Religious Views vs. Secular Views

Lawrence Solum lsolum at gmail.com
Thu Oct 6 13:40:25 PDT 2005


Two points, replying both to Rick Duncan and to Greg Wallace, both
whom provide illuminating and thoughtful responses to my point.

1. Whether moral propositions are "true" (as opposed to being
"correct" or holding some other value) is controversial in metaethics.
 I don't think anything does or should hang on this.  By referring to
"values," I meant only to refer to premises in moral arguments, the
conclusions of which can certainly stand in various relationships of
consistency, inconsistency, coherence, and so forth.  McConnell
doesn't need "truth," as any value that allows for relationships of
inconsitency would allow his argument to go through.

2.  Rick writes, "There are certainly religious truths that can not be
tested by secular reasoning--e.g. whether Christ is the Son of God and
whether eternal life is through Him alone--however, I can not think of
any issue that would likely come before the Court that would require
me to choose between my religious views and my secular views."  Let us
accept that this is true or correct with respect to Rick's own views. 
That is, let us assume that Rick's religious views support all and
only those consitutional provisions that can also be supported by
secular reasons.  Although this may be true of Rick's religious
beliefs, it is surely not true of all religious beliefs.  Suppose we
limit ourselves to actual religious beliefs of contemporary Americans.
 It is surely true that some of these lead to constitutional
conclusions that are inconsistent with some constitutional conclusions
that would be supported by secular beliefs alone.  One pointer towards
this conclusion is Michael Perry's argument that secular reasons are
inconclusive on some matters where religious beliefs provide sound
arguments.  Another pointer is the "Christian nation argument," as
applied to issues concerning separation of church and state.  No
unique constitutional status for Christianity is likely to flow from
sound arguments that include only secular premises.

On 10/6/05, Rick Duncan <nebraskalawprof at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I think the key to Mike's assertion is that when there is a conflict between
> one's religious and one's secular understanding of truth (or of the good),
> you should examine those positions and try to learn where the error lies.
>
> Here is the rest of what he said about this:
>
> "Presumably, what has happened [when there is such a conflict] is that the
> 'secular' arguments incorporate a normative premise at odds with the
> normative understanding of the religion. A reasonable person, confronted
> with such a situation, should examine the premises. If the 'secular' premise
> appears right, all things considered (including sources of spiritual
> insight), then the religion must be wrong (on this point, or maybe on all
> points). If the religious premise appears right, all things considered, then
> the secular position must be wrong.
>
> Sometimes, a believer has difficulty accepting a particular proposition,
> which comes with religious authority (perhaps scriptual, perhaps
> ecclesiastical). He may have to 'take it on faith,' until such time as he is
> able to understand and accept it more fully. This may seem to be an
> exception to the above account, but it is not. This is a situation where we
> recognize the possibility (or the certainty) that someone else has a better
> grasp of the truth than we do. It is the same, in principle, as my saying
> that I do not understand or accept a principle of quantum mechanics; but
> that since it is accepted as true by people with far better understanding of
> physics than I have, I will assume it to be true (and hope that eventually,
> I will advance to the point that I can embrace the principle on my own)."
>
> I don't know whether this is responsive to Larry's thoughtful post. There
> are certainly religious truths that can not be tested by secular
> reasoning--e.g. whether Christ is the Son of God and whether eternal life is
> through Him alone--however, I can not think of any issue that would likely
> come before the Court that would require me to choose between my religious
> views and my secular views. Even something like whether the EC forbids the
> teaching of Intelligent Design or Creationism in the public schools does not
> raise religious vs. secular conflicts for me. The issue before the Court is
> not whether evolution or ID is true, but how the EC informs the curriculum
> dispute. Whether I am an originalist, like Thomas, who concludes that the EC
> is not incorporated against the states, or someone trying to apply the Lemon
> test (or the endorsement or coercion tests), my religious views about
> creation are irrelavnt to my work as a judge.
>
> Larry, what am I missing here?
>
> Rick Duncan
>
>
>
> Rick Duncan
> Welpton Professor of Law
> University of Nebraska College of Law
> Lincoln, NE 68583-0902
>
> "When the Round Table is broken every man must follow either Galahad or
> Mordred: middle things are gone." C.S.Lewis, Grand Miracle
>
> "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or
> numbered." --The Prisoner
>
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--
Lawrence Solum
John E. Cribbet Professor of Law
University of Illinois College of Law
504 East Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL  61820-6909
217.244.3960
lsolum at gmail.com
http://lsolum.blogspot.com


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