (and responsibility) better articulated by the posters above.

As I understand it, Bennedict is no longer going to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. I, for one, applaud this. I've been sicked not only by such persecution (as well, of course, as the persecution of Jews, Zorastors, etc.), but perhaps even moreso by the selfishness and moral cowardness that has led much of the West to turn a blind eye to it. Disgusting.
4.8.2006 2:04pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
"Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments."

So says a devout follower of George Bush.
Actually, I firmly beieve that both Bush's decision to start the war in Iraq, and his conduct of the war, were incompetent.

No, the statement was by someone who bothered to read the linked text in moral philosophy: David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Book III, Part I, Sec. I
4.8.2006 2:10pm
byomtov (mail):
Charles Chapman,

I'm afraid I don't understand the distinction you are trying to make by substituting "since" for "if" in the sentence you quote.
4.8.2006 2:13pm
Justin (mail):
I've read Hume many times, and while I think he's wrong, he's making a much more limited, and therefore not entirely stupid, point from the one you are making. Hume's point is that morality is based on a priori truths rather than logically developed ones. At the time, religion was the most basic a priori truth, but a simple understanding of social rights and wrongs, or even a good faith belief in enlightenment values can do.

Now one can disagree with Hume (I do). But to say that he's arguing that athiests and agnostics who lack spiritual faith cannot make moral judgments is a Clayton Cramer styled stupid statement, and Hume would never defend such statement.
4.8.2006 2:50pm
Justin (mail):
And, funny enough, I wanted to prove the context of your quote, except a Ctrl + F seach says that the words bible and faith are not in the linked text. So maybe you should stop feeling so mentally superior, hm?
4.8.2006 2:56pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
And, funny enough, I wanted to prove the context of your quote, except a Ctrl + F seach says that the words bible and faith are not in the linked text. So maybe you should stop feeling so mentally superior, hm?
Justin, this was the entirety of your original "argument":
So says a devout follower of George Bush.
The factual premise of your "argument" was not only an ad hominem attack, but simply incorrect. Your argument based thereon was nonexistent.

In other words, you engaged simple name calling. Incorrect name calling, but name calling nonetheless.

Given the nature and substance of your "argument," I hardly felt obligated to feel mentally inferior.

As for the relationship of religion and the Bible to moral judgments, what I actually said was:
Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments.
If, as you posted above, "a simple understanding of social rights and wrongs, or even a good faith belief in enlightenment values can do," is enough for you, then fine. And that is precisely what I meant when I referred to "something equivilant, even if self-produced." You yourself refer to "a good faith belief."
4.8.2006 3:20pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
byomtov said:

Charles Chapman,

I'm afraid I don't understand the distinction you are trying to make by substituting "since" for "if" in the sentence you quote.
Sorry to not be more clear. I exchanged the word "since" for the word "if" to try to indicate that the West's treatment of Muslims within its borders was not contingent on the treatment of Christians in the Muslim World. Perhaps I mispoke.

More precisely, but long windedly, I meant to convey something along the lines of: "Listen, we give religious liberty to Muslims in the West, like we do everyone else. Now, that is not going to change no matter how you treat Christians in the Muslim world. However, because we will continue to unconditionally grant religious liberty to Muslims in West, we really think you ought, as a matter of fairness or reciprocity, to give religious liberty to Christians in the Muslim East."
4.8.2006 3:28pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Lee said:
"I think it's called the Bible"

A book written by people who thought the Earth was flat--now, there's an authority.
Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

A book written by someone whose "study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were among his greatest passions," a man who "devoted more time to the study of the Scriptures, the Fathers, and to Alchemy than to science," and who said, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."

Now, there's an authority.
4.8.2006 3:37pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
Assuming there is a God, what gives some on this earth the ability to divine his intentions, or desires, or, hey pet peeves?
I think it is called the Bible.


I think the above links make it clear that the bible is useless in this regard. Furthermore, the Pope pays no attention to the bible in issues where "God" is clear like his general approval of slavery.
4.8.2006 3:39pm
Justin (mail):
"good faith" is a term of art, it is not the equivalent of faith.

Calling something dumb and not making a convincing response to an argument is sometimes because one has no response. It is more often becaues one does not validate really stupid arguments by taking them seriously.

If you're going to redefine "the bible or something equivalent" as any a priori concept of right and wrong, then yes, I suppose your argument is not stupid - well, it is in the sense that you're saying that people must have a concept of right and wrong in order to judge between right and wrong, well duh - though its entirely plagarized. I submit that nobody would have interpreted your argument as such, however. Instead, I believe your argument was thoroughly debunked, and now you are trying to convince the rest of the posters that you weren't making that argument at all, rather than admitting your original statement was rediculous and insulting.
4.8.2006 3:49pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
though its entirely plagarized.
How is it "entirely plagarized" when I link to the source that I'm supposedly plagarizing?
4.8.2006 3:59pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Calling something dumb and not making a convincing response to an argument is sometimes because one has no response.
If one has not response, then perhaps one really shouldn't make a response.
4.8.2006 4:01pm
byomtov (mail):
Charles,

Well, I'm still unimpressed. I would prefer to have Benedict say that religious freedom ought to be granted simply as a matter of right, without any talk of reciprocity.

The statement should simply be, "We regard religious freedom as a fundamental human right. We act on this belief by granting adherents of all religions freedom of worship. We think you ought, as a matter of justice (not reciprocity)do the same."
4.8.2006 4:05pm
Justin (mail):
Obviously, I considered my response the latter. I think an argument (one you've denied making, so I'm not sure why you keep going back to defending it) that you need a bible or an equivical external "deus" description of right or wrong to be able to make moral judgments is one that is too stupid to require rebuttal, not too brilliant to be able to make such.

But if you want a more concrete one, since you've goaded me into it, how come much of the old AND new testament morals have been rejected BY reason - is someone who follows part of the Old Testament, related to not killing, but rejects other parts of the Old Testament, related to planting crops, rejecting morality?
4.8.2006 4:09pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
If you're going to redefine "the bible or something equivalent" as any a priori concept of right and wrong, then yes, I suppose your argument is not stupid - well, it is in the sense that you're saying that people must have a concept of right and wrong in order to judge between right and wrong
Sorry to not be more precise. My statement:
Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments.
was meant to refer to a belief, or faith, in an a priori concept of right and wrong, whatever the source.

Many humanists I've known do not see the need for, and are profoundly uncomfortable with, an "a priori concept of right and wrong."

Next time I'll try to rise to the level of your original "argument":
So says a devout follower of George Bush.
Brilliant.
4.8.2006 4:10pm
Peter Wimsey:
No, it isn't really the case. If you're a Jew, you're an "ethnic Jew". Converting to Christianity makes no difference in whether you are one.

[snip]

Jews for Jesus who converted from Judaism are still considered Jews. But their religion is Christianity. When people say that Jews for Jesus aren't Jews, what they really mean is that they aren't *practicing* Judaism, not that they literally aren't Jews.

I think this can be expanded upon. People who practice judiaism (in the US, at least) are generally considered Jews. Ethnic Jews who are secular or atheist are also still generally considered Jews, at least to the extent that they self identify as Jews. IME, Jews who convert to Christianity are generally not considered Jews in the US except, perhaps, in a very narrow way. (Although the Nazis would have considered them to be Jews because they were interested in Jewish blood. In many ways).

Jews for Jesus are sort of more complicated. The Jews for Jesus with which I'm familiar claim to be Jews and claim to be practicing judiasm - it's just that they believe that the messiah has come. They celebrate hannukah and other jewish holidays (IIRC, there is an additional candle in the center of the menorah that symbolizes Jesus), and have a Saturday sabbath. I don't know whether they keep kosher. Their religious leader is a rabbi.

Regular Jews tend to consider J4J to be christian because of the whole Jesus/Messiah thing. There is also a certain amount of discomfort with them because they seem to be undermining religious judiaism by calling their christian religion judiaism (as opposed to simply leaving the religious community). Also, of course, they proselytize, and the proselytization is specifically aimed at jews.
4.8.2006 4:21pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
byomtov said:
Well, I'm still unimpressed. I would prefer to have Benedict say that religious freedom ought to be granted simply as a matter of right, without any talk of reciprocity.

The statement should simply be, "We regard religious freedom as a fundamental human right. We act on this belief by granting adherents of all religions freedom of worship. We think you ought, as a matter of justice (not reciprocity) do the same."
I understand your point. You may be correct.

I think one problem, as a practical matter, is that we and the Pope may be dealing with people who simply do not believe that religious freedom is a fundemental human right. What do they care if we believe it is if they do not?

I also think another problem, as a practical matter, is that the Pope is trying to make an argument, and take a stance, that might be effective, that might change "Muslim" behavior.

I'm probably splitting hairs, or at least trying to, even if with a dull knife.

On the one hand, we and the Pope will not allow ourselves to say anything like, "We won't grant religious liberty to Muslims in the West unless you grant religious liberty to Christians in the Muslim East."

On the other hand, saying "We regard religious freedom as a fundamental human right" alone is not likely to be persuasive to those who don't share that belief.

I was thinking an unconditional reciprocity / fairness argument or appeal might be more effective. I also don't believe an unconditional reciproctity / fairness argument is inconsistent with saying "We regard religious freedom as a fundemental human right." The positions are not mutually inconsistent as long as one makes it clear that the West's grant of religous liberty to Muslims is uncondtional.

In addition, the West's grant of religious liberty to Muslims within its borders is proof that it really does believe in religious liberty, that it is not hypocritical, that it does not believe in religious liberty only when it benefits Christians.

FWIW, what sympathy I have seen in the "Muslim" press, webpages, blogs, etc. to the position of Raham, apostates, and Muslim to Christian converts has been based solely on the principle of "unconditional reciprocity" -- i.e., comments to the effect that Muslims are allowed to practice their religion in Europe, so why can't Christians practice their religion in, say, Afghanistan?

None of these comments have had any element of "fear" or conditionality to them. There was no element of, "oh boy, if we don't grant religious liberty to Christians, the Europeans might take away the relgious liberty of our brothers in France."

At the same time, all of the sympathetic comments I've seen were based on fair treatment of Muslims in Europe. None were "universaslist."

To be more precise, and practical, if there were no Muslims in Europe, and therefore none were either well-treated or mistreated, my sense is that the "universal religious freedom" argument would be entirely unconvincing.

The one thing that I've seen be even minimally convincing is an "equality of treatment" argument despite the fact, and perhaps precisely because, the West's treatment of Muslims is unconditional.
4.8.2006 4:35pm
Fern:
Charles Chapman--I believe Friedrich Foresight is implying that Ilya Somin was born Jewish and that he still holds on to some sort of cultural identification with the Jewish people that a Jew who converts to Christianity might not hold. That being said, as far as the Jewish perspective is concerned, someone born Jewish is always Jewish, regardless of whether that person later converted or considers themself to be an atheist.
4.8.2006 5:01pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
Charles Chapman,


Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments.


What definition of faith are you using here? It is very typical of the believer to equivocate on the meaning of the word faith within their arguments, which renders them fallacious.

So what do you mean by faith here:
1) Confident belief
2) Loyalty to a person or thing
3) A set of principles
4) Belief that doesn't rest on logical proof
5) Trust in God
6) A body of dogma
7) Belief that is contrary to credible evidence

The kinds of faith that atheists object to are numbers 5-7 above. I do all of the things inherent in 1-4. Rationality requires these things. I have faith my wife won't cheat on me for instance. It's a tentative faith that would be spoiled by credible evidence to the contrary.

I often see creationist arguing that scientists have faith in evolution [sic], so why can't they teach creationism in the science classroom. They are right that the theory of natural selection is not based on a logical proof as in definition 4) but that isn't the same kind of faith inherent in creationism. Creationism is not science because it rests on definitions 5-7.

Hume takes an approach to reason that is alien to rationality. An easy way to show that his reasoning on this is incorrect is to substitute rationality for morality in his arguments. He states:

If morality had naturally no influence on human passions and actions, it were in vain to take such pains to inculcate it; and nothing would be more fruitless than that multitude of rules and precepts, with which all moralists abound.


Let's do the substitution:


If reason had naturally no influence on human passions and actions, it were in vain to take such pains to inculcate it; and nothing would be more fruitless than that multitude of rules and precepts, with which all moralists abound.


This is clear because in order to follow rules and precepts one must use reason. This is because the rules cannot be exhaustive, and one needs to deduce what actions violate the rules. Thus if you know the moral rule is to not harm others and that fireworks can harm people when in close proximity to the body then you deduce that you should not shove a firecracker in someone’s mouth and light it. The moral rules themselves may not even mention firecrackers or may have been created prior to the invention of firecrackers.

One doesn't expect the irrational to behave morally, nor does one expect that punishment would correct the behavior in such a person. Thus we do not punish the criminally insane.

So you can see that rationality is a requirement for moral reasoning.

Now what Hume does at the beginning is to paint a straw man picture of reason:

Those who affirm that virtue is nothing but a conformity to reason; that there are eternal fitnesses and unfitnesses of things, which are the same to every rational being that considers them; that the immutable measures of right and wrong impose an obligation, not only on human creatures, but also on the Deity himself: All these systems concur in the opinion, that morality, like truth, is discerned merely by ideas, and by their juxta-position and comparison. In order, therefore, to judge of these systems, we need only consider, whether it be possible, from reason alone, to distinguish betwixt moral good and evil, or whether there must concur some other principles to enable us to make that distinction,


In the above quote you can see that he thinks reason is merely about ideas. He states, "like truth, is discerned merely by ideas, and by their juxta-position and comparison." This is false. Reason is broader than this and requires more than just thinking about ideas and comparing them to each other. Reason instead requires more than this and is more akin to the processes of science than this arm-chair philosopher approach that Hume describes.

He also assumes that rationality would come up with an objective moral system. That's the bolded part that mentions "eternal fitnesses". This is also false.

So that is two errors in the small space of a paragraph. This is typical of many philosophers when they get into the issue of reason. They really don't understand reason the way scientists do. I think the empirical evidence on the progress of science vs. philosophy speaks for itself.

I am not a theist and I do have a moral system and it is not based on Faith, but instead upon reason. My system is not infallible, but does include error reduction mechanisms that are lacking in the mainstream religions. It is not foundationalist like Christianity, Islam, or Ayn Rand’s system. Nor is it a revealed moral system.

I will sum up my system so you can get a feel for it. This is not a complete or rigorous explication:
1) I start with a view of Rationality that is Popperian in nature. The crux of the matter is error reduction. Being fallible I can make mistakes at any stage in the process of rationality. Thus I must be open to all forms of testing, this includes questioning when logical deduction is applicable or not, or whether my deductions were done properly.
2) I need rationality as a guide to my actions. Without rationality my choices of action will not be a good guide to accomplishing my goals.
3) There are certain facts of my existence that are beyond the ability of my actions to change. I need food to survive, I am normal male so I desire women, etc. It is perfectly rational to accept these as givens.
4) One of these givens was that I was born with a brain that can make ethical decisions without using logical deduction. Utilizing this ability is quite rational.
5) I live in a environment with other people. I must take their actions, goals, beliefs and strategies into account when formulating these four things for myself.
6) I can accomplish more through cooperation with others than I can otherwise. See Austrian economics for a correct explication of this.
7) There are all sorts of mechanisms by which others can check my behavior. Everything from rumors and reputation, and failure to cooperate all the way up to retribution are mechanisms others have to check my behavior.
8) The self consists of more than merely my body and it's needs. The self is broader than this and includes my genetic heritage, culture, language, values, beliefs, family, friends, possessions, etc. The self fully encompasses all the physical instantiations of the replicators that contributed to my current state, whether desired or undesired. Part of what made FDR who he was was the polo virus.
7) The cooperative self is those parts of the self that interacted mutually in a tendency to replicate cooperatively. Since the polo virus that made up the self of FDR was not acting cooperatively it was not part of the cooperative self.
8) Behaving ethically boils down to acting in ones own enlightened cooperative-self interest. This is very different than selfish behavior.

So some examples of behavior that would be considered unethical by me:
1) Flying planes into buildings for Allah. The objection here is not with killing ones enemies, which is allowed. The problem I have with this is multifold. Firstly, it is not enlightened since it does not properly identify ones enemies and the consequences of ones actions. Furthermore, the act itself is not furthering the cooperative self and only works towards the replication of the narrow religious self. This act dooms the genetic replicators of your body and endangers other copies of those same replicators that reside outside your body. Firstly in your children since by loosing a parent are harmed. Secondly because the people you kill share your genetic heritage. Thirdly, many of the people you kill will share many of the replicative values you hold. I could go on but I won't.

I think I have said enough of my own ethical believe system to give you a flavor. Let me point out one more thing. Because we are fallible and world is complex and many different ethical systems are competing there is no one perfect objective strategy of ethics [a morality] that one can settle on. Just like there is no one correct way to be an animal, there is no one correct way to be an ethical system. Ethical systems evolve. They do so both progressively but also in an arms race against other ethical systems. Just like there is no one and final correct way to be a herbivore, there is no one and final correct moral system.

Well, I'm going to leave it at that. There is a lot more depth to it than what I have stated but frankly this is a comments section.

Suffice it to say I think you and Hume are wrong in your assumptions and reasoning.
4.8.2006 5:41pm
SLS 1L:
The Pope's idea that freedom of religion is about "reciprocity," rather than a universal human right, is deeply disturbing. It reads like a recipie for the persecution of Islam in the overtly Christian and mostly Christian nations of the West.
4.8.2006 5:46pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
Byomtov,

I think you are correct about reciprocity if you considering religions that accept the decisions of the individual conscience. Not all religious are or were structured that way. In many by accepting the religion you are assenting to a cooperative group effort, which includes the suppression of the right of others to follow their consciences. Thus the group as a whole acts cooperatively to trespass against individuals.

This trespass can take many forms which includes and is not limited to libel, slander, de-jure discrimination, threats, vandalism, rioting, murder, theft, taxation, heresy laws, primogeniture, immigration restrictions, charitable restrictions, and so forth.

There are benefits to be had by belonging to groups that practice these things. One gets to do things without bearing the reciprocal consequences of your actions. An example of this is the Muslim rules on murdering infidels. Normally in a non-Islamic society the Muslim would have reciprocity concerns when he murders the non-Muslim. There are consequences to such a murder that include retribution by the family of the victim, other individuals in the victims group, and their seeking justice. Those consequences are not symmetrical in an Islamic society, and the benefits inure not just to those Muslims who take advantage of this fact but to all Muslims. This is because it results in less risk to themselves. Everyone is a potential murderer under the right circumstances. They have benefited by their voluntary association with Islam by being less likely to be held accountable should they loose it and kill a non-Muslim.

I could go on with many other factors but I think you can get my point.
4.8.2006 6:07pm
MikeMike:
SLS 1L,

Just to be clear, I think the Pope's notion of reciprocity is an attempt to secure religious freedom for Catholics in Muslim lands. You are correct that it is not about a universal human right of religious freedom, unaccompanied by some preferred end. The Church does not teach that one has a "right" to be Muslim, or Buddhist, or Protestant. The Church seeks to preserve freedom of religion as a politcal right so that it may go about its mission and that its members may practice the faith. This probably only further disturbs you, but I thought it was worth the clarification. It's not just this Pope that has ideas of reciprocity. While many people have perpetrated wrongs in the name of the Church, the Church has never justified forced conversions; however, as was once popular to say: Error has no rights.

Mike
4.8.2006 6:33pm
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
> "I am honestly confused by this. I thought that enthnicity, being hereditary and genetic, was the one thing one could not voluntarily change (or have changed involuntarily, for that matter). If a religious and ethnic Jew converts to Christianity, he is no longer an ethnic Jew???????"

It was my sarcastic way of observing that many people who are ethnically and religiously Jewish seem to be much more vigilant in arguing "They cannot possibly be 'Jews', the two are mutually exclusive" for ethnic Jews ("e-Jews") who adopt the religion of Christianity than for ethnic Jews who adopt some other religion (eg, Buddhism, New Age, Marxism, or atheism simpliciter).

My sarcasm is not aimed at Ilya because I agree that an "e-Jew" atheist has a strong interest (in the locus standi sense) in applauding measures to stamp out anti-Semitism, which in its modern, post-Inquisition form focuses its hatred on "e-Jews" without regard to Judaism as a religious practice. Neither the Nazis nor Hamas care[d] whether a person kept kosher or shabbos; it was the genes that matter[ed]. As far as I can tell, if a Jew converts to Islam (there are a few rare cases, eg Stephen Schwartz), this does nothing to put them right with the "descendants of pigs and apes" crowd.
4.8.2006 6:42pm
dwillo:
The argument of "reciprocity" is troubling, for reasons given above. But also there seems to be the underlying notion that pluralism and religious freedom in the West show the superiority of Catholicism over Islam. However, that freedom developed in Europe and the West in spite of the Catholic church, not because of it. The days are long gone when the Church had the power to prevent a mosque being built in its midst, but it's not like they gave up that authority without a fight. The forces of change (the reformation, political liberalism, capitalism, modernity) were just too great.

Thus there is something ironic about the self-congratulatory tone of the comparison with Islam here. The political arrangement in Saudi Arabia (really, kind of a brokered agreement between the authoritarian princes and powerful religious leaders) shows how traditionalist Islam has managed to succeed in a power struggle that the Catholic Church long ago lost in the West.

The demand of "reciprocity" rests on the fanciful notion that Catholicism is itself a party in the exchange of religious freedom, when in fact it is more a beneficiary than a grantor of it.
4.8.2006 6:43pm
Fern:
Friedrich--Don't discount the growing trend of Jews converting to Islam, at least it's a growing trend according to this website: JewsforAlla.org.
4.8.2006 7:28pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Brian Macker said:
What definition of faith are you using here? It is very typical of the believer to equivocate on the meaning of the word faith within their arguments, which renders them fallacious.

So what do you mean by faith here:
1) Confident belief
2) Loyalty to a person or thing
3) A set of principles
4) Belief that doesn't rest on logical proof
5) Trust in God
6) A body of dogma
7) Belief that is contrary to credible evidence

The kinds of faith that atheists object to are numbers 5-7 above. I do all of the things inherent in 1-4. Rationality requires these things.
I actually meant 1 - 4. I think 5 and 6 can be subsets of 1 - 4 for a given person, though I wasn't thinking of that and I don't particularly. (What meaningful distinction in there between "A set of principles" and "A body of dogma?" Particularly in this context?) I would never mean 7, absent practical concerns re: proof -- a well-founded belief that not all of the "credible evidence" is in, desire to do another experiment, study, etc. Mundane, practical quibles.

I'm sorry I didn't make myself more clear when I refered to "the Bible, or something equivilent, even if self-produced." It was a tossed off point, and I'm afraid I thought it was too obvious. As I mentioned above, I simply meant some sort of a priori judgment, code, moral or ethical system, or even instinct. I suspect for the majority of people throughout history, and perhaps even now, that has been provided by the Bible, Qur'an, Suttras of Budhism, etc. It doesn't have to be.

What it is not is derived from "reason" as precisely defined, or, to be honest, as I define it, as the sum of inductive and deductive logic -- i.e., the scientific method. Nietzsche perhaps said it most succintly when he said, "There are no moral phenomena at all, but only moral interpretation of phenomena."

I think Hume's point was a valid one. People make "was, is, will be" statements, and then imperceptably start saying "ought" or "should" (in a moral, and not predictive sense) or "must" (again, in a moral and not predictive sense) all of the time, but they never explain who they got from "was, is, will be" to "ought, morally should, morally must" be.

Now, for many people if you ask them why, they say "Because the Bible tells me so." Or, "it is against the 10 commandments." Or, "Jesus would be disappointed in me." Now that sounds lame. I'm not sure that it sounds any less lame than "because it just is, that is what I believe, it is obvious."
4.8.2006 8:44pm
lee (mail):
Regarding "Newton as an authority"

He may have been the greatest genius ever but he bought (after making money earlier)into the South Seas Company just before it crashed. Pity he wasted so much time on those religious tracts and Alchemy(the poisonous fumes involved killed him.)
4.8.2006 10:24pm
byomtov (mail):
With reference to the update, I don't think I'm "confused," as Ilya Somin puts it. I think I read the following:

...Benedict's policy of a more muscular challenge on what Catholics call "reciprocity." In essence, it means that if Muslim immigrants can claim the benefit of religious liberty in the West, then Christian minorities ought to get the same treatment in majority Muslim nations.

to imply that Christian minorities in majority Muslim nations ought to get religious liberty because Muslims get religious liberty in the West. I see no other way to interpret the quoted passage. What else can "reciprocity" mean?

Ilya may be quite correct about post-Vatican II Church doctrine, but that doesn't change the meaning of this passage.
4.8.2006 10:32pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
byomtov, reciprocity can also mean something like the following. There is a tornado. It destroys my home. I ask person "A" to help me rebuild my home. He says "scew you. no, I don't help peole with hazel eyes."

There is another tornado. It destroys person A's home. I pitch him and help him rebuild it, without being asked.

Next, it is a hurricane. Yes, it destroys my home. I say to person "A," "Listen, I know that you make it a point of not helping people with hazel eyes, and to be truthful, if your home is destroyed in the future, I'm always going to help you, unconditionally. So how about it, will you help me rebuild?"

Now, many people in person's A's position who normally would not assist the "hazel eyes" will feel under a obligation to do so once they've received and accepted help from "hazel eyes."

You may be right, as I wrote at length above, that a "plain meaning" reading of what was said would support a truly condtional exchange. I just don't think that was what was intended, or even understood by most people, given the recent history of the Church.
4.8.2006 11:57pm
byomtov (mail):
Charles Chapman,

My previous comments concern only the material quoted in the post, and I think they reflect an accurate reading of that material, with its talk of "imbalance," etc.

I am not particularly knowledgeable about the fine points of Catholic belief, and it may very well be, as you and Somin suggest, that the Catholic view of religious freedom is much broader than the article implies. But the article doesn't say that.
4.9.2006 1:10am
Toby:
I'm always amazed at people who argue fine lingustic points to cast aspersions on those that they, a priori, do not like even though they are aguing about translation artifacts. It does tend to cast some doubt on the quality of the rest of their arguments.
4.9.2006 10:53am
markm (mail):
"Don't discount the growing trend of Jews converting to Islam." I suspect that there were many more such conversions in the 6th century.
4.9.2006 3:25pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Yeah, that website is pretty insane btw, the "Jews for Allah." It's very reminiscent of those TV special I watched in teh USSR growing up, where a resident of some capitalist country, usually France, comes to Moscow, or better yet, some idyllic little village, and then can't shut the hell up about how the communists got it right, and capitalism in a state of irretrievable moral decay, completely on the way out. Hopefully things will turn out for Wahhabist Islam the same way they did for communism.
4.9.2006 4:14pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
Charles,
I actually meant 1 - 4. I think 5 and 6 can be subsets of 1 - 4 for a given person, though I wasn't thinking of that and I don't particularly. (What meaningful distinction in there between "A set of principles" and "A body of dogma?" Particularly in this context.
My mistake, you are right, 3) and 6) in this context are identical. I separated the definitions first then ordered it forgetting the context. We do not refer to rational sets of principles like the scientific method as "Faith".
I would never mean 7, absent practical concerns re: proof -- a well-founded belief that not all of the "credible evidence" is in, desire to do another experiment, study, etc. Mundane, practical quibbles.

Why not? This is the most common usage. It is usually trumpeted with great pride by certain faith based religions that to hold a belief in something without basis in fact is some sort of virtue. I don't see how you can get by without this meaning, especially when talking about and with fundamentalist Christians.

.. or did you mean you would never use this meaning when referring to your own beliefs?
I'm sorry I didn't make myself more clear when I referred to "the Bible, or something equivalent, even if self-produced." It was a tossed off point, and I'm afraid I thought it was too obvious.

It was not clear to me and I don't know about anyone else.
As I mentioned above, I simply meant some sort of a-priori judgment, code, moral or ethical system, or even instinct. I suspect for the majority of people throughout history, and perhaps even now, that has been provided by the Bible, Qur'an, Suttras of Buddhism, etc. It doesn't have to be.

Fair enough, I agree to a point, although I think you are running with assumptions I don’t make. I would stress some excellent points made by another commenter here, Medis.
Moreover, there is actually very little evidence that one needs any sort of coherent philosophy, doctrine, etc., whatsoever in order to be a productive and nondisruptive member of a society. Apparently, all that is really required is that you have internalized the relevant social norms and regulated your behavior accordingly. Whether or not you have provided a coherent philosophical justification for doing that has no necessary relevance to your conduct. Indeed, I dare say that most people probably haven't bothered to really work out a coherent philosophy of life, the universe, and everything, and it is really quite "arrogant" of intellectuals, of any stripe, to claim that somehow the very existence of societies depends on everyone being a good intellectual.

I don’t know whether you agree with this but the tone of your post makes it seem that you don’t. Do you?

That’s an aside, back to the issue of why you assumed I would understand you. I think I see why you assumed I would understand. You have accepted as factual the demarcation of knowledge into a-priori and a-posteriori. I don't buy into this notion.

The problem I have with it is that a prior knowledge, loosely, true knowledge unattached to personal experience, is that I think it is a mistake of categorization, and of actual understanding of the process we use to gain knowledge. Math is considered a very a-priori centric disciple, where one discovers "eternal truths". The problem I have with this approach to knowledge (not math but the understanding of what math is) is that you have to make assumptions and already have an informational context prior to even doing any math, or applying any math. You can't even begin to explain the esoteric definitions used in geometry like point, line, ray, and plane unless you already have a substantial body of knowledge already in common with the student. This same problem would be true for the person who first came up with the truths in geometry. For instance, the concept of "straight" is something both the original discoverer of geometric truths and the student would already need to have in order to even start with geometry. So geometry itself is not a-priori since it depends on two prior things, a language and concepts expressed in that language.

There is another way in which geometry is not a-prior. When applied geometry depends on other things. All mathematical systems depend on assumptions. In Euclidian geometry one of the assumptions is that parallel lines never intersect. This assumption is fine in some cases but does not work in others. For instance, if you are working with the surface of the earth, the opposite assumption is true. If you draw two parallel lines on a sphere they always intersect. The point being that the supposed, "truth unattached to personal experience", can be false if improperly applied.

A third thing that a-priori truths depend upon is the validity of the rule of non-contradiction. We follow this rule in mathematics not for any a-priori reason but for partially empirical ones. It has been our experience in the real world that contradictions do not occur. Therefore, we have incorporated this rule of non-contradiction into math. This is an assumption and not a part of what we "know" a-priori.

Which gets us to where did this other "knowledge" come from upon which math is based, language and the concepts it expresses. Those in fact come from a process of trial and error. They were evolved culturally in an unconscious empirical process that is Darwinist in nature. They themselves are dependent on other aspects of our nature, such as our senses, that were also evolved by Darwinian processes.

Darwinian processes do not generate "knowledge" or "correct information" by a-priori means. It's a very empirical process but neither is it deductive. The information contained in your genes that codes for the making of the eye, was not arrived at by deduction. The simplest way to think of evolution is as a system of trial and error. The system makes guesses and then tests these guesses against reality to see if they work. It then retains the "guesses" as "tentative knowledge" until such time as conditions prove otherwise. This methodology is more "inductive" than "deductive" but unlike induction the knowledge does not to attempt to extend the results to all conditions. Evolution evolves creatures that survive under the prevailing conditions, not all conditions. The induction has a scope.

Many prior philosophers like Hume do not fully comprehend the implications of Darwinian evolution. Darwin’s discoveries are revolutionary and go to the very core of who we are. That includes our sentient and ethical natures.

I said categorical mistake above because the things classified as a-prior are not different on the basis that Kant gave. All knowledge is obtained on pretty much the same ultimate basis. What is different about the a-priori stuff is more in how it is used than how it was obtained. The a-priori truths were obtained via trial and error methods but are used for the filtering and testing knowledge. We know that non-contradiction and mathematical proofs are applicable to the real world because each time we apply them they work. Since they seem to work we apply them in new situations. They are powerful tools because they have something to say about situations that have not in fact happened before. It is possible but not probable that we would find that the world didn’t in fact conform to these rules. Then these would not be good guides to filtering out bad theories, that is, it would be possible for a self-contradicting theory to be true about the world.
As an aside this is why many atheists reject religion. Religion is a model of the world that is self-contradictory. There is no credible evidence [not no evidence] to support it in the first place and the rule of non self-contradiction is to powerful to reject on the flimsy evidence that does exists. If you want to understand what I mean by flimsy evidence then read Thomas Paine’s "The Age of Reason". He is one of our founding fathers, a deist, who did not believe in Christianity, and does a great job of showing exactly how third rate using the bible as evidence is.

Well that's my best attempt in a short space to explain why I don't believe in what I consider to be the false dichotomy of categorizing knowledge as either a-priori or a-posteriori. I only attacked the a-priori side because it was sufficient to get my point across, and I could of but didn't attack the a-posteriori side too.

What it is not is derived from "reason" as precisely defined, or, to be honest, as I define it, as the sum of inductive and deductive logic -- i.e., the scientific method. Nietzsche perhaps said it most succinctly when he said, "There are no moral phenomena at all, but only moral interpretation of phenomena."


As I have already said I disagree with this notion of rationality as being the sum of inductive and deductive logic. Logic is only part of what is required to be rational. Logic is a methodology for testing models (theories) based on assumptions we have found to be consistent with reality. It’s an error reduction strategy.

Furthermore, I would disagree that "the scientific method" is not merely the sum of inductive and deductive logic. I don’t think you have a good grasp of what is important about science if this is how you would summarize it. Perhaps you were not trying to be rigorous but I think the conclusions you have come to rest in part on this informality, so I think you should examine your own thoughts. I cannot do that unless you are rigorous.

I would guess that you are using Hume as a philosophical guide to what science is. I think this is a mistake and if anything I would use Popper.

Just so you know I did not gain my understanding of science by directly reading Popper but instead I came up with my own beliefs that were probably indirectly influenced by him. I have since read him and do like him but do not totally agree with him either.

I think Hume's point was a valid one. People make "was, is, will be" statements, and then imperceptably start saying "ought" or "should" (in a moral, and not predictive sense) or "must" (again, in a moral and not predictive sense) all of the time, but they never explain who they got from "was, is, will be" to "ought, morally should, morally must" be.


Reading between the lines of your entire first post I thought you were trying to get at the naturalist fallacy but you should understand there are different interpretations as to how broadly that applies. I didn’t know because you hadn't literally said so. Therefore, I didn’t cover the topic. I now see with this current post that I was right. So let me talk about it a little.

It's not that I think that Hume’s position is totally incorrect just that it is subtlety off. His model is better than some peoples and worse than mine. I believe that you cannot derive "ought" from "is" in a "might makes right" fashion. That’s obvious so I will not argue the point. You cannot move from statements of fact like "I am king" to prove statements like "I ought to be king". The former statement is a descriptive statement, a statement about the way the world is, and the former a normative statement, a statement about how the world ought to be. Hume is credited with being one of the first philosophers to make this distinction explicit.

My problem with Hume is I don’t know how to interpret him. Is he saying that you cannot derive is from ought, or is he saying you cannot do so without first going through the filter of human nature. If he is saying the former than I think he is wrong. If his position is the latter then I don’t have a problem with it but may have a problem with his specific interpretation. That’s discussion I don’t want to get into deeply.

I don’t see however how this tie in to the disagreement I have with you this statement:
Of course, if one does not believe -- have faith -- in the Bible, or something equivilant, even if self-produced, one is incapable of making moral judgments.


I don’t see why you think you have to have "faith". Everyone "believes things" so that certainly wasn’t your point. You have to believe things to accomplish anything. So what? The above sounds like you are defending faith. I also don’t agree that one is incapable of making moral judgements without first working out some philosophical system like I have. In fact almost no one I know bothers working it out. Instead they just do it ala-Medis the other commenter.


Now, for many people if you ask them why, they say "Because the Bible tells me so." Or, "it is against the 10 commandments." Or, "Jesus would be disappointed in me." Now that sounds lame. I'm not sure that it sounds any less lame than "because it just is, that is what I believe, it is obvious."


Well heck this is like a 180 from the other quote. First, you state with much conviction that you need the faith in the Bible or one is incapable of making moral judgments. You link to Hume in that statement as if the religious people are utilizing this interpretation of him. That is the religious are using faith as a basis for normative statements and that is the correct way to do things. Now, you seem to be saying that people who use the Bible as a basis of morality are actually committing the Naturalist Fallacy, so are violating Hume’s dictum. This makes no sense to me.

I do believe you can derive ought from is without running afoul of the Naturalist Fallacy. I think you are correct in your second assessment that Christians are trying, in a sense, to derive ought from is. I think all moral systems actually do this, even when they claim not to. This is why religious have a worldview in which you must believe in order to modify your behavior. The underlying premise of Christianity is that God has created the world, heaven, and hell and has set up certain rules that you must obey, that is the explicit "is". They implicit and sometimes explicit "ought" is that you better obey or you are going to hell. It is in our nature not to want to be tortured for eternity so that is the tie in between "is" and "ought" in the second interpretation of Hume. Remember in some interpretations of him we can tie "is" to "ought" via human nature.

Many Christians wouldn’t agree with this interpretation and that we shouldn’t be "good" simply to get into heaven or to avoid hell, but should "Do good for goodness sake". Some would go further and say that it is in fact part of their worldview that if you are doing good deeds and behaving well merely for the reward then you may not get the reward. Despite such objection if the world were not as they say it "is" then there would be not reason to behave as a Christian. By that I mean things like praying to God. I do not mean things like refraining for murder. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that if you abandon their worldview then anything is allowed. You can see that they are assuming that if you change the "is" you change the "ought’. What they fail to comprehend is that under other worldviews one can derive the "ought" of "do not murder" from the "is" of that worldview.
4.9.2006 4:41pm
Grand CRU (mail):
Hume is wrong; his conception of the mind was disproven. Popper is wrong; his conception of science is simplistic and reductionist. Just thought I'd saunter in with some truth.
4.10.2006 1:05am
ReaderY:
Since many readers are delving into various basic questions about the appropriateness of religious belief, let me point two things out:

1. Rationality consists of either deducing conclusions from a set of believed principles, or inducing principles from observed facts. Either approach requires a set of rules. Why should we believe these rules? For example, reaching a theory of evolution requires believing that the principles of logic we induce from daily life are equally applicable to phenomena millions of years ago. Why should we believe this? A priori beliefs cannot easily be gotten rid of.

2. In our daily lives, we rely on authority all the time. We personal observe extremely few of the things we believe in life. Nor could we. We have no time; we actually do not, and could not, live life that why, whatever we claim or pretend. We readily say the earth revolves around the sun, but almost none of us have personally made the observations and calculations necessary to conclude this. How many of us rely on "science" because we have actually personally applied the scientific method enough to have personally verified a wide variety of scientific conclusions. And how many do so for purely sociological reasons, for example, because we have been taught to believe what scientific authorities say in much the same that religious people are taught to believe religious authorities? If we are honest I suspect the number in the latter category would be very high. One cannot so easily dismiss arguments from authority.

Many people seem to have very fixed and hardened views on the question of whether faith is ever an appropriate basis for action. The questions are harder, and the answers not as easy, as it might appear.
4.10.2006 1:07am
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
Interestingly, the "reciprocity" argument happens too parallel the difference between the Protestant and the Catholic/ Orthodox understandings of forgiveness of sins, especially as illustrated in parables like the Unforgiving Servant (in Matthew 18:23-35). The Catholic/ Orthodox interpretation is "If you don't forgive others, you forfeit your own forgiveness". The (Reformation-era) Protestant reading is "Precisely because you have been unconditionally forgiven, therefore it is right and fitting that you should likewise forgive others unconditionally".

Backk to religious freedom, there are at least 2 reasons why a Westerner might highlight, to a Muslim, the religious freedom that Muslims enjoy in the West, other than as a veiled (no pun intended) threat that this might be restricted for sects officially classified as "intolerant":

(1) To establish practicability. "See, it is possible to have a society with religious freedom that survives. It won't mean you collapse into civil war among sects, or that the majority religion will feel threatened by minority faiths."

(2) To rebut any suspicion of hypocrisy. "See, we're not just some CAIR-style special-pleading lobby who get worked up about affronts to our own religion but don't give a $#%&about atttacks on other religions. Our own clean hands in this matter, which gives us standing to make a moral demand -- not a threat, but a moral demand -- to acknowledge this basic human right."
4.10.2006 1:14am
byomtov (mail):
JFTR, Vatican II did in fact issue a strong declaration of support for religious freedom:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

...government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.

I wish Benedict were emphasizing this point. Perhaps he does elsewhere.
4.10.2006 12:19pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Friedrich Foresight said:
Backk to religious freedom, there are at least 2 reasons why a Westerner might highlight, to a Muslim, the religious freedom that Muslims enjoy in the West, other than as a veiled (no pun intended) threat that this might be restricted for sects officially classified as "intolerant":

(1) To establish practicability. "See, it is possible to have a society with religious freedom that survives. It won't mean you collapse into civil war among sects, or that the majority religion will feel threatened by minority faiths."

(2) To rebut any suspicion of hypocrisy. "See, we're not just some CAIR-style special-pleading lobby who get worked up about affronts to our own religion but don't give a $#%&about atttacks on other religions. Our own clean hands in this matter, which gives us standing to make a moral demand -- not a threat, but a moral demand -- to acknowledge this basic human right."
Thank you for saying succinctly what I've been fumbling around with for, oh, four or five posts. :)
4.10.2006 1:04pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Yes Friedrich Foresight definitely deserves the MVP award for his clarity of thought on this topic. Well done!
4.10.2006 3:03pm
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
Uh, thanks, Thorles and Charley, I'll take that non-ironically... You're welcome.
4.10.2006 8:58pm
MikeMike:
byomtov,

I wish the Pope would emphasize this, from the same document:

"Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

It is important for Catholics (and from my perspective, Catholics in the US), to be reminded that there are significant difference between what is a political necessity, a consitutional right, and a moral right/obligation. The Church demands freedom from civil coercion so that Catholics can fulfill their moral obligation to practice "the true religion." Religious freedom divorced from its fulfillment in volunatry submission to the true religion is, for Catholics, meaningless. In other words, the Church's insistence on religious freedom in no way abrogates an individual's moral obligations to practice the true religion or equivocates the universality or objective truth of the claims the Church makes about itelf.

Mike
4.10.2006 9:25pm