A Christian and a postmodernist discuss religious pluralism

I listened to this week’s episode of the the radio show “Unbelievable”, which is broadcast in the UK by Premier Christian radio. Justin Brierly, the host, moderated a dialog between author Joan Konner and Christian philosopher Peter S. Williams. Konner is the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, and is the author of “The Atheist’s Bible”. I enjoyed listening to Konner speak, and I admire her for coming on the show. I learned from this podcast that I need to work harder at being more tactful, and gentle with postmodernists. Brierly and Williams do a great job, and I hope that when you listen to the podcast, that you will learn something about how to handle similar challengers.

I thought that I would make a list of some of the points that postmodernists make, because I guarantee that you will have heard some these things before. Many people in our society are guided primarily by emotions, and intuition. For them, there is a tremendous insecurity about what they believe, and the differing beliefs of others makes them uncomfortable. They are upset by absolute claims of fact or morality, because they consider these claims to be exclusive, and judgmental. What upsets them the most is that other people seem to be certain about what they believe, and that these people vote for public policies on the basis of these beliefs. What we’ll see is that postmodernists do exactly what they condemn, namely, they exclude, they judge, and they support public policies that they agree with. These are general points, not specific to Konner.

First, postmodernists have view of faith that is a caricature of authentic Christian faith. Postmodernists think that faith is opposed to reason, and evidence. They believe this because they require that all religions are “equally valid”. It is not that postmodernists have evaluated the truth claims of different religions. It is they have decided in advance that thinking you’re right is mean, and makes people feel bad, and causes wars. Therefore, no faith can be right – all faith is irrational and unsupported. The fact that their own view is absolutist, and exclusive, goes unnoticed.

Second, postmodernists reject reason, science, and any other reality-based support for claims, because supported claims constrain their own subjective will. Postmodernists think that believer’s appeals to reason, and evidence, are coercive. This is because they desire complete autonomy to imagine the world based on their own emotions, and intuition. This is especially true for morality. Postmodernists believe that no one has a right to judge the moral practices of others. But, if you disagree with them on their non-judgmentalism, then you are morally wrong. Again, this is self-contradictory, but it goes unnoticed.

Third, postmodernists reinterpret the truth claims made by all religions as myths, (a la Joseph Campbell). That means that every factual claim made by every religion, past, present, future is factually false. No rational analysis or investigation is necessary. For example, if a religion claimed that universe began to exist, that would be a myth, according to postmodernists. Scientific confirmation from the big bang is irrelevant. No religion can enjoy support from reason or evidence, a priori. Emotional concerns about how exclusive truth claims make people in other religions feel bad is the deciding factor. Again, the claim that no one can make truth claims is self-refuting, because they believe that their claim is true.  They don’t notice the contradiction.

Fourth, for postmodernists, the purpose of religion cannot be to hold true beliefs about the external world. The purpose of religions must be to make people behave well, because then they are all equivalent, and no religion is excluded. It is irrelevant to a postmodern that Christians claim that their religion hinges on a historical event, (the resurrection), which either happened or didn’t. Postmodernists simply presume to tell religious people what their religion really says, and what it really means. Also, postmodernists believe that since all people can invent moral rules and goals for their lives out of thin air, that there is no need for God to ground them. What this means is that according to postmodernists, Stalin’s morality is as valid as William Wilberforce’s morality. Both have the exact same validity, namely, that they are “true” for the subject.

The postmodernism and moral relativism I discussed above also informs progressive thought, which is why progressives seem to always take the side of evil against the side of good. An amazing lecture given by Jewish comedian Evan Sayet at the Heritage Foundation is probably the best treatment of that point that you will ever see.

For further reading, check out this paper on Christian exclusivism, and this paper on the fate of the unevangelized. Both of them are by William Lane Craig. And remember, it is OK to think you are right, and to disagree with others. But God does not coerce, and neither should you. Share your beliefs, and your reasons, if someone asks you to share with them. The important thing is to appeal to reason and evidence, and to be civil and charitable. Disagree with the person’s ideas, but treat the person with respect.

Government-run health care is bad for patients and liberty

Proponents of government-run health care, (i.e. – socialists), want to redistribute wealth from producers to victims. Producers create wealth and victims engage in risky and/or immoral activities that are likely to require medical treatment. (I am concentrating on medical treatment for culpable activities here). Wealth redistribution reduces economic growth because producers stop producing while victims incur more costs, since they do not pay much for their treatment. Eventually, reduced economic growth leads to poor health care, as seen in socialist countries like North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, etc.

Socialists do not trust people to make their own health care decisions, and to deal with the consequences, (i.e. – liberty). In a socialized system, a producer might have his wealth redistributed to victims for services he would never need himself, because of his lifestyle decisions. He might even have his wealth redistributed to victims for services that he objects to on moral grounds, like abortions or sex-changes. He may pay into a mandatory government program for his entire life, without ever making a claim. If at the end of his life, he finally makes a claim, he may be told that he must get in line behind the government’s favored victims – victims who may not have even paid into the system. To see how this actually happens in Canada, watch these excellent 5-minute films from On the Fence Films: Two Women, A Short Course in Brain Surgery, The Lemon, and Dead Meat. Also see this Fraser Institute article.

Imagine how socialism would work if applied to a different business, like auto insurance. Everyone would have to carry mandatory auto insurance, whether they owned a vehicle or not. People would pay into the system based on earned income, not based on personal choices, desired coverages or risks. Different vehicles, driving infractions, vehicle usage, and other risk factors like age would be irrelevant to the price charged. Socialized auto insurance would just be a huge transfer of wealth from non-drivers and safe drivers to risky drivers. The socialist system of redistributing wealth to equalize health care outcomes, destroys productivity and personal responsibility. For further details, see this Heritage Foundation lecture transcript.

Socialized medicine involves price-fixing. The government is the single-payer, and set the prices that doctors can charge for services. Since doctors cannot make a fair profit practicing medicine, compared to other fields, we get fewer doctors. But since health care is “free” to victims, we get more risky and/or immoral behavior, and increased demand for medical care. Fewer doctors, and more victims results in a shortage of medical care, and waiting lists. Medical costs also increase because doctors often practice “defensive medicine” to avoid exposure to lawsuits from lawyers, worsening the shortage, (Investors Business Daily editorial, podcast). Another factor that increases medical costs is mandatory licensing, which forces hospitals to pay more for labor and supplies, (Cato Institute podcast). For further details, see this Cato Institute research paper.

Even if the socialist claims that he wants to set up a parallel system to compete alongside the private medical insurers, the government can easily engage in predatory pricing in order to drive out private businesses from the market. The government is far more able to price medical services lower than private alternatives, and run deficits, until their private rivals go out of business. The government does not have stock that private companies could short in order to prevent this predatory pricing. Monopolies are never good for the consumer, because consumers can’t shop around for the best deal. In a government system, you are forced to pay for services you don’t need. The government is already woefully mismanaging Medicare, and Medicaid, (Investors Business Daily editorial, podcast), do we really really want to give them the whole system to manage?

People need to be responsible for their lifestyle choices, and their medical bills. The free market approach preserves liberty, and economic growth. Medical providers have an incentive to lower costs and improve quality. Consumers keep their liberty by taking responsibility for managing their own risks and costs, (see Investors Business Daily editorial, podcast).

It is important to note that upholding traditional morality and traditional relationships, like marriage, helps to reduce medical costs. Government should therefore avoid assaulting religious beliefs, and moral values. An additional problem with socialized medicine is that Christian medical practitioners often have their religious liberty infringed by the government, (see examples here, and here).

These Cato Institute podcasts describe Obama’s medical policy proposal, (first, second). For more on Obama’s plan, see this Heritage Foundation research paper. For more about socialized health care in other countries, see this Cato Institute research paper. A recent debate on this topic, hosted by the left-wing National Public Radio is here. If you prefer books, there is David Gratzer’s book, Sally C. Pipes’ book, Arnold Kling’s book, and Michael F. Cannon and Michael D. Tanner’s book.

William Lane Craig debates on the Michael Coren show

If you’re looking for William Lane Craig‘s appearance on the Michael Coren show, I found them posted over in his Reasonable Faith forum.

Here are the links:

The show is posted in 5 parts. By the way, Bill Craig has published his latest newsletter with details of his January speaking tour in Ontario, Canada, eh? Don’t forget – Bill will be touring la belle Province (Quebec, Canada) this month.

Stephen Baskerville on Dennis Prager show today

I just received an e-mail from Stephen Baskerville, who is an expert on the effects on marriage and family caused by our divorce laws and divorce courts. He is scheduled to be on the Dennis Prager show today at 2:00 PM Eastern, 11:00 AM PST. (It was pushed back from 1:30 PM to 2:00 PM)
Here are some places where you can listen online:
Or you can try a radio guide here:

For more information about Stephen Baskerville, check out his cover story on marriage and divorce for Touchstone Magazine, here.

UPDATE:
Today’s show (02/06/09) is available here.
Baskerville’s previous appearance (12/19/2007) on the show is here.

BONUS:
An appearance on Milt Rosenberg’s Extension 720 is here.

Democrats vote to discriminate against students of faith

Did you know that Obama’s massive stimulus bill contains a provision that “prohibits renovation money for schools that allow religious groups to meet on campus”? Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ describes the provision here. According to this Fox News story, Senator James “Jim” Demint (R. – SC), proposed an amendment to the pork-filled bill to remove the anti-religious provision. However, Demint reported that the amendment failed in the Senate 43-54, with almost all Republicans voting for religious liberty, and almost all the Democrats voting against it. The provision had previously passed in the Democrat-controlled House, with every Republican voting against it.

I think this defeat is a helpful reminder to people of faith about the role of government-run schools, and teacher’s unions, in imposing secular-leftist values on the next generation. I recently finished reading Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism”, in which the author explains what the word fascist really means. Fascism is the political philosophy that seeks to undermine individual goals and values, including religious and entrepreneurial values, and to substitute the values of the society, as expressed by the party in power.

A common thread in fascist regimes is the effort to separate children from parents at a young age, so that adult teachers can impose the state’s values on the children when they are least able to resist them. That is why, accoring to the Guardian, the National Socialist party abolished homeschooling in fascist Germany in 1938. (A review of Goldberg’s book by Canadian author Denyse O’Leary is here). My favorite quote from Goldberg’s book is about the role of government-run schools in a fascist state:

Hence a phalanx of progressive reformers saw the home as the front line in the war to transform men into compliant social organs. Often the answer was to get the children out of the home as soon as possible. An archipelago of agencies, commissions, and bureaus sprang up overnight to take the place of the anti-organic, contra-evolutionary influences of the family. The home could no longer be seen as an island, separate and sovereign from the rest of society. John Dewey helped create kindergartens in American for precisely this purpose — to help shape the apples before they fell from the tree — while at the other end of the educational process stood reformers like Wilson, who summarized the progressive attitude perfectly when, as president of Princeton, he told an audience, “Our problem is not merely to help the students to adjust themselves to world life … [but] to make them as unlike their fathers as possible.”

The United States is also heading in this direction. In California, Human Events reported that homeschooling was effectively banned by an activist court. Dinesh D’Souza frankly explains why the left is so intent on keeping control of the schools here. He notes that secular people do not form families and do not have children, because it is too much of a constraint on their autonomy. Instead, D’Souza writes, secularists simply seize control of the children of religious parents, and pass their values on to the children in the mandatory government-run schools.

This plan has become so successful, that even young evangelicals are abandoning their faith at the ballot box. Phyllis Schlafly recently noted that 32% of young evangelicals voted for Obama in 2008, compared to 16% of them who voted for Kerry in 2004. Some of this slide to the left is due to parents focusing too much on entertainment and material gain. But a large portion of the blame should be pinned on the government-run schools and universities. USA Today notes that 70% of Protestant Christians abandon their faith by age 23.

Once you understand that the secular left has an interest in separating children from their parents, you begin to see why they support policies that transfer more familial responsibilities to the state. Higher taxes ensure that mothers must work, so that the child’s vulnerable pre-school years may be spent with government-certified instructors in day care. The emphasis on sex-education in the government-run schools leads young people into behaviors that later undermine marital stability. And, as Stephen Baskerville argues, the state encourages divorces to make business for itself.

I’ve argued here that Democrats favor secularizing government-run schools in order to undermine the faith of children. This is something that people of faith, who want to pass on their worldview and values to their children, need to think about. If you voted for Obama for nationalized health care, taxing of the rich, stopping global warming, etc., then now may be a good time to think again. Do a little studying about what conservatives believe – you may find out that conservatism is more consistent with the goals of faith-based voters than you had first thought.

By the way, as Ezra Levant reports, it happens in Canada, too. Often.

UPDATE: Wow, Ezra Levant is really mad at the University of Calgary for censoring pro-life students! National Post story is here.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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