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Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Faith and Force - Dangerous Idea

Faith and Force – Dangerous Idea

The ripples from my post about 'theistic and humanistic nursing’ are still spreading across the blogosphere. One blogger who took up the debate is Victor Reppert at 'Dangerous Idea’

His contribution to the debate went thus:
“Persons following the discussion of theism and rights might be interested in following a parallel discussion of similar issues between the ‘Imago Dei’ team and Thinking Nurse. Imago Dei quotes an interesting passage from Michael Shermer in The Science of Good and Evil when he says

These rights and values [human rights] are grounded not in religion, or any other transcendental state or supernatural force, but in themselves. They stand alone. Humans deserve life, liberty, and happiness, not because God said so but because we are human. Period. These rights and values exist because we say they exist, and that is good enough. They are inalienable because we say they are, and that suffices. (p. 156)

But if we have these rights because we say they exist, what happens when someone with bigger guns comes along and says they don't exist?”

Here is my reply to this post:

“Nice to see my discussion with Imago Dei is generating further discussion and debate.

As I see it, your point is that in any society not based on religious principles, the ethical system of the person or group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail.

The implication is, that divine authority, with it's ability to save or damn our souls, is the 'biggest gun of all'.

The behaviour of many followers of religion implies that they too believe that the ethical system of the group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail, using violence through crusade, jihad and pogrom to assert their own faiths and wipe out the faiths of others. Less obvious, but equally insidious use of force includes denying children access to science, by teaching creationism as fact.

Any system of thought based on faith rather than evidence must use force to assert itself, because rational persuasion requires the use of evidence to change people's minds. Without science and evidence, force is all that theism has left.”

Victor replies to these points:

I appreciate the comments provided by Thinking Nurse. She writes:

As I see it, your point is that in any society not based on religious principles, the ethical system of the person or group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail.

Not simply that it will prevail, it is that I can't think of any fact that would entail that that person or group ought not to prevail. Of course religious people have misused force; that doesn't make them right.

The implication is, that divine authority, with it's ability to save or damn our souls, is the 'biggest gun of all'.

No. The idea that I have is that the right and the power are grounded, according to theism, in a perfect loving being, whose has desires for us that coincide with the fulfilment of our natures as human beings. If the power were not concentrated in a perfectly good being, the presence of supreme power would not solve the problem.

The behaviour of many followers of religion implies that they too believe that the ethical system of the group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail, using violence through crusade, jihad and pogrom to assert their own faiths and wipe out the faiths of others. Less obvious, but equally insidious use of force includes denying children access to science, by teaching creationism as fact.

They may believe that. A great achievement of Christian thought after the 17th Century was the acceptance of the idea that Church and State can be separated; that governments should pursue the legitimate goals a human happiness and fulfillent, and leave the salvation of souls to the Church. The idea is in Thomas Aquinas, but it took awhile to sink in.

I don't know of anyone who is denying children access to science by treating creationism as a fact. If someone does teach creationism as fact, I take it is because they believe it to be the best science. They may be wrong about this, of course, but they teach what they believe to be the truth. W0uldn't you teach your children what you believe to be the truth?

Any system of thought based on faith rather than evidence must use force to assert itself, because rational persuasion requires the use of evidence to change people's minds. Without science and evidence, force is all that theism has left.

I would categorically deny that Christianity is based on faith rather than evidence. It is where, believe it or not, my understanding of the evidence has led me. My book is an attempt to defend an argument against philosophical naturalism. The argument may be unsuccessful, but I quite honestly think I have a good argument here.

C. S. Lewis wrote: " am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in." So why would I feel I had to use force, if I thought that the weight of the evidence was on my side?”

I think both sides have stated their case well in this dignified and appropriate debate. I leave it to readers to make up their own minds based on the discussion and their own experience of life.

One final point though – Victor has got my gender wrong – illustrating the dangers of making assumptions about the nature of things we have not seen, especially where we have no evidence upon which to base such assumptions!

6 Comments:

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Victor Reppert said...

My apologies on my incorrect gender assumptions. Not all of us are free from gender stereotyping, even when we try our best to be.

 
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At 4:36 AM, Anonymous Walter S. said...

Jung wrote that all neurotic behavior is a substitute for legitimate pain. I may not have quoted this exactly but it is the thought. Use of force, except in pure defense against force, is always a form of neurotic behavior. Those who doubt that their ideas will stand and prevail in a free market of ideas often use force or coercion to protect themselves from that reality. I believe those who want to impose fundamental Islam are certain, at some level, that their ideas will not prevail in a free market of ideas. If advertising tactics will work good but if not they will promote their thought by force. I doubt that any explanation of the benefits of covering the body head to toe would convince many free women to adopt that dress.
One sees similar examples at the individual level in the form of the man who always fights when drunk. It is compensation for some doubt or fear that manifests itself in anger and rage. People who doubt their ability to generate a satisfactory amount of money by legitimate means are apt to turn to illigitimate means. Their emotional pain drives them to neurotic behavior. That brawlers and thieves try to win and not be punished for their behavior does not alter their reasons for feeling a need to act out in anti-social ways.
Religious persons may hold personal fears, that they may not be correct, or social fears, that though correct their beliefs will not prevail. In either case history is filled with examples of people selecting parts of the great religious texts to justify using force to elevate themselves or their group beyond the position they would normally hold in a free market of ideas. Every tyrant, great of petty, fears an open and honest evaluation of his or her agenda. It is why as our government has become more neurotic it has also become more secretive. Given the true facts rather than carefully crafted sound bites few of those currently in office at the national level would be able to retain office and they know it. Hence that fear, of losing ill gotten and poorly held power, drives the neurotic behaviors so evident in our government in recent years.

 
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