Friday, August 24, 2012

Presuppositions

Why is it that one person can not believe in God or the biblical account of creation, the fall, judgment and salvation, while another person believes it all to be literally true?

The unbeliever derisively accuses the believer of "bronze age" beliefs and superstitions. The unbeliever may mock accounts of miracles as impossible and biblical beliefs as unscientific. He may say religious beliefs are illogical, irrational and inconsistent with truths discovered by modern science. He may say that primitive people needed religious theories to explain life and death before modern science was able to show the truth about how things work. He accuses the believer of resorting to the "god of the gaps" to explain things that will eventually be explained naturally by science.

The believer, on the other hand, notes that the unbeliever has faith in "naturalistic miracles" - things that are not observed in nature, but that people who reject supernaturalism believe must have happened. How did everything come from nothing? How did life come from non-life? How did incredible complexity and interdependency found in the world of living things develop without design or creation by an intelligent being? (This complexity is continually being discovered, but is so advanced that it cannot even be reverse engineered by humans with all their technology.) He accuses the unbeliever of resorting to "evolution of the gaps" to explain things that cannot be explained or tested by science.

So what is the difference? There are very intelligent people on both sides. There are highly educated people on both sides. There are scientists, philosophers, intellectuals on both sides. What is the dividing line?

As a Christian believer I am tempted to say the difference is "spiritual" and begins with a spiritual experience. But that would be a form of circular reasoning. "Why do I believe in spiritual things? Because of something spiritual!" I am aiming at something deeper than the difference between Christianity and any other religious view. I am aiming at the what makes one person reject all religion, versus what makes another person open to religion.

The fundamental answer is the differences in the presuppositions that lie at the heart of your worldview. These presuppositions are your assumptions about the true nature of reality. Is the world you observe actual or illusion? Does reality include both natural and supernatural realities or not? Is matter in its various forms the  only reality, or is there also an immaterial/spiritual reality?

Presuppositions are initially learned through enculturation - children learn from their parents, teachers, friends and broader community. But in a pluralistic societies people are exposed to various worldviews and may eventually choose presuppositions that are different from their parent's or friend's. And this makes all the difference in what they will consider as possible.

If a person assumes naturalism and materialism as their presupposition about the nature of reality, they cannot rationally consider a supernatural or spiritual cause for various observations about things that happen. They must explain the universe without resorting to supernatural beings - like gods. They must explain everything - the existence of the universe, apparent design, life, meaning, purpose, moral feelings of good and bad without resorting to spiritual categories.

If a person's worldview allows for supernatural and spiritual realities, then it is no problem for them to believe in supernatural beings and supernatural causes. They don't necessarily reject the material reality, but have both material/natural and spiritual/supernatural realms to consider. If a person's worldview allows for spiritual reality that is separate from the material reality, they can believe that they are more than their physical body and might live beyond the boundaries of physical life and death in this world.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nobody is Gay

The LGBT lobby claims that some people are "Gay" because they are sexually attracted to people of the same sex. I have argued that if you use the standard of sexual arousal as the basis of identity, everyone is Gay - or at least no different than Gay.

But as a matter of fact, I don't believe there is such a thing as Gay.

The LGBT groups argue that sexual identity is part of a person's essential being and is not a choice. If this were so, it would be in the same class as skin color, ethnicity or (ironically) gender, as a basis for civil rights protection. They try to argue that homosexual tendencies are genetically determined though this is far from obvious in genetic studies.

They ignore (deny) the fact that people change their sexual orientation and identity. Some people who were never attracted to the same sex eventually become attracted to the same sex. Some people who once identified themselves as homosexuals later identify themselves as heterosexuals. Their own class of "bisexual" tells the tale. How can this be a genetically determined trait if a person is attracted to both genders? And what about people who are sexually aroused by even more extreme behaviors - sadism? masochism? pedophilia? bestiality? Are these also to be considered genetically determined and protected by civil rights laws? If sexual arousal is what the LGBT lobby claims, then these should be protected classes too.

People are people. They are sexual beings. Sexual arousal is not just a physical event, it involves the person's whole being... psychological, intellectual, sociological, cultural, etc. Memories, experiences, relationships - everything is involved. As a result a person can be aroused by or repulsed by different things (and people) at different times. But this cannot be the basis for a person's essential identity.

Sexual arousal is complex. We feel sexual attraction and we interpret that arousal according to our worldview. In some cases we choose to suppress our feelings for moral or pragmatic reasons. In other cases we choose to act on our feelings. A cultural or religious taboo is not necessarily a good predictor of the choices a person will make because violating a taboo might even add to the person's sense of arousal. A sense of secrecy or anonymity might also contribute to the choices the person makes since they feel safe to act on their feelings without fear of unpleasant social or relational consequences. It makes no difference at this level whether the object of your attraction is heterosexual, homosexual, etc. A man chooses whether or not to look closely at pretty women on the street, to watch revealing love scenes in movies, to fantasize about a woman at work, to view pornography on the internet, or to approach a prostitute while attending a conference out of town.

These are all moral choices. They are not aspects of essential identity.