Tag Archives: Coercion

Before the rise of secularism, Americans believed in conscience

Dissent, disagreement, conscience and religious liberty
The importance of respecting the conscience of others

In the last 50 years, America exchanged religious liberty for hedonism. We used to believe that conscience was a good thing, and we respected individual differences rooted in religious convictions. But today, secular leftist politicians, lawyers and judges attack Christians using the courts. Pro-lifers, pro-marriage business owners, and people expressing Christian convictions in public have all felt what it is like to have conscience attacked by the secular leftist state.

Let’s take a look at what things were like in a different time when moral convictions had not been destroyed by secular leftism.

Consider this article in The Federalist about a new movie called “Hacksaw Ridge”.

Excerpt:

Over last weekend, I saw the new Mel Gibson flick “Hacksaw Ridge.” Gruesome and at times overshadowed by lead actor Andrew Garfield’s awkwardness, “Hacksaw Ridge” was an ode to the age-old American custom of protecting dissent by protecting the conscience.

In an age when attacks upon conscience and religious liberty grow more and more fiery, the true tale of World War II hero Desmond Doss’ conscientious objection to killing is a reminder of the difficult stakes involved in ensuring that individual liberty is the presumption that government takes toward individuals, even during war.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is the story of Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist whose religion prohibited taking the life of a fellow human being. Doss, obviously a patriot, felt obligated to serve in World War II as a medic. Where war is the business of taking life, Doss saw his role as helping save lives. That he does, as his heroism is on full display in his military record and receiving the Medal of Honor from President Truman.

The article has 6 sections.

The first one makes the point about how things have changed:

1. The Conscience Is Sacred

Doss arrived at his pacifism through religious conviction. It was an ethical precept he arrived at by religious devotion and piety, which means his pacifism was not something arbitrarily considered. Throughout the movie, the tattered Bible he carried with him everywhere he went symbolized the solemnity of his beliefs. Standing before a court martial, he was willing to go to jail for his convictions.

This is important today because so much hostility is based in rejecting religious motivation around contentious issues such as sexuality. Liberals are inclined to believe that any and all opposition to the ever-expanding lexicon of the sexual revolution is based in animus. That’s hogwash. Today’s dissenters from the sexual revolution have no use for animus. Rather, they believe the purposes of sexuality and human embodiment are different than what secular progressivism teaches.

Doss’ sincerity is a reminder that the convictions people arrive at by religious motivation are not designed to be capricious, but are ordered toward certain ends that people will naturally disagree about.

Part 3 was also good, because it explains efforts by Republicans to pass laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – laws that are opposed by atheists in the Democrat party:

3. It’s Good to Accommodate People’s Consciences

When almost court-martialed for insubordination, Doss insists that his desire all along was to be a medic. This request was eventually approved. In the movie, we see the U.S. government preserve a man’s conscience by assigning him a duty that did not violate it. The U.S. government was right to accommodate Doss where accommodations can be made. In this move, it recommitted itself to an important principle at the heart of our constitutional system: The presumption of liberty.

This means it is government’s burden to prove infringing upon a person’s liberty is absolutely necessary. In Doss’ case, it was deemed unessential for him to carry a weapon, so he served in a different capacity. This is at the heart of legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which puts the burden on the government to prove its case and make every last accommodation where possible.

The problem with people on the secular left today is that they have no empathy. For them, other people have no right to disagree because it makes them feel bad – but they don’t see how jail time and fines amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars makes the victim of their legal attacks feel bad:

5. Protecting Conscience Means Developing Empathy for Others’ Convictions

As the movie’s plot develops, Doss’ fellow soldiers come to understand that his motives aren’t sinister. They realize that, when freed to live faithfully, Doss is there to help save their lives. Throughout this, and when they learn of his sincerity, his enemies-turned-friends gained a greater understanding of Doss’ convictions. They came to understand the force of his resolve, which dampens their mockery.

In one visceral scene in particular, Doss and the most intense warrior in his battalion are in a foxhole together. There, in seeing Doss’ devotion to sacrifice and conscience, his enemy-turned-friend makes lighthearted gestures recognizing that Doss’ motives are pure. In the crucible of conflict, progress occurs.

As in the case of Doss, protecting conscience doesn’t mean you will agree with the conscience you’re protecting. In fact, disagreement underscores the very need for protection. If conscience and religious liberty are simply ideas our society supports when popular, such protections are easily undone.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible talks about conscience.

1 Corinthians 4:2:

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.

4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

You can clearly see in today’s gay rights movement the problem with the government choosing to favor sinful behavior over religious liberty. People who are involved in sinful lifestyles don’t have the ability to do the right thing when it comes to respecting others. Engaging in a sinful lifestyle corrupts the ability to be respectful of the human rights of others. The desire to feel good and be approved of is seen as more important than respecting the right of others to disagree.

Who knows how far the secular left would go to punish dissenters from gay marriage? Although the media doesn’t cover it, there have been countless episodes of violence and vandalism, workplace persecution and job terminations, not to mention an armed attack by a domestic terrorist at the Family Research Council building. Because people in a sinful lifestyle don’t respect conscience rights of those who disagree. Conversely, when a person stands alone for a moral virtue (e.g. – chastity), there is no desire to compel others.

Why doesn’t God make his existence more obvious to people?

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

Have you ever heard someone say that if God existed, he would give us more evidence? This is called the “hiddenness of God” argument. It’s also known as the argument from “rational non-belief”.

Basically the argument is something like this:

  1. God is all powerful
  2. God is all loving
  3. God wants all people to know about him
  4. Some people don’t know about him
  5. Therefore, there is no God.

In this argument, the atheist is saying that he’s looked for God real hard and that if God were there, he should have found him by now. After all, God can do anything he wants that’s logically possible, and he wants us to know that he exists. To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.

What reason could God have for remaining hidden?

Dr. Michael Murray, a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, has found a reason for God to remain hidden.

His paper on divine hiddenness is here:
Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993.

He argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.

But believing in God just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants for us. If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might try to get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

(Note: I think that we don’t seek God on our own, and that he must take the initiative to reach out to us and draw us to him. But I do think that we are free to resist his revelation, at which point God stops himself short of coercing our will. We are therefore responsible for our own fate).

The atheist’s argument is a logical/deductive argument. It aims to show that there is a contradiction between God’s will for us and his hiding from us. In order to derive a contradiction, God MUST NOT have any possible reason to remain hidden. If he has a reason for remaining hidden that is consistent with his goodness, then the argument will not go through.

When Murray offers a possible reason for God to remain hidden in order to allow people to freely respond to him, then the argument is defeated. God wants people to respond to him freely so that there is a genuine love relationship – not coercion by overt threat of damnation. To rescue the argument, the atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free choice of his creatures to reject him.

Murray has defended the argument in works published by prestigious academic presses such as Cambridge University Press, (ISBN: 0521006104, 2001) and Routledge (ISBN: 0415380383, 2007).

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Obama administration rejects “right of conscience” complaint from pro-life groups

Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood

This is from the radically leftist Los Angeles Times.

They write:

Thee Obama administration on Tuesday rejected a “right of conscience” complaint from anti-abortion groups in California who objected to the state’s requirement that health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions.

The civil rights office at the Department of Health and Human Services said it had completed an investigation and dismissed several complaints after concluding California’s policy did not violate a decade-old rule adopted by Congress, known as the Weldon Amendment.

The office said the provision, which protects doctors, nurses, hospitals and other healthcare providers who object to performing abortions, does not extend to health insurance firms that have no moral objection to providing abortion coverage and instead are acting on the request of religious-minded customers.

The decision upholds a move by the California Department of Managed Care, which notified seven insurance providers in 2014 that state law does not allow them to offer coverage that limits or excludes abortions for some employers.  The issue arose when faculty members at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Santa Clara University objected to this limitation in their insurance plans.

So, the religious schools and institutions cannot have plans that exclude abortion, because the Obama administration does not recognize the right of religious organizations to refuse to fund abortion. But the Obama administration does recognize the obligation of pro-life taxpayers to continue to pay the salaries and benefits of their Democrat overlords. You must pay the taxes for government, you just don’t get a say in what government does.

Alliance Defending Freedom reacted to the decision so:

Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed one of the complaints, denounced the HHS decision.

“The Obama administration is once again making a mockery of the law,” said Casey Mattox, senior legal counsel for the alliance. “The state of California has ordered every insurer, even those insuring churches, to cover elective abortions in blatant violation of the law. We will continue to defend churches from this clear violation of the 1st Amendment and federal law and call on Congress to hold HHS accountable.”

I know that sometimes people vote for bigger government because they want a handout taken from their neighbors. But money isn’t everything – some things are more important. Like not violating the consciences of Christians. Don’t make Christianity harder for Christians to practice.

Reporter Michelle Fields files criminal charges against Trump’s campaign manager

Trump holds up Bible he "received from his mother" to evangelicals
Trump holds up Bible he “received from his mother” to evangelicals

David French writes about it for National Review.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy post outlining the charges and countercharges between Breitbart’s Michelle Fields and the Donald Trump campaign. Fields claimed that Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, yanked her away from Trump when she tried to ask him a question about affirmative action, bruising her arm and almost causing her to fall. Fields tweeted a photo of the bruises, and aWashington Post reporter backed her account — as did an audio recording of the event.

The Trump campaign responded with scorched earth. Not only did it release a statement falsely claiming that no other reporter witnessed the incident, Lewandowski himself spewed forth a vile series of tweets that not only implied Fields was a fabulist, he also implied that she’d made up a sexual harassment charge in the recent past. The campaign demanded to see video evidence.

Here’s the video – the reaching for the reporter occurs at the 8-second mark:

French continues:

Slowed-down video shows Lewandowski reaching more clearly, and now Fields has filed a criminal complaint. As I said before, the Trump campaign’s behavior has been reprehensible. When faced with a credible, corroborated claim of mistreatment, a responsible campaign pledges to investigate and treats the alleged victim with respect. Instead, the campaign chose to lie and — even worse — to attempt to ruin Fields’s reputation.

This is no surprise, since Trump’s rhetoric is borderline fascistic, and this staff and supporters have obviously picked up on it and putting it into practice. In talking with Trump supporters, what I’ve found is that they are angry, low-information voters. When confronted with the facts about their candidate, they resort to name calling, coercion and even violence.

One of my best friends was confronting a “Christian” supporter of Trump recently. The Trump supporter paralleled Trump with Jesus. My friend spoke up and listed out some of Trump’s immoral behavior, e.g. – adultery, frivolous divorce, abortion, strip clubs, casinos. She linked to evidence for all of these things. The Trump supporter responded by literally threatening her with damnation. He literally said “You are a liar. God damn you.” The person who this happened to can comment if she likes, I know she’s a reader of the blog.

Now some of the people who comment here don’t strike me as that crazy, but this is what I am seeing from Trump supporters in social media. He’s probably the most immoral candidate to run as a Republican, and yet his supporters will do anything to protect him.

Related posts

Gay marriage collides with freedom of conscience and religious liberty in the UK

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

It’s not just happening in Canada and the United States.

Here’s the UK Telegraph article.

It says:

The Christian bakers taken to court for refusing to make a cake promoting gay marriage say their experience is like living in a dystopian “science fiction” world where the state orders people to say things they do not believe.

[…]The family firm, based on Newtonabbey, near Belfast, found itself at the centre of an international storm in summer 2014 after cancelling an order for a cake featuring the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie with the slogan “support gay marriage”.

[…]The McArthurs, who are evangelical Christians, said they could not in conscience make the cake because they believe same-sex marriage is against the teaching of the Bible.

[…]But Mr Lee, backed by the Equality Commission, a state-funded body which operates in Northern Ireland, said it amounted to discrimination under laws which ban refusing to provide services on grounds of religion, race or sexual orientation.

[…]Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that refusing to produce a cake calling for the change did amount to discrimination against Mr Lee.

She said the McArthurs did not have the right to ‘manifest’ their belief in a commercial setting.

You don’t have a right to act like a Christian outside your church. When you are outside your church, you have to act like a progressive atheist. That’s “neutrality”. Progressive atheists have to act like progressive atheists in public, and  Bible-believing Christians have to act like progressive atheists in public. That’s “equality”, according to the taxpayer-funded “Equality Commission”. That’s their job, actually – converting the taxes collected by Christian taxpayers into witch-hunts against those same Christian taxpayers.

But look, there is more hope in the UK than there is here:

Speaking to The Telegraph, the couple said they had received hate mail and online abuse but had no regrets.

It came as Peter Tatchell, the veteran gay rights campaigner, emerged as a surprise supporter for the McArthurs’ appeal.

He said that, while he totally disagreed with their views on gay marriage, it is a basic “infringement of freedom” to force people to promote ideas to which they conscientiously object.

See? Now look here. I have no problem with gay people living how they want, signing contracts about wills and hospital visitation, and so on. But what I do object to is their desire to redefine marriage for all of us, so that people like me who have a different view of what marriage is have to be fired, pay fines and go to jail – all for disagreeing with their view. Well, excuse me, but I am allowed to have a different view.

At least one gay activist (Tatchell) has sense enough to be tolerant of those who disagree with him. That’s real tolerance, not like these secular leftist fascists in the UK government. I hope there are more like him.

Last point. How did the Christians feel about it?

Excerpt:

Speaking to The Telegraph, the couple said they had received hate mail and online abuse but had no regrets.

[…]Mr McArthur said he had been bewildered to find himself up against the courts and a state equality body for supporting what is currently the law.

[…]He insisted that, rather than discriminating against a gay customer, the family were themselves effectively suffering discrimination by being denied the right to refuse to endorse gay marriage.

“For us, I think it means you have to leave your Christianity at your house and in your church, once you go out the door in the morning you can forget about your Christian beliefs,” he said.

[…]but [our faith affects] every part of our lives.

“It is impossible for us not to bring it with us during the day.”

He added: “It is our human right to live according to those beliefs and we can’t do something that goes against those beliefs, we can’t be forced to do it.

“That is basically what the Equality Commission expect us to do, they expect us to go against our Christian beliefs despite how we feel.”

“It is like something out of a science fiction book: ‘you have to do this, there is no choice … you must do this, no matter what your conscience tells you, no matter how hard, never mind that you couldn’t do that, you have to do it we demand it of you’.”

So, UK taxpayers must pay taxes to the government that wants to silence and coerce them. I wonder that anyone who claims to be a Bible-believing Christian could support overreach by a bloated secular government. We need small, limited government where government is focused on its Constitutional responsibilities – not on using force to make us all think alike.

I don’t think that most people of other religions, except perhaps Orthodox Jews, really understand what is required of Bible-believing Christians. We are expected to honor God in everything we do, and acknowledge him in all of our thinking and decision-making, including decision-making about morality. Although most secular people think morality is illusory and that truth takes a backseat to hedonism, that is not the Christian view.

Jesus says this:

Matthew 10:32-33:

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

You may not believe that, but don’t push your views on us, using the power of government. Christians are not like you. We are not here to have a good time on Earth. Our religion is not a community activity that is engaged in for social cohesion of feelings of comfort. Bible-believing Christians think that Christianity is true – objectively true. You’re not just trying to get us to try a different flavor of ice cream when you push your different morality on us – you’re trying to get us to live a lie. And your “feeling offended” by our disagreement is not justification for using the government to coerce us (which is fascism, by the way). If we Christians are right, the worst thing that a non-Christian person can do is to discourage us from pursuing God in Christ. You do not want to face God if you are the person who causes a Christian to turn away from God. That is the worst thing you can do. And yet so many people on the secular left do exactly that… in the public schools, in the university, in the court rooms, in the media, in Hollywood, etc. Stop it.