Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Re: "Taking Theology Seriously" [SK]

Ed Feser from How to Mix religion and Politics:
It is true, of course, that there are many philosophers who do not accept the arguments [for rational theism] described above. So what? What that shows is that arguments for the existence of God are no different from every other argument in philosophy, including arguments for atheism, or arguments for abortion and same-sex marriage for that matter: they are controversial, matters about which intelligent people can and do disagree. Do secularists demand that those in favor of legalized abortion and same-sex marriage refrain from advocating their positions in the public square simply because their arguments are nowhere near universally accepted? Of course not, nor should they. So why do they demand that religion and politics be separated not just in the constitutional sense that no one ought to be forced to belong to a particular denomination or to accept a particular creed, but also in the stronger sense that religious considerations, however well supported by rational arguments, ought to get no hearing in the public square and have no influence on public policy? Why the constant harping on about the separation of church and state, but not, say, the separation of naturalistic metaphysics and state, the separation of feminist theory and state, or the separation of Rawlsian liberalism and state?

There is a peculiar tendency for contemporary intellectuals to apply to arguments for theism a standard they do not apply to other controversial arguments. This is, I am sorry to say, no less true of philosophers (at least if they are not specialists in the philosophy of religion) than it is of other intellectuals. A secularist can argue for the most offensive and intuitively preposterous conclusions -- that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with bestiality, necrophilia, or infanticide, say, as Peter Singer suggests -- and even philosophers who disagree with those conclusions are prepared to treat them with the very greatest seriousness, insisting that such views must, however prima facie implausible, at least get a respectful hearing. This attitude is, more defensibly (and in my view entirely appropriately), even more common where less inflammatory topics are concerned -- the nature of causation, say, or of knowledge, mathematical truth, the relationship between mind and body, and countless other well-known objects of philosophical inquiry. In every other area of controversy, virtually no argument is ever considered decisively refuted: the common attitude is that there is always some way a defender of a particular position might reply to the standard objections, so that the position must be considered still on the table. Yet the classical arguments for the existence of God are, almost alone among philosophical arguments, commonly held (again, at least by philosophers who do not specialize in the philosophy of religion) somehow to have been decisively refuted long ago.
Feser has lots to say about alleged liberal neutrality, all of it worth reading:

1. The Metaphysics of Conservatism
2. On Legislating Morality: The Anti-Conservative Philosophy
3. The Trouble with Libertarianism
4. The Myth of Libertarian Neutrality
5. How to Mix Religion and Politics
6. Contract Schmontract
7. Liberal Neutrality: So-Called
8. Libertarianism and Moral Neutrality Part II

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