Sunday, November 01, 2009
The epistemological problems generated by supernatural theism necessitate the faith commitments required of believers. The insufficiency of human cognitive faculties for knowing the supernatural demands willful assent without conclusive evidence—faith—from those who seek temporal meaning in a transcendent reality. The significance of such commitment lies in the sustained effort it requires and the hoped-for recompense that believers see as its culmination. The U.S. Constitution was written to safeguard such commitment against government interference. However, it was also intended to insulate public policy from religious influence given the social tension—sometimes conflict—that results from the inability of believers to resolve disputes over doctrines that some of them would force upon others. The fundamental cause of such disputes is the lack of both a methodology and a epistemology that would enable believers not only to demonstrate to other knowers the existence of the supernatural object of their commitment, but also to reach consensus among themselves concerning the doctrinal corollaries of their belief.
ID raises the same questions as supernatural theism in general: if a supernatural creator exists, how can one know this, and how can one demonstrate one's knowledge to others? Further, how can the doctrines comprising different religious traditions be evaluated in order to determine which, if any, are correct? These issues remain unresolved because there is no way to address questions arising from beliefs that cannot be buttressed by common cognitive access to the object of belief. Consequently, the epistemological problems underlying supernatural religion have historically found and still find expression in social animosity and civil conflict. The potential for such conflict explains why the nation's founders formally—and intentionally—separated church and state in the First Amendment to the Constitution. James Madison warned that "every [legislative] provision for [the rights of conscience] short of this principle [of religious liberty], will be found to leave crevices at least thro' which bigotry may introduce persecution."
- Barbara Forrest, The non-epistemology of intelligent design: its implications for public policy, Synthese (2009)
To me, this suggests that basic religious freedoms and the secularization of governments can be promoted by other means. It suggest that worship of the American Constitution may be somewhat misplaced.
John, do you think that the Constitution of the USA is keeping religion out of politics? Or does it just do the simple job of preventing the establishments of a particular religion as the state religion?
Also, the US doesn't have a separation clause in the constitution, it has an establishment clause, which is why it doesn't keep religion out politics, though it does keep it out of government (when properly enforced).
The Constitution is not intended to keep religion out of politics.
I understand that part. *My* goal, and the goal of many people in other countries, is to keep religion out of politics. Countries should not be making laws based on the religious beliefs of politicians.
Even if you don't share that goal, you have to admit that even the limited goal of keeping government from supporting religion is proving difficult to achieve. There are clear examples of violations of the Constitution in the USA that you don't see in other countries, in spite of the fact those other countries don't have this constitutional "protection."
In America, for example, there are repeated attempts by state legislatures and local boards of education to teach creationism in the public schools. The American Constitution isn't stopping those attempts although it may be used to prevent their implementation.
The question is: why do those attempts persist in the USA but not in other countries? You would think that a nation where there's a constitutional prohibition against establishing a state religion would never see examples of politicians who try to violate the constitution.
What countries are you talking about? It seems to me that the reason some countries don't have a lot of religion in their politics is that they don't have a lot of religion, period.
You would think that a nation where there's a constitutional prohibition against establishing a state religion would never see examples of politicians who try to violate the constitution.
This is a little like arguing that there's something wrong with the doctor because there are so many sick people in the waiting room.
In the US we have the best of both worlds: free speech, allowing critics of religion to argue (and maybe even persuade) that religion should not inform politics; and, religious freedom, allowing the free expression of one's religious (or secular) views whether in the political arena or elsewhere, so long is it it is not sponsored by the state, without fear of suppression.
What are you proposing in the stead of the establishment clause? If a politician wants to run on a platform inspired by a religious ideology, do you want to be able to legally be able to compel him or her not to?
What law stops attempts to violate it? Does a law against murder stop all murders? Would we be better off without laws against murder? The point is to deter some murders that might otherwise occur (and I can give a number of cases where creationism was deterred from being put in public school curricula) and to punish those who have committed the crime (ala the $1 million the Dover School District paid).
The question is: why do those attempts persist in the USA but not in other countries?
Chris is right. The US is the most religious of the developed nations and that is almost certainly because of the freedom of religion and separation of church and state. You may view that as a bad result but what is your solution? To pay taxes to the Catholic Church the way you do? Nobody promised that political freedom was going to result in a society that matches our personal preferences ... and those "better" nations you keep mentioning may change in the future. Our Constitution is at least some protection against it changing too much or in too bad a way.