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Elgin’s Books


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  • Archive for June, 2009

    The Defense of Marriage Part I

    Friday, June 26th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    As someone who taught critical thinking at university level to both students and teachers, I find few issues more lacking in critical thought than the debate over marriage.   As a strong supporter of the traditional view of marriage, it is no surprise that I would find the arguments of those who support nontraditional forms of marriage lacking, but I frequently find the arguments of supporters lacking as well.

    The reasons for this are many.  One, of course, is the generally low level of critical thinking found in society in general.  Despite the claims of academicians, people are not taught to think in most schools.  Rather than thinking for themselves, they are taught to accept what academics say, either directly, or in the modern equivalent of the Papal Bull, the scientific study.

    Another big source of confusion is the overlapping concerns of the state and religion. For many the institution of marriage is primarily a religious commitment, done in a church, with vows taken before God. Yet it is also licensed and controlled by the state.

    Finally, there is the fact that marriage has been so universally accepted and so ingrained into our society and culture that most have just taken it for granted. It is just what people do; with little thought as to why. 

    All of this combined leads to a great deal of confusion. So over the next few post I will try to clear up some of this confusion, and to outline some reasons why I support the traditional view of marriage and as a result oppose non-traditional forms such as same-sex marriage and polygamy.   This formulation is not accidental. In many respects, it is not so much that I oppose same-sex marriage and polygamy; rather it is that I support the traditional view of marriage, marriage between one man and one woman.

    So first, I will attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions that surround this issue. Then I will attempt to outline a case supporting the traditional view of marriage, finally I will attempt to answer some of the more common arguments used to support non-traditional forms of marriage.

     The first thing that I want to clear up is the confusion caused by the overlapping of government and religion on this issue.   There is little question that both are involved in marriage and have been for quite some time. Within the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, marriage has always had religious overtones.  Despite the claims of a few, marriage is between a man and woman, the model being the established with the first couple: Adam and Eve. (Genesis 2:18-25)

    For the most part, government’s role in marriage has been at best secondary and at times non-existent.  Why should there be otherwise?  Marriage was maintained by the church; enforced by the standards of the community as a whole.  When communities were small and closely knit, where everyone knew everyone else, there was little role for government to play.

    This began to change in the 18th century, one notable example being the Marriage Act of 1753 in England, which was a huge movement of the government into area of marriage.  The industrial Revolutions brought about not only great improvements in the standard of living, but also great disruptions in the culture. While the exact causes are disputed, illegitimacy skyrocketed. There was also a growing awareness of the period of childhood as a time in which children learn and are prepared to become adults.

    Few would question that governments have a legitimate interest in preserving their existence, and part of this is the development of the next generation of citizens. This is the justification for the existence of public schools.  Likewise, government has an interest in ensuring that children are raised in the best environment and this is the main justification for government entering into the realm of marriage. 

    Remove this interest and you remove the main reason for government regulating marriage at all. The other major issue would be property rights, but if viewed as an issue of property, there is little to marriage, at least from a government perspective, than any other contract and thus little reason for government involvement.  In fact as far as property, government marriage laws are already inadequate as is demonstrated by the increasing use of pre-nuptial  agreements.

    Despite the key role of religion, the current debate over marriage is not a religious debate. Frankly, from a religion point of view, there are religious groups that do permit polygamy and same-sex marriage, and such marriage can be, have been, and are being done.  There is, and should be, nothing illegal about this.  What these marriages do not have is the sanction, and recognition of the government.

    As such, what is really at issue here is state sanctioned of marriage, not the religious definition of marriage.   Since this is an act of government, it is by definition a public act and not just a matter between those involved in the marriage.   To request the sanction of the government is by definition to make it a public issue, and not just a private matter.

    So, even though there is a strong religion component to marriage, in the remaining parts I will restrict my arguments to what is really in dispute, the government role in marriage.  Because of this, I will not post the remaining parts of this discussion on my religious blog.  Those who are reading this on consider.org will need to go to my general blog (www.hushbeck.com/blog ) to read the remaining posts.

    A Double Blind Faith

    Friday, June 5th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    There is an interesting paradox with many atheists, particularly the neo-atheists.  They frequently see themselves as valiant warriors defending reason against the darkness of faith, which for them is little more than superstition.  For them believing in the events of the first Easter is little better than believing in the Easter Bunny. 

    As I demonstrated with my reviews of the books of Hitchens, Harris  and Dawkins, nothing is further from the truth.  In fact, many of the atheist’s claims have little more than a façade of rationality.  They may seem rational at first glance, but any serious examination quickly reveals significant problems.  Take for example the common atheist claim that there is no evidence to support the existence of God; a bold claim, particularly given that it is entirely false. 

    For just one example, the scientific evidence today is clear that the entire universe, the natural world as we know it, had a beginning.  Either it came from something, or it came from nothing.  But the idea of something coming from nothing is akin to magic, and is not rational.  If you say it came from something then this is evidence for the existence of God (i.e., some entity beyond the natural world powerful enough to create all of reality, as we know it.)

    In this case the atheist is somewhat like the little boy caught with candy they are not suppose to have in their pockets.  Which is the more rational answer: A) the boy took it against his parent wishes, or B) it just appeared out of nothing in their pocket?   Likewise, which is the more rational answer: A) the universe was created by something; B) the universe just appeared out of nothing?  In this case, the theist only has to argue that they do not believe something came from nothing. 

    Now the atheist here has several possible counters, but since the claim we are looking at is that there is no evidence to support the existence of God, they have a real problem.  They must not only argue that something from nothing is the best answer, this claim depends on it being the only rational answer, something that is clearly absurd. 

    When confronted with this absurdity, most atheists I have talked to counter with some variation of the argument that since this does not prove God exists, it is not evidence that he exists.  This is an extremely anti-intellectual claim, which if the atheist applied universally would mean that we could know very little.   

    Most of what we know, or think we know is built up on a whole range of pieces of evidence, both pro and con, where we, at least in theory, make the best choice we can based on the evidence we have.  Yet the atheist’s claim is that any piece of evidence that does not constitute proof is to be ignored, for only in this way can their claim that there is no evidence to support the existence of God be maintained.  Since their approach to the evidence for God would be so devastating to knowledge in other areas it is only applied here, and thus results in special pleading, which is yet another irrationality.

    This brings us back to the initial question of why is it that the atheist’s defense of reason is so fundamentally irrational.  I believe the core of the problem is that there is an inherent contradiction in atheism and in agnosticism as well.   Both are grounded in an attempt to reject all forms of dogmatism, to reject anything that depends on faith, and to rely only on reason and evidence.  In many respects, this is a noble goal and when it emerged from the unscientific and superstitious past, it quickly brought great rewards. 

    Where atheists and agnostics go wrong is that they attempt to apply this universally, and therein lies the contradiction.  All worldviews are, by their very nature, and the nature of reality, to some extent based on faith, and thus all have some aspects of dogmatism.  In short, what atheists have done is accept a worldview that rejects all worldviews. 

    They frequently try to dance around this difficulty by claiming that theirs is the starting point, or in some way the default position.  This shows up in there constant insistence that they do not have to demonstrate anything.  The burden of proof is on everyone else; their views just are. 

    Atheists cannot just accept the reality that they also have a worldview without a major rethinking of atheism.  In addition, as with the example above, once the atheistic worldview is acknowledge and compared alongside with all other worldviews, atheists do not always do so well.  They can continue to deny it, but ultimately this becomes little more than a dogmatic insistence that they are not dogmatic.

    So the atheist paradox is grounded in the core irrationality that atheism is a worldview that attacks all worldviews.  Like everyone else, atheists have faith in the fundamental beliefs that make up their worldview.  Not only is it a blind faith, in many respect it is a double blind faith, as they cannot even see, and in fact strongly deny, what they are actually doing.   

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.