Friday, September 25, 2009

The Myth of "Imposing Beliefs"

I had a run-in with an atheist the other day.  This one tried to defend her anti-Christianism with the claim that Christians try to impose their beliefs on others.  Using the issue of abortion, she argued that the Christian seeking to oppose abortion is trying to impose their beliefs on others and should not be doing so.

The irony was her own argument was in fact an imposition of her own beliefs on others.

The Example of Abortion

I don't intend this to be an article on abortion per se, but the issue was the one raised in challenge to me and it does indeed help bring home the issue of "imposing beliefs."

Abortion being acceptable or evil is not a matter of opinion.  it is a matter of studying the reality of the matter and making a decision on those facts.

The Christian who believes abortion is wrong does not do so because "God says so," but because they believe that the unborn child is a human person, and to arbitrarily end an innocent human life (the unborn child is not an aggressor, as some would argue) at the whim of an individual is to be condemned.  Under this view, to tolerate abortion is to tolerate the right of one person to kill another arbitrarily for reasons of expedience or hardship.

The person who argues abortion should be allowed has to recognize this fact and also to define where their own view is coming from.  The Euphemism of "reproductive freedom" and the slogan of "every child a wanted child" ignores the fact that whether abortion should be allowed or not is not based on "the rights of the mother" but on the issue whether the unborn child is alive.

The pro-life movement has set forth many proofs for the supporting the view the unborn child is alive.  Now, if the Pro-abortion individual wishes to challenge it, a mere denial is not enough, they have to show where the error is and issue their own justifications for their own rule.

Peter Kreeft's "Quadrilemma"

Philosopher Peter Kreeft has discussed what he terms a "quadrilemma" over the abortion issue.  There are four possible choices when it comes to the action of abortion:

  1. The unborn is not a human life and we know this to be true
  2. The unborn is a human life and we know this to be true
  3. The unborn is a human life and we do not know this to be true
  4. The unborn is not a human life and we do not know this to be true

This is an issue where there are two considerations: Whether the unborn is alive or not and whether we know it or not.  The first consideration is objective: Either the unborn child is alive or it is not.  The second consideration is whether or not we are able to know this truth.

In Situation 1, if the unborn is not a human life and we can demonstrate this to be true then of course there would be no problems with abortion.  Of course this would have to be established to be true.

In Situation 2, if the unborn is a human life and we can demonstrate it to be true (which seems to be done quite effectively) then there can be no question that abortion must be opposed and those who would support abortion would be guilty of advocating Infanticide.

In Situations 3 and 4, we must err on the side of caution until such a time we can determine what is true.  Otherwise our actions are like a hunter firing blindly into motion in a bust without knowing what it is.  It might be a deer… or it might be a child playing in the bushes.

If the hunter shoots, and the unidentified noise in the bushes is a child, the hunter is guilty of homicide through gross negligence.  If it is a deer, it does not excuse his action.  He was lucky in his gross negligence, but that does not excuse the fact that he did not know what his target was.

In these four choices, applied to abortion, only Situation #1 makes abortion tolerable whether legally or morally.  Situation #2 makes it morally obligatory to oppose abortion as a crime of enormous magnitude.  People who claim we cannot know whether the Child is a human life or not (Situations #3 and 4) must either oppose abortion out of caution or be guilty of grossly reckless behavior.

So ultimately this means that the advocate of abortion needs to prove their point that the unborn child is not a human person.

The abortion advocate may protest here that they are being asked to prove a negative.  However, this is their own argument they make and therefore it is up to them to prove the argument they make. Their poor choice of a claim to defend does not take from them the obligation to establish it to be true.

How This Applies to "Imposing Beliefs"

The individual who invokes the claim of "imposing beliefs" themselves impose their own beliefs.  They disagree with Christian teaching, which is their right under the concept of free will.  However, their disagreement does not mean the Christian teachings are not true.

Ultimately, what is true is what is to be imposed because it is reality.  Claiming it is imposing beliefs is like saying a sign saying "Danger" in front of a cliff is imposing a belief that it is in fact dangerous to step off of the edge.

Christianity has been demonstrating why certain actions must be opposed for two thousand years.  Doubtlessly some will disagree with these teachings.  However, it is not enough to say "I disagree!"  If society is to follow their claims over those of Christianity, then let them demonstrate their claims to be true.  Let us examine them to make sure there are no holes in the argument, no errors which could lead society to its own destruction.

It is only when we arbitrarily insist on a way without justification that we are imposing the will on others.

Yet this is what secularism does now.  It says "We can't know Christianity is true, so we don't have to listen to it."

Yet Kreeft's quadrilemma is present here too.  It is either true or false and we can either know or not know that fact.  The Christian claims "this is true" and gives basis for their claims.  The secularist, the relativist, the atheist all say "I don't agree this is true," but give no real basis to justify their claims (one of my dislikes in reading atheistic apologetics is seeing how bad their reason and logic actually are).

Now, if one side says "This is true" and offers a reasoned argument for their beliefs while the other side says "I disagree" but provides no such argument for their own side, which one is guilty of "imposing beliefs?"

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