Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yale Debate Yields Sad Results

The latest issue of the Secular Humanist Bulletin has a lead article by Ronald A. Lindsay, the editor of this, the members' newsletter of the Council on Secular Humanism. It's titled "Religion Has No Place in Government," which was a debate resolution at a Yale Political Union, a debate in which Lindsay participated. Sadly, the resolution was defeated, and by an almost two-to-one vote. With Lindsay, I say the results were "regrettable." Lindsay's article, however, was thought provoking to say the least.

For example, he asks rhetorically how useless it is to argue at all with a believer; the debate is on an uneven playing field:

That Jesus was simultaneously both divine and human seems on the face of it impossible -- even more than some being having the identity of both a rhinocerous and a worm -- but that does not prevent Christians from asserting this belief because at the end of the day they can always invoke 'faith.' 'Faith' means not having to supply reasons. You cannot argue with someone's faith....

As some of us provincials would say, 'nuff said. It occured to me, and I adopt Lindsay's logic and his position on the issue, that this is the swiftest, most cogent, most essential argument we have with theists: their case is not susceptible to proof. As an attorney, I believe that proof is accumulated and made manifest only by the introduction of facts. In a trial, for example, the facts must be such that credible witnesses are given greater weight than those whose testimony is of questionable veracity.

But at least there is an introduction of testimony. Factual assertions, representations and, at least when liars are on the stand, misrepresentations. But, at least something bordering on fact. No "God" fearing person can support his or her belief in "God" with anything vaguely resembling "fact." In a way, I am thankful to Lindsay. He has provided me with calm and patience with those Schiller once said were so ignorant even the Gods fought in vain.

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