A Philosopher's Blog

Am I Anti-Religious?

Posted in Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on February 8, 2008

No, I’m not.

Since I am a philosopher, many people assume I must be an atheist who hates religion. This is not the case. Like most people who fancy themselves intellectuals, I did go through an anti-religion phase. In part, I found the arguments against religion compelling. In part, I was angry at the way people who claimed to be religious behaved. In part, I thought that being an atheist was a sign of being intellectually tough. And, of course, I enjoyed that smug feeling that I was better than the fools who believed.

As I grew older and wiser, I stopped being anti-religious. One reason is that I achieved a better understanding of the arguments for and against religion as well as deeper understanding of ethics and metaphysics. From a rational standpoint, it is difficult to dismiss God with a haughty “bah” after reading and grasping arguments put forth by thinkers such as Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke and others. It might be the case that there is no God, but the case against God is far from being a certain one and there are powerful arguments for His existence.  Another reason is that I achieved a greater degree of personal and intellectual maturity. Believing something to seem “tough” or because it made me feel superior  now strikes me as foolishness. I am still angry at the way some allegedly religious people behave. But I can now distinguish between a belief and those who claim to hold that belief. I do oppose those who use religion to justify their evil, their hatred and their prejudices. But I oppose them because they are evil-not because they claim to be religious.

In all honesty my religious beliefs are not settled. I have never had a definitive religious experience that convinced me of the truths of faith. I cannot believe just because some person in a fancy costume waves a book around and tells me it is true. I cannot believe just because most people do.

Naturally, I do want to believe. I would prefer a meaningful reality in which the wicked are brought to task, the good are duly rewarded and an afterlife awaits us all. I want that very much. But, I know that what I want and what is true are two distinct matters.

At this point, I reject the hateful dogmatism of the extreme atheist and the fanatic theist. But, I do not really know what I believe. Of course, neither do most people. When I speak to people about their faith and their God, they tend to speak empty words and have no real understanding of what they claim to believe. Worse, they often seem completely uninterested in learning anything about their alleged faith. It does strike me as ironic when they smugly judge me for my lack of faith when I am far more interested in what they believe then they are.

The Constitution & Same Sex Marriage

Posted in Ethics, Law, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on February 8, 2008

Some people, such as Mike Huckabee, have proposes a Constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. This strikes me as a bad idea.

My main opposition to this idea is not based on my views of same sex marriage. It is, rather, based on my view of the function of the Constitution and other bodies of law. This, in turn, shapes my view on what sort of laws should be a matter for the Constitution and what should be a matter for “lesser” laws.

In various debates with people on this matter, many bring up the argument that since same sex marriage is immoral it follows that it should be banned by the Constitution. My standard reply is that the function of the Constitution is not to ban immoral actions. This is shown, in part, by the contents of the Constitution itself. It is primarily a document that enumerates rights and the nature of the state. As such, a ban on same sex marriage does not seem to fit the document.

In response, some people try to counter by saying that the Constitution exists to protect us and since same sex marriage is a great evil, it should be banned at that level.

In response, think about things like murder, rape, and theft. None of these are outlawed by the Constitution. It is not that these deeds are not important or not evil. They are not covered by the  Constitution because such matters are handled more appropriately by other types of law. Unless we are wiling to accept that banning same sex marriage is vastly more important than protecting people from murder and is on par with fundamental rights, then there seems to be no reason to make it part of the Constitution.

If same sex marriage is actually a great evil, on par with murder and theft, then it should be outlawed in the same manner that these are outlawed. It does, however, have no place in the Constitution.