Sunday, October 5, 2008

The False Dichotomy of Faith vs. Secularism

I've been thinking about what I believe might be a false dichotomy between "people of faith" and secularists. It seems to me that secularism is a fervently held religious belief as well. The rock-bottom assumption that the cosmos is all there is, was, or ever will be, is as unprovable as the assumption that it isn't. It seems like a matter of faith to hold to one or the other and a matter of reason to live all aspects of one's life as though that fact were reality. In fact, it would be insane not to. The problem is, these realities are mutually exclusive in a logical sense, and therefore cause conflict between parties with similar vested interests, for example those with a shared political system. I therefore believe that pure secularism would be only another form of religious oppression. That's not very American either. It seems as though we must all vote in accordance with our faith and our reason and live under the majority's opinion for any given four-year period of time.

I think it might be helpful to eliminate a few words from our vocabulary for the sake of communication, if that makes sense. We've got a lot of connotations and stigmas floating around and I don't want anyone to lose an eye.

Everyone operates out of a system of rock-bottom assumptions. No one operates apart from his own primary assumptions. He places a great deal trust in the reality of these assumptions, and acts accordingly. No man acts apart from his assumptions. For example, some men believe that others have no right to assert their own beliefs upon others. That's not a verifiable unalienable right aside from his assumption that it is. If I operate out of the assumption that we are products of evolution (also unverifiable), then I will believe that might is right, and that we have a moral imperative to the survival of the fittest. So I have every right to impose my assumptions upon you as long as I'm more fit than you to do so.

This is why America is founded upon unalienable rights endowed by a creator, because the rights must come from some authority. The Fathers believed this to be self-evident, which means what? That it was a rock-bottom, unverifiable assumption. If you choose to take that authority away because of your rock-bottom assumption that it is foolish to believe in God, then that's fine, but you'll have a hard time establishing justification for your assumption that all men are equal and have certain rights. In fact, it will be impossible without imposing another authority, which is exactly what we hope to avoid by removing God from the position. Without some sort of authority, we cannot even say that we are free from one another's tyranny. Even the belief that we should all let one another be is a rock-bottom assumption that is imposed on other people who assume that they don't have to. That's why we have jails.

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