Tom Gilson

The Public/Private Distinction and the Doofuses

Stanley Fish wrote a profound piece for the NY Times’ Opinionator Blog last Monday, “Are There Secular Reasons?” He’s addressing the Classic Liberal doctrine that public policy should always be decided on the basis of secular reasons, not religious ones; and in the end, he doubts there are any actually secular reasons. I read his article a couple days ago with the sort of disappointment only a blogger could know: he had said it so well, I couldn’t think of anything to add.

In terms of cultural proportionality, Fish’s piece is considerably more important than what I’m writing here. (Use your time wisely: read his article first.) He is speaking of a widespread social phenomenon; my topic relates to a small but terribly vocal minority.

One member of that minority is Jerry Coyne. Coyne is a professor of biology at the University of Chicago who has complained loudly about Francis Collins being selected as the head of the National Institutes of Health. Why the complaint? It’s not because Collins lacks scientific credentials; first a physician, later he was head of the Human Genome Project. No, it’s because Collins believes in Jesus Christ, Never mind his having headed up one of the most complex and significant scientific projects of the past two decades—Craig Venter notwithstanding—if he’s a Christian, he must be a blithering idiot.

It was David Heddle who reminded me of Coyne this week by drawing attention to his further complaints. Coyne said this week that Collins’s Christianity disqualifies him:

Collins gets away with this kind of stuff only because, in America, Christianity is a socially sanctioned superstition. He’s the chief government scientist, but he won’t stop conflating science and faith. He had his chance, and he blew it. He should step down.

David dealt with Coyne nicely enough; I don’t need to add to his piece, either.

Recall now that Fish was talking about whether religion ought to be allowed into public discourse. He cites two forms the objection against it takes:

A somewhat less stringent version of the argument permits religious reasons to be voiced in contexts of public decision-making so long as they have a secular counterpart: thus, citing the prohibition against stealing in the Ten Commandments is all right because there is a secular version of the prohibition rooted in the law of property rights rather than in a biblical command. In a more severe version of the argument, on the other hand, you are not supposed even to have religious thoughts when reflecting on the wisdom or folly of a piece of policy. Not only should you act secularly when you enter the public sphere; you should also think secularly.

Whether the argument appears in its softer or harder versions, behind it is a form of intellectual/political apartheid known as the private/public distinction: matters that pertain to the spirit and to salvation are the province of religion and are to be settled by religious reasons; matters that pertain to the good order and prosperity of civil society are the province of democratically elected representatives and are to be settled by secular reasons.

This “intellectual/political apartheid,” this “private/public distinction” is a real phenomenon. Francis Schaeffer was the first I know of to write on it; more recently there has been Nancy Pearcey. I don’t disagree with it. But it is no longer true, as it once may have been, that it is the one factor behind attempts to eject religion from the public square. The New Atheist line (and there are other examples) says those who believe in religion have committed intellectual suicide. Only secular rationalists are smart enough to lead.

The public/private distinction is powerful in our culture. It’s the way Western religion-deniers try to push faith underground. It’s not the only force in the debate any more, though. There’s a new prejudice out there gaining voice along with it: religious people are doofuses and on that basis alone, they shouldn’t be allowed to lead.

Coyne doesn’t propose a religious litmus test for public office. He knows that would be unconstitutional. Well, good for him. All he’s saying is that religious people, just because they are believers in God, are therefore too stupid to hold certain offices. That’s not as bad, is it?

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38 thoughts on “The Public/Private Distinction and the Doofuses

  1. An important issue Tom. Attempts to impose a wall of separation between decisions linked to faith based values and “secular” decisions are attempts to control policy outcomes by excluding certain thoughts and values a priori. Not only is this antithetical to the practice of one’s Christian faith, it is antithetical to American core values of liberty and freedom of thought and expression.

  2. Hello,

    One issue I took with the Fish article is his view of what a “secular reason” might be. I’m not sure he ever defines it nicely, but I could be wrong. Since the article suggests that there really aren’t such things as secular reasons, perhaps he doesn’t try.

    However, as I understand secular reasons, I think of those things we (whatever group) share, either emotional, factual, argumentative, symbolically, etc. If we have to find a solution y to decision x, we can’t appeal to aspects we don’t all share to make that decision (well we could, but I’m not sure we usually should). Instead, we try to relate and even sometimes translate to come to some consensus about what should be done about decision x. Maybe that means appealing to the general religious nature in all of us (eg memes are very much like demons/angels) or appealing to an agreed upon fact of the matter (Collins has an amazing track record). Maybe that means discussing our Christian beliefs in the public sphere, but understanding that others don’t have those beliefs, so we can’t use them as a sure-fire reason for decision x, thus keeping them, in some sense, as private beliefs.

    I agree totally on Coyne though. He must have missed the data that atheists are one of the highest statistical groups to practice scapegoating (atran presents it in 2008). He also fails to understand that his atheism is not a default position in any sophisticated sense (humans as hardwired for religion). If anything, he cannot use his atheism as a secular reason, because it’s not a shared public value.

    I agree with Fish that the public/private distinction is often used to try to drive certain views out of the public sphere and that really private values effect public ones, but I don’t think we need to discard the distinction between public and private, but merely just imagine a public sphere where people can express their privately held values while we make decisions based on what we all publicly share.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Hank. I think he did define secular reasons, and he illustrated them too:

    …reasons that, because they do not reflect the commitments or agendas of any religion, morality or ideology, can be accepted as reasons by all citizens no matter what their individual beliefs and affiliations. So it’s O.K. to argue that a proposed piece of legislation will benefit the economy, or improve the nation’s health, or strengthen national security; but it’s not O.K. to argue that a proposed piece of legislation should be passed because it comports with a verse from the book of Genesis or corresponds to the will of God.

    His definition and yours are quite similar.

    It’s a thorny matter to try to keep all decision-making on the level we can all publicly share. Consider the question of divorce law, for example, which has come back in the news again. How do we decide questions like this on a fully shared public basis? We would have to agree on what marriage is and what it is for. I believe marriage is a covenant relationship before God, for the purpose of expressing God’s nature in the most intimate of relationships and building the next generation. Other people think marriage is for the purpose of personal satisfaction and fulfillment. (Actually I think marriage according to the definition I gave actually is the most satisfying and fulfilling, but that’s not its chief aim; its chief aim is toward others, not self.)

    My view on divorce law will certainly differ from that other person’s view. I could extend this illustration to other issues, from environmental policy to welfare to same-sex unions to issues of personal liberty. Take the last of these. Liberty is wrapped up in the question, to whom does the individual owe primary allegiance: self, family, state, or God? Can we agree on that answer publicly, by secular reasons? It’s not obvious to me how we could do that. What about the issue we most obviously all seem to agree on, murder? There are major differences among us—deep worldview-level differences—even on that. Is abortion murder? How about euthanasia? What about capital punishment?

    As a Christian with a set of considered views on questions like these, I recognize others’ disagreement with me, and I respect them regardless. The genius of Western democracy has been that it has enabled us to make decisions even though there is little or nothing that we all publicly share. So far, anyway, it has worked.

  4. Thanks for the reply, Tom. I had forgotten that Fish does give a quick definition; I had forgotten that he had because it seems as if he provides it so quickly and dismissively, and if I remember correctly, without exploring any possibility of error in his reading.

    Whereas you think he and I are saying the same thing, I don’t know that we are. Fish seems to be saying that there are no public reasons free of some religious or ideological touch. I am saying that that my understanding and definition of secular reasons is not that there are any reasons outside of ideology. My position is that secular reasons are those values, symbols, arguments, etc that we share, whether they come from religion x or religion y, ideology x or ideology y. These reasons are not free of any religious beliefs on any side, but are secular reasons because they are a possible point to begin dialogue, understanding, and decision-making; they are not overtly religious and don’t necessarily belong to any specific religion alone.

    You make a good point that issues are often complicated, but there shouldn’t be any issue here anymore than there is any issue in any complicated situation human beings are faced with, ie communication is hard work and develops as an organic process.

    A trivial hypothetical example that we would take for granted: You are an Christian and I am an atheist. As we are walking down the street, we decide we are going to get some lunch, because we are both mutually hungry. We begin trying to figure out, as friends, where we should go. You suggest a steak house, but I mention that I’m a vegetarian because of my atheism. You chuckle at the perceived irony, but ask if I’ve ever tried the Indian place around the corner. It turns out I haven’t, but would love to try it if you’ve had it and found it pretty good. We agree to go to the Indian place, despite our ideological commitments and despite the fact that I haven’t been there but you have (I trust you because we share gestural overlap that signals to me that you’re a nice guy that doesn’t wish me harm). We’ve come to a decision based on some shared values.

  5. Hank,

    Trying to reach decisions based on “shared values” is, of course, a noble goal and where we would all like to be. However, in this context that begs the real question. It begs the question because it ignores the lie and an intellectual failure that is the private/public distinction. Those that claim to base their beliefs on “secular reasons” as are simply being dishonest. They not only base their beliefs on a particular worldview like everyone else but as Fish brilliantly points out, a worldview incapable of informing the very beliefs they supposedly hold. This has been a tactic of, as Fish puts it, “Classical Liberalism’s” effort to discredit and suppress the anyone who has different beliefs than they do .

    The solution is, and Fish certainly succeeds in this effort, to expose this empty rhetoric and again level the playing field for all points of view. Our shared values come when all points of view are heard. The private/public distinction seeks to dismiss the ideas informed by a worldview shared by the majority of our nation and silence anyone who doesn’t share the worldview of those that propose it. It is a classic example of Classical Liberalism’s underlying desire to limit freedom of speech. In fact, it goes beyond that as Coyne’s comments demonstrate. In what can only be described as an Orwellian nightmare, Coyne suggests that people should be disqualified from public jobs based on their beliefs. The thought police are unfortunately never very far away.

  6. Great find, ‘take’ and discussion, Tom! Hank gets to the nub of it, IMHO, by focusing on Fish’s definition. As much as I liked Fish’s article however, it “smuggles” some assumptions that we must not accept lightly:

    “…because they do not reflect the commitments or agendas of any religion, morality or ideology, can be accepted as reasons by all citizens no matter what their individual beliefs and affiliations.”

    I don’t know of a single thing (including the nature of reality itself) that can be accepted by ALL citizens NO MATTER WHAT. (I have spent time in conversation with a well-meaning but mentally disturbed woman at my old church; one quickly sees that this is not an exaggeration! The fact that we know Satan sows seeds of deceit far and wide should give us pause in even beginning to pine after this illusion of Godless consensus.)

    Yet if one backs down from the superlative, it opens up room for someone (unnamed) to decide unilaterally what position constitutes reasonableness on this point. What subset of “not quite all” is OK? Does conformity to social norms define it? Then we’re into relativism.

    Also, why accept the “because”? Since when does non-adherence to various types of “religion, morality and ideology” get us to agreement? It is a modern illusion (albeit a powerful one) that there is some common ground that is not grounded in ultimate truth. (And since we KNOW without wavering — or at least we should — where ultimate truth is grounded (i.e., in Christ), the whole discussion goes round and round from there with no end-point but capitulation to un-truth, which, not to put too fine a point on it, is by definition antichrist.

    In other words, if we accept someone’s definition of what does and does not fall properly into those categories, then we’re into just as much of a relativistic tussle over those things as well.

    Further, it seems to me that we lose even more ground if we accept the label “religion” for the sake of common discourse or congeniality with our non-believing neighbors. (In fact, the experience of the apostles would suggest that we’re probably on more solid ground if folks are looking at us like we’re nuts and wishing to dismiss us on precisely a key point like this.)

    Not to rely over-much on the cliche that to have Christ is to be in relationship with him, but it’s true! We know he is LIVING — in us, in his word, from heaven, etc.

    Thus this as much an issue of free association as of any more theoretical notion of the distinction between religious and secular. Who’s to tell me I cannot befriend (and be befriended by) the the Word Made Flesh and invite him wholly into my thinking on all manner of issues in the public sphere?

    I’ve been accused before of being impractical, but in this search for common ground, I see little but danger at losing our saltiness in an effort to get along with a world that is searching for something we know doesn’t exist: “truth” without Christ.

  7. Tom:

    All [Coyne]’s saying is that religious people, just because they are believers in God, are therefore too stupid to hold certain offices.

    Jerry Coyne isn’t saying this, at least in the articles you link to. There’s a difference between criticizing an argument or belief, and attacking the intellectual abilities of the person holding or espousing the argument or belief. I don’t see him doing the latter at all. What he’s saying is that using a public office to promote faith is wrong (which has some relevance to the Stanley Fish piece).

    Yes, there are atheists who make personal attacks and denigrate the intellectual ability of religious persons, but they’re wrong to do so. Harris and PZ Myers in articles mentioned above point out that it is entirely possible to be very smart, and a competent scientist, and be very wrong.

    (While PZ Myers calls Francis Collins a “Doofus For the Lord”, he earlier calls him “a very smart, very disciplined, very hardworking man”, so its not clear that even PZ Myers has any problems with Collins’ intellectual ability. Harris accuses him of “intellectual suicide” which is consistent with his belief that Collins’ has abandoned the use of his intellect when it comes to his religious views, but that says nothing about Collins’ overall ability.)

    Intelligence is no guarantee of true beliefs. Smart people can easily find clever ways to bolster a poor argument. The only way to find truth, I think, is to search diligently while having no prior stake in the answer…. that’s not easy.

  8. Dawkins, for one, thinks that, as evidenced by his religious beliefs, Francis Collins is “not a bright guy”.

  9. Nice display of Starbuck’s civility, professor Olegt.
    But it’s not a quote mine, Olegt. It is exactly what it appears to be. Thanks for the video. I presume it is from the Bill Maher show where Richard Dawkins revised his soft support for Collins’ intelligence when he found out about his religious beliefs and said that Collins is not bright?

  10. Sure, you had the right clip.
    Bill Maher:
    He’s a bright guy.
    Well … yeah … I guess he’s a bright guy.

    I don’t think you’ll find he believes in the talking snake.

    I interviewed him and he absolutely does.
    He does? Well look, in that case he goes right down in my estimation; he’s not a bright guy.

    Thanks again Olegt .

  11. You’re welcome, guys. Here is Richard Dawkins after the interview:

    Now, Francis Collins is a very nice man, he doesn’t SEEM stupid, and I think Bill Maher was mistaken when he told me, on television, that Collins believes in a talking snake. But he presumably believes the things his Biologos Foundation advocates, for example the view that God causes miracles to happen (illustrated with a picture of Jesus walking on water). Can somebody who holds such anti-scientific and downright silly beliefs really be qualified to run the NIH? Isn’t he disqualified, not by whether or not he leaves his beliefs outside the laboratory and the committee room, but by the very fact that he is capable of holding such beliefs at all?

    So no, I don’t think Dawkins considers Collins “not a bright guy.”

  12. Are you sure? Have you left something out then? It sure looks from your quote like he wasn’t lying when he said on air that he thinks Francis Collins is not a bright guy.
    What, exactly, in your quote is intended to argue against his first statement? “Silly”? “Unscientific”?
    In fact, if Bill Maher is right about the religious beliefs of Francis Collins then it seems that Dawkins would say that, contra appearances, he is stupid … by the “very fact that he is capable of holding such beliefs at all”.

    When you violate rules of civility and charge dishonesty you must be better able than this to defend your claims. No?

  13. Wow! That couldn’t be sweeter. It turns out Olegt did leave something out from the quote he provided.

    I know we are all supposed to say it doesn’t matter how ridiculous somebody’s beliefs are, so long as he leaves them at home and doesn’t thrust them on other people. This is often said of teachers. For example, it doesn’t matter if the science teacher believes the world is 6,000 years old, so long as he tells the children the scientific estimate is 4.6 billion. But I can never be quite happy with this. Surely the fact that somebody believes really dopey things tells you he isn’t INTELLIGENT enough to teach, even if he keeps his stupid beliefs out of the classroom.

    Now, Francis Collins is a very nice man, he doesn’t SEEM stupid, and I think Bill Maher was mistaken when he told me, on television, that Collins believes in a talking snake. But he presumably believes the things his Biologos Foundation advocates, for example the view that God causes miracles to happen (illustrated with a picture of Jesus walking on water). Can somebody who holds such anti-scientific and downright silly beliefs really be qualified to run the NIH? Isn’t he disqualified, not by whether or not he leaves his beliefs outside the laboratory and the committee room, but by the very fact that he is capable of holding such beliefs at all?

    So, if Maher is right about the interview he did with Collins, if he isn’t lying, then Dawkins, indeed, thinks that, based upon his religious beliefs, he is not a bright guy.
    In fact, just holding those beliefs, no matter what other qualifications a person has would mean someone was not even intelligent enough to teach.

    Do check the rest of the comments there as they are pertinent, as is Dawkins’ own, to Tom’s OP.
    Thanks again, Olegt.

  14. Charlie, I’m sure you can put two and two together, you’re just unwilling to.

    In the interview with Maher, Dawkins clearly said that he considered Collins a bright guy because Collins wasn’t the type to believe in the literal interpretations of the Genesis. To which Maher retorted that Collins was, in fact, a believer in the talking snake. “In that case,” Dawkins said, “he’s not a bright guy.”

    In his later comment, Dawkins made it clear that, in his view, Maher had misled him about Collins’s belief in the talking snake. To me that suggests that Dawkins doesn’t view Collins as a fundy.

  15. Charlie, you’re a genius of quote mines! In the first paragraph of his comment, Dawkins isn’t talking about Collins, he is talking about a hypothetical science teacher who is a YEC.

  16. Yes Olegt, even us non-physics professors can sum to 4.

    Dawkins clearly said that if Collins believed in some kind of vague notion of God, if he didn’t really take Genesis literally, then he could still qualify as “a bright guy … I guess”.
    When he found out that Collins does believe in Genesis he said, based upon this religious bleief, that Collins is not a bright guy.
    He clarifies in your quote that, no matter what else seems apparent, a person capable of holding such religious beliefs is not intelligent.

    It all adds up nicely.

  17. Another charge of my lying. Keep on giving, Olegt.
    Yes, I’m sure when I provided the entire quote I was quote-mining.
    Anyone can see that Dawkins is saying that someone who holds silly, ridiculous, unscientific, dopey religious views (like believing in the talking snake) is not INTELLIGENT enough even to teach – let alone be appointed to head the NIH.

    Maybe you’ll do better after a coffee?

  18. Yeah, Charlie, math is tough.

    Yes, Dawkins thinks anyone who believes in the talking snake is dopey. But no, Dawkins does not think that Francis Collins believes in the talking snake.

    Does that make sense?

  19. Sometimes Dawkins thinks that and sometimes he doesn’t. When he thinks Collins shares the religious belief that Adam and Eve were tempted by the Serpent then he thinks that, contrary all appearances, Collins is stupid, not bright and not intelligent – regardless of all else.

  20. Charlie,

    It seems to me that Dawkins follows the logic expressed by John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

  21. The facts never changed, though, did they? Dawkins can’t believe a real scientist, even one he barely concedes he guesses is a bright guy, can believe in more than some vague notion of God, and maybe even in Jesus. When he thought Collins believed more he thought Collins was not smart.
    Of course, it is hard for Dawkins to accept this, so he still thinks that Collins might not hold a religious view that makes him too stupid even to teach. If it turns out Bill Maher was not lying to Dawkins, then Dawkins still thinks that Collins not a bright guy.
    If his own prejudices are right, then Collins is still sort of bright. Do you know if Dawkins has the facts on this?

  22. Charlie wrote:

    The facts never changed, though, did they?

    Of course they did. Maher said, matter-of-factly, “I interviewed him and he absolutely does” believe in the talking snake.

  23. So either he shared a fact or he lied. The facts didn’t change. Neither did Dawkins prejudice – if you hold certain religious views, no matter your other qualifications, you are stupid- even if you don’t seem to be.

  24. Well, Olegt, I have to go Bible study now, so I must leave you to finish your Grande Mocha by yourself.
    Your company has been delightful.

  25. Whatever, Charlie. Dawkins had reasons to believe that the facts had changed, so his opinion of Collins changed accordingly. When he realized that Maher had misled him, Dawkins had the reason to change his view once again.

    This looks to me like a reasonable reaction of a person with firm convictions.

  26. olegt,

    In the interview with Maher, Dawkins said that if Maher is right, and if Collins believes in the talking snake, then Collins is not a bright guy. Let’s work with that a moment, and then come back to your later point, in which you say that Dawkins probably doesn’t think Collins believes in the talking snake.

    Dawkins knows that Collins is a brilliant scientist and also an extremely capable leader of a major science project. But he has a litmus test for brightness. For some, their litmus test might be something like this: if a man can lead some regard as the most challenging and significant scientific project of at least a decade, then that qualifies as bright. But Dawkins has a different litmust test, one which overrides that one. His is that if a many believes in the Bible, he is not bright, even if he was the leader of such a challenging and significant scientific project.

    Apparently it’s possible, on this view, to be the leader of the Human Genome project and still be a dumb doofus. Dawkins may not have committed to that position, but in the Maher interview he was at least open to it. And I think that is an irrational, stupid position for him to have taken.

    But later he retracted somewhat. Note what he did not retract: he did not retract his opinion that if a person believes in the Bible, that person is not bright, even if that person was the leader of the Human Genome Project. He retracted instead his assent to Maher’s statement that Collins believes in the talking snake. Here you see cognitive dissonance in action:

    I know Collins is bright. Bright people don’t believe in talking snakes. Therefore I don’t believe Collins believes in the talking snake.

    To come to that conclusion he had to contradict the statement of the most recent recipient of the Dawkins Award. He had to contradict significant evidence, in other words. Because his mind isn’t large enough to hold the proposition that person A believes in religion along with the proposition that person A isn’t an idiot.

    And he goes on to come to the same conclusion anyway:

    Now, Francis Collins is a very nice man, he doesn’t SEEM stupid, [and by the way, I’m not a supercilious patronizing lout myself when it comes to offering my opinion on other world-class scientists] and I think Bill Maher was mistaken when he told me, on television, that Collins believes in a talking snake. But he presumably believes the things his Biologos Foundation advocates, for example the view that God causes miracles to happen (illustrated with a picture of Jesus walking on water). Can somebody who holds such anti-scientific and downright silly beliefs really be qualified to run the NIH? Isn’t he disqualified, not by whether or not he leaves his beliefs outside the laboratory and the committee room, but by the very fact that he is capable of holding such beliefs at all?

    Dawkins changes the subject from “talking snake” to “Jesus walking on water,” but comes to the same conclusion regardless. He doesn’t say in exactly these words that “Collins is not bright.” He just says that in spite of his having led one of the the most significant and challenging science projects in recent memory, he is obviously too stupid to lead scientists.

    Your insistence that Charlie is quote-mining, based on this hair’s-breadth fine point, is casuistic caviling and downright silly.

    Anyway, Dawkins is in no position himself to say that he never lets his beliefs on religion interfere with his science. He’s as doctrinaire in defiance of empirical facts as he could possibly be, when it suits his prejudices to be that way.

  27. I don’t wish to prolong this debate, Tom, but I think my point is valid: Dawkins’s view of Collins is a bit more nuanced than that sound byte seems to indicate.

  28. Thanks guys, the study was great.

    Thanks Tom, I knew 2+2=4 in some universe.

    Now, onto the rest of the Dawkins quote, which your latest comment reminded me of:

    But he presumably believes the things his Biologos Foundation advocates, for example the view that God causes miracles to happen (illustrated with a picture of Jesus walking on water). Can somebody who holds such anti-scientific and downright silly beliefs really be qualified to run the NIH? Isn’t he disqualified, not by whether or not he leaves his beliefs outside the laboratory and the committee room, but by the very fact that he is capable of holding such beliefs at all?

    So, even if Dawkins knows that Bill Maher is a liar, and doesn’t think that Collins believes in the talking snake, he still thinks Collins’ religious views disqualify him from his position by reflecting so poorly on his mental capabilities. Merely being able to believe in God’s miraculous power disqualifies Collins because it is so silly.
    Oh wait, yes, I know I’m quote mining – Dawkins was merely posing the question, ‘doesn’t that disqualify him?’

  29. Charlie and Tom:

    Olegt’s inability to carefully parse what’s going on in the Dawkins-Maher exchange is another in a long, long list of examples of the destructive meme atheism is. I hardly exaggerate: we are all sinners and hence our ability to do anything for which we were created is damaged–which includes damage to our ability to reason.

    (That’s not to say we are “totally depraved” in the univocal sense of the Calvinistic doctrine, which must be rejected on its face as anti-Scriptural… but I digress. I know I’m going to catch some flak for that, to which I won’t respond, but it has to do with the correct understanding of the Fall… and against which this blog is a beautiful witness.)

    The thing about atheism is its “double-whammy” effect upon reasoning, i.e., on the very nature of what we are–rational animals, if intentionally held, pursued, and propagated. It is no small matter to intentionally and consciously violate the First Commandment. It is not only to reject God, but it is to reject Him who created us as we are and hence to reject Logos as such, i.e., ultimately it is to reject reasoning as such.

    Atheism is ultimately dehumanizing by its rejection of the Creator–interestingly, anti-paralleling Christ’s admonition “what you have done to the least of these, you’ve done for me.” Atheism, in contrast, first begins in rejecting God, and then proceeds, following its disordered logic, to reduce and dehumanize persons… and history bears that out over and over and over again. Maher and Dawkins are merely playing out their roles–their hatred of the Light, of the Word… and ultimately of reasoning.

    You guys all sense on a deeper level what materialism, physicalism, naturalism, scientism, positivism are about: they’re not just flawed (meaning: disordered) reasoning–they are ultimately about rejecting reasoning as such. I don’t care which Christian philosopher or theologian one chooses: they all understand this point at some level. You guys all know C.S. Lewis’s take on this: simple, but not simple-minded–there is no way one can trust one’s reasoning if one’s reasoning is not reasoning in the first place.

    I shudder–literally–at the anti-human things things proposed by atheists, and this blog provides only one small cross-section of such darkness. So, should we be surprised when atheists continue to label ID as “creationism”–conveniently labeling that, ahem, reasoning and understanding–a thing so simple, and yet so difficult for those who reject reasoning as such? Should we be surprised at olegt’s “strange” attempt to respond to Charlie’s clear exposition? (If he can’t get this, how does he get more nuanced issues like pseudo-philosophical interpretations of the findings of physics?) Should we be surprised at Nick Matzke’s Aristophanes-syndrome? Should we be surprised by DL’s repugnant reduction of humans to “mechanical systems” or Paul’s reduction of love to “it’s all neurons, anyway”?

    While I mentioned partly in jest about a month ago, perhaps, Tom, you might start a series on the nature of atheism as a rejection of God and reasoning.

  30. Hi folks

    I’ve been building a web site and haven’t had the spare time to follow the discussions. This is completely off topic but I’m interested in feedback on the site. It’s for my church and it’s about ready for a public launch. I’m relatively pleased with the look, but I’m biased since I did the work. Evaluation from a disinterested party would be appreciated.


    BTW Dawkins’ version of a nuanced opinion is to us the “he doesn’t SEEM stupid” before he says “but he’s a flaming moron.” Dr. Dawkins dresses his vitriol in a laid back style and a plumby English public school accent, but he is as petty and vindictive as they come. How do you think he earned the title “Darwin’s Rotweiller”?

  31. Hi Charlie

    Thanks for the heads-up. I corrected it as soon as I read your post. And thanks for having a look at the site.

    That part is in its genetive stage, I hope to expand the text a bit, perhaps to a paragraph each accompanied by video of the that segment of the liturgy. It’s amazing how many people, including life-long Lutherans, have no comprehension of why the liturgy is structured the way it is. There is a lot of depth to a litugical Divine Service but if you don’t know what’s happening you might as well be listening to a foreign language.

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