Tuesday, November 16

On Faith and Government

Over on Joe Carter's site several times now, the subject of faith and government has come up in the comment threads. One of the bones of contentions of the secular individuals posting comments is that "faith-based" arguments should be used by our legislators when they are at their business, i.e., lawmaking. Now I claim this argument has several fallacies.

The first fallacy is that, how do we decide if an ethical argument is based on "faith". It would seem obvious to me, that all systems of ethics at the root are based in faith. Let's face it any system requires assumptions. Those assumptions are taken on faith. Just because one persons assumptions are derived in the Torah, the Gospels, or in the Ramayana/Bhagavad Gita, doesn't make those assumptions different in principle from those written down by Rousseau, Kant, or Sartre. To argue that ethical assumptions/arguments from anything resembling one of the great religions smacks (to me) of just as religious a principle as requiring it.

The second fallacy is assuming the best strategy for a religious legislator is to argue based on his faith. He may refer to it, to indicate to those who share his beliefs where he is coming from, but to get a plurality he must convince the rest of those who don't share his beliefs. If they are largely secular, in order to convince them, his arguments must be couched in a secular fashion in order to persuade. Likewise, the secular legislator may refer briefly about the secular origin's of an argument, but in order to persuade the religious "opposition", religious arguments would seem more persuasive to the religious person.

Thus we are struck with the seeming paradox in that the religious legislator will be led in the main part to argue in a secular fashion and the secular legislator just the reverse.