Monday, December 27, 2004

Posner on Religion, God, and Public Policy

Since the intersection of religion and politics is a topic of much interest among the people who write and view this blog, I thought I would take a minute to point out that Judge Posner has an excellent post regarding this subject here.

Judge Posner begins with an excellent observation regarding debating religion and the existence of God. While, for anyone who knows me knows that I'll debate this anytime, anywhere and with anyone (this of course isn't limited to God, but almost any subject) I agree with Judge Posner, at least to a point, when he says that "[y]ou cannot convince a religious person that there is no God, because he does not share your premises, for example, that only science delivers truths. There is no fruitful debating of God’s existence."

Judge Posner goes on to distinguish 6 cases of religion and public policy in a very objective, forthright and legalistic way. While I happen to agree with him for the most part, I wonder if when he gets to his discussion of "secular moralitiy" complete with references to J.S. Mill, Jeremy Benthem, and John Rawls, if he isn't oversimplfying just a bit. For instance, I'm not sure if Rawls would say that religious beliefs should have no influence on public policy, but rather if he would try to limit their influence by subjecting them to the same principles that all political decisions are to be limited to. Rawls believed, in part, that a policy should only be enacted and pursued if it benefits the least advantaged in a society (this is a massive oversimplification of a complicated political philosophy, but I think it will make my point). To me, it seems that should a policy motivated by religion or religious observation, as long as it doesn't require religious obesrvation to be fulfilled, were to meet the above criteria, Rawls would have no basis for rejecting its enactment. Religious ideas often do serve the least advantaged among us and really shouldn't be rejected simply because they are religious ideas, or have their basis in ideas of faith. Of course the distincition between promoting religion and merely being derived from religion may be a sticking point, but nevertheless, even as hostile as I am at times to religion, I recognize that its ideas are not all bad or incorrectly motivated and I think that Rawls and other "liberal" thinkers do as well.

Read Posner's post, it is by all means excellent (as one has come to expect from him) and, as always, I look forward to the comments.


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