Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fastened to a Mast: The Cross of Belief

In many parts of the world today, when a child is born, he or she becomes metaphorically bound to a cross of belief. The child is instructed that he is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or of some other belief system. We all can see that these are not statements of truth when they are made to a child.  A Christian is an adherent of Christianity.  A Jew is an adherent of Judaism.  A Muslim is an adherent of Islam.  All such  statements imply a decision of belief.  All of us can see that the uneducated child has not yet achieved the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision as to what he or she will believe.

Sometimes these statements are not made directly, implied instead in phrases such as "We are Christians..."  To be fair to the child, a more truthful statement would be more instructive.  Parents would say something like: "We are Christian, and we would like for you to join us in  our celebrations as you grow up and become educated." The parents would then ensure that the child receives a complete education.

However many children are  commanded along the lines of "You are Christian," or "You are Muslim, " or "You are Jewish." The child usually receives such instructions from those he most admires: his well-meaning parents, siblings, caretakers and teachers.  Recognizing their good intentions, the child  will take these instructions to heart and then survey the world. Within his own internal language, within his developing court of reason, the child thinks along these lines:

“I am one of this religion, and so are my loved ones, but none of us is one of those other religiions. All of those others believe that they have the truth and that we do not. My parents would never give to me to believe something that is not true so therefore only we have the truth and with good reason then these others cannot be trusted.”

Thus the child's court of reason has become corrupted by the false instruction. The child has accepted what he has been told as truth and become cornered within the prejudice of mistrust.    In some parts of the world, the child risks corporal punishment if he or she wishes to debate the truth of statements such as these. Some of them are truly trapped by nothing more than a false idea that is however protected by fear and violence.  They find themselves fastened tightly to the mast of the cultures ancient ship, sailing in sorrow past the islands of the children of man with whom they would have otherwise in joy shared this, their only epoch. 

The world today has not yet created the document that will specify their human rights. Some parents believe that they own their children and as such owners they are free to instill and enforce whatever beliefs and fears  they wish.  Their children are defenseless against such onslaughts, not being allowed the freedom nor the education to challenge the fears and beliefs of their parents.

If we are created then we can all see the rights granted to us by our creator. Our children are created and entrusted to us and we can respond to this love of God by raising them in love,  truth and fairness, ensuring that they will have the right to believe as they wish and the education with which to make a decision.  To do less than that is a betrayal of the trust that has been placed in us.  And if we are not created, we can all with reason see the rights that we ourselves should declare and grant to one another.   In both cases, we can all see that the human rights of children are the same and that among these rights are the rights to a full education and the rights to freedom of belief.

Therefore atheists and theists have a common ground of understanding and belief with regard to the human rights of children. And we who have inherited freedom, and parents who are beginning to understand what they must do to free their children, together with those who are still in silence bound, have a common goal to declare the rights of children and to enact them for all of time.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Your Honor

Presenting here within your court of reason, sworn as I am to tell the truth, I will labor to present the truth as I know the truth to be.  I will be reliant upon you to evaluate each claim and then to judge my testimony as a whole, to determine what truth, if any, should be carried forth and proclaimed as truth by you. 

I present for your consideration the following two numbered claims:
  1. This next sentence is infallible truth.
  2. Two apples and two bananas represent five pieces of fruit.
If you pre-judge the first claim to be true, then you must believe the second claim is true.  In order to maintain belief that the second claim is true, you must suspend consideration of any evidence outside of the two claims above.  If you do so, then the second claim becomes truth for you because you have been prejudiced by the fallacy of the first claim.
This particular fallacy, argumentum caecium, is the argument from blindness.  The argument from blindness is a claim about the content of claims that have yet to be made.  At the time the claim is made, there can be no certain knowledge that the claims that will follow will be aligned with the first claim.  On its face, on its own merits, the first claim is an empty argument and therefore it can only serve to induce prejudice if believed.  As a fallacy it is perfectly named because it requires blind faith to believe it.

Seated as you are in your own court of reason, you have the right to consider the first claim to have been made in bad faith and to dismiss it with prejudice, which means that you will consider any further testimony by the claimant with a lesser degree of trust.  However, you need not make a finding of bad faith if you determine that the claimant was simply mistaken in his belief or inadequate in his expression of argument.  However in any case it must be dismissed as prejudicial as a rule of honor prior to the hearing of any further claims.

There is honor in your court of reason.  You yourself know the truth of everything you have said and done.  You know your courage and your fear, and you know your plight in life. You have recorded the truths you know in your memory and you correct them when you must in the face of new knowledge.  You may not speak the truth, for many different reasons, but you know the truth, the truth about yourself. 

Consider now the very first paragraph of this article. There is a claim of intention to present the truth accompanied by a request for evaluation as to whether the truth was indeed presented.   There is the implied argument that I might fail.  All truthful claims are appeals to reason.  I am counting on the honor in your own high court of reason.  For this I should well address you as “Your Honor.”

A holy book is a binding together of separate pages of printed language.  The language is assembled by one or more speakers or writers over time and the words are printed on the pages of the book.   The pages are bound together to make the book.  The book is then presented to you for your evaluation and judgment.

On one of the pages of the book it might be stated that the entire book to which the page is bound represents infallible truth.   How will you interpret that claim?  You can see that it is a fallacy.  Though it was written or spoken as a claim of truth, you can find that  it was not intentioned as a claim of truth as such a warning that the testimony to follow may not worthy of trust.  If you believe the writer to be well intentioned, you might make a finding of good faith and allow the testimony to continue.  You might then proceed to read the book to judge it on its own merits, dismissing prejudice wherever else you might find it. 

The person who hands the book to you might make a similar claim, that the book is the infallible truth. Once again, you have to decide how to interpret the fallacious claim.  After making a judgement of good or bad faith, you can now decide whether or not to evaluate the book to determine if any parts of it can be proclaimed as truth by you.

You might find yourself living within a family or a culture where your proclamations of truth are constrained to be in agreement with your family, teacher, government, religion, or brotherhood.   If so, then, in order to live a reasonably comfortable life within such constraints, you might find that you must proclaim something other than the truth. My claim is that there is no shame in this. In effect, you are a prisoner and all of us who live in free societies recognize this and even further, we give you the benefit of the doubt.  We can see that you are so constrained.  We are considering steps that might be taken to remove the constraints on your liberty and on your right to proclaim the truth as you see it.

It will not be easy.  It will not be soon. You might not live to see yourself in liberty and for this I must apologize for I was born to a free society.  I have inherited liberty.  As such I am to be the faithful steward of liberty across the generations of man or I will be something less than that, and there is no form of acceptable life that is less than that.  I can let it languish or I can labor to extend it further to the other people of the world.  My testimony is but a part of that generational spanning labor.  My labor might be small or late but it shall not fail because I am not the only steward of liberty left in this world.  There are many others who will carry on seeing it through, that liberty is extended finally to you and to your people.  Some of you are women.  Some of you are children.  Some of you are men who are trapped.  You would free your family but then you would all be punished by those who will not allow a doubt to a system of belief.

You might be one of those who believe you must withhold liberty of belief from those within your family or culture.  You might have made a prejudiced decision to believe a claim that a book is infallible and having placed your faith in that single fallacy you have believed all of the following claims without question, not allowing any other evidence into your court of reason.   And following logically on those claims you feel you must punish  all those within your reach who will not worship the mythical being predicated on the fallacy.    You have a mistaken belief that the children born into your culture are born of your belief and can be of no other belief, that you own their liberty of belief. You are trapped by this belief because you have punished others in its name and that therefore there is nothing left to do but to hope the mythical being exists and to continue to worship him.  Otherwise, you yourself must judge yourself in the harshest terms, having denied liberty to those who were entrusted to you. You share a brotherhood with others such as yourself and you know your brothers will strike you down if you proclaim the new truth you are beginning to see. You suspect that many of them, as well as you, wish they could escape from the fallacy of this belief. But you know that they also fear to speak the truth.  The fear is not because you fear that the mythical being will strike you down, but that your own brother will strike you down if you question the system of belief. This is the silent understanding that your entire brotherhood shares and not one of you can dare to speak it out loud.

It is to you, and to this brotherhood of you, it is to the honor to all of you that I must appeal.  Observing the trap into which you have fallen, how will you free your people when you yourselves can hardly make a move?  It will take great courage, some of the greatest courage the world will ever know. And some of your acts of courage will never be known to any other because they cannot be published.  They will be known only by you, guessed at by those like me, and in the future, in later days, by the people you freed who will look back on time and understand, long after you and I have left the earth. You will be an agent for truth, an agent for liberty, there shall be honor in your court of reason, you shall heal the world.  You might not speak the truth until it is safe to do so, but you will act upon the truth to free your people from oppression.  You will begin to make your plans and to act this very day.

The God who exists, if any God exists at all, will cherish your acts of honor.  She is not the God you have been told about. The God we can all see, by observing the decisions of God, does not require us to believe or even to continue to live.  She understands the trap into which we sometimes fall, traps of enforced beliefs, beliefs that induce us to cause sorrow to the children she has created.  She creates them and entrusts them to us to see to their education and liberty.  She has entrusted them to you.  What will be your honorable response to her act of trust?  Will your final acts be known to her as honor when she lifts you from where you have fallen?

Whether or not we are created, liberty is created and carried forth across the generations by the free will decisions and acts of honorable women and men.  It is true, God might not exist, but we are humanity, we are amazing miracles in an amazing universe. We are thinkers, we have free will, we can maintain honor within our own high courts of reason. We can extend liberty to each other, we can live as repositories of trust for one another, we can be our brother's keeper.