I’ve been debating writing this post since the weekend. It isn’t my usual type of post. Three events occurred in the last week to prompt this. I’ll get to those at the end.
Here is my hypothesis: reason and faith are both solid foundations from which to make arguments. Reason can be informed by faith. Faith can be supported by reason. If either holds water they should both come to the same conclusions.
The reason the argument needs to be made is that there seems to be a tendency to have an argument immediately discarded if it contains any mention of faith.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists as its first fundamental freedom: The Freedom of conscience and religion. People are supportive of these rights and freedoms, but it seems that most want the freedom of conscience and religion to be treated like sex. So long as it happens in the privacy of your home, doesn’t effect me and no people or animals are harmed as a result, I’m fine not hearing about it.
That really isn’t how religion works in practice. While it may or may not be visible it informs all aspects of life both public and private. Certainly it impacts moral and ethical decisions that get made by the faithful.
There are two big arguments against my hypothesis. The first is that there is not an equivalency between faith and reason. The second is the the plenitude of conflicting faiths so they cannot all be valid bases for argument.
I’d argue that arguments cannot be made without both. No one can argue from a position of complete knowledge so that in some fashion there must be an element of faith. Perhaps it isn’t faith in the teaching contained in the Bible or the Koran, but it might be faith in the freedoms outlined in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. All three bear a common genesis in being documents written by people for the benefit of people and society.
(They can all also be said to contain contradictory statements that require experts to explain.)
Regardless it isn’t truly possible to make an arguments of reason without an element of faith. The same is true the other way around. This interrelationship between the two proves their equivalency for me.
The second question is which faith is it valid to make arguments from? They cannot all be valid. Obviously I have my preferences, but I’d state here that a personal faith supported by reason should be acceptable.
Although the origins, creation stories, books of teachings, view of the afterlife, etc. are generally quite different, the general teaching of most faiths on building a strong, stable, supportive society are quite similar. Supporting this point through example is beyond the scope of this post. So I’ll leave myself open to attack on this point.
The immediate dismissal of such arguments is disturbing and unfair. It would be OK if people would engage and find points where there is no support by reason or where statements are in contradictory positions, or any other logical fallacy is present in the argument.
(Which reminds me – I’ve been meaning to post this poster about logical fallacies for a while.)
But instead it is simply dismissed and often then followed by an ad hominem attack on the arguer and on religion and on their faith in general. Two of the incidents that prompted this post were of exactly this nature. What really surprised me was the vehemence and vitriol in the attacks. In one case, the person was told to leave the country if they wanted to make arguments supported by faith – to move a a theocratic state. In the other, it was far more vicious. When the arguer was called a moron – that was mild. It culminated with saying that the arguer was being punished by their god when they had experienced a specific tragedy in their life because they had faith.
(In the second case, the person was making a controversial point on Facebook on another person’s wall. I think getting an attack should be expected, but both the hatred evident in the attacks and a complete unwillingness the have any civil discourse at all surprised me.)
The third item prompting this is comments that the Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith made yesterday in support of a pastoral letter from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. From the letter:
““Legitimate secularity draws a distinction between religion and politics, between Church and state,” the pastoral letter states, but is open to the engagement of religious beliefs and faith communities in public debate and civic life. “Radical secularism”, however, excludes religion from the public square “and from freely engaging in the public debate necessary for shaping civic life.”
I always like to include people who can state heir ideas more clearly than I at the end of any post.
So – good luck to you all. Hopefully we can all make reasonable arguments based on faith if required.