Failing Philosophy 101

Apparently, Cal Thomas has never studied philosophy. His recent article about gay marriage (a word which he refuses to write without sarcastic quotation marks) is chock full of errors. Here are a few gems:

The argument most often heard in favor of same-sex "marriage" is that it is the "fair" thing to do. This is an interesting position, because having jettisoned one standard for marriage, those pushing for the inclusion of same-sex "marriage" now appeal to the public on the basis of another standard. But if there are to be no standards, or only "standards" that shift with the changing winds of culture (which then don't count as standards at all), on what basis are advocates of same-sex "marriage" appealing to the majority of us who, according to opinion polls, want to keep marriage for heterosexuals only?

The argument most often heard in favor of mixed-race "marriage" is that it is the "fair" thing to do. This is an interesting position, because having jettisoned one standard for marriage, those pushing for the inclusion of mixed-race "marriage" now appeal to the public on the basis of another standard. But if there are to be no standards, or only "standards" that shift with the changing winds of culture (which then don't count as standards at all), on what basis are advocates of mixed-race "marriage" appealing to the majority of us who, according to opinion polls, want to keep marriage for members of the same race only?

Seriously, what is the conservative argument against laws prohibiting interracial marriage? Is it not on the basis of fairness that society extended equal rights to blacks? And while there may be significant differences between interracial marriage and gay marriage, and reasons for supporting one and not the other, Thomas's conservative argument is just too strong. If the basis for determining whether a public policy is in accord with justice is tradition or opinion polls, and not some element of fairness, then there is not much a conservative can say about institutionalized racism.

Let's put it this way. If you tell me you do not believe in God and then say to me that I should brake for animals, or pay women equally, or help the poor, on what basis are you making such an appeal? If no standard for objective truth, law, wisdom, justice, charity, kindness, compassion and fidelity exists in the universe, then what you are asking me to accept is an idea that has taken hold in your head but that has all of the moral compulsion of a bowl of cereal. You are a sentimentalist, trying to persuade me to a point of view based on your feelings about the subject and not rooted in the fear of God or some other unchanging earthly standard.

As an argument for believing in God, this fails miserably. Even if there is no way to ground morality without first positing the existence of God, this is not a good argument for God's existence. Just because we find something convenient and comforting doesn't make it true.

Regardless, Socrates demolished the argument that God is necessary for morality thousands of years ago. If God determines what is moral, than morality is completely arbitrary; God could just as easily have made murder and rape moral and they would be so. And if God doesn't determine what is moral, than morality exists independently of God, and we can discover it by using reason.

Further, what is wrong with moral relativism anyway? The vast majority of people share similar values: with very few exceptions, we all want to be wealthy and live long, healthy, fulfilling lives in a relatively peaceful society. The fact that we share these values means that we can agree on what we should and should not do to each other, and we can pass this sense of morality on to our children.

One more point: a theist who acts morally only because he believes in God - because he fears God's punishment or desires God's reward - is less praiseworthy than an atheist who acts morally for no benefit of his own.

The idea of marriage did not originate in San Francisco or Massachusetts or even with the Founders. Like it or not, it came from the book of Genesis, where, after the fall of man, God said, "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Homosexuals may become "one flesh" in their own eyes but not in a biblical sense, no matter how many Scriptural heretics with degrees from seminaries that are mostly schools of unbelief are trotted out.

If defense of the heterosexual monopoly on marriage requires trotting out scripture, then all we must do is point to the First Amendment and the game is up. For the record, I'm highly skeptical of the claim that the idea of marriage did not exist before the Bible was written. But even if marriage originated from the Old Testament, that does not overcome the constitutional difficulties inherent in this claim.

Further, if we want to take the historical route, then that gives us even more reason to support gay marriage. Why? Because marriage has historically been a "private contract between two families. ... For those without property, it was a private contract between two individuals, enforced by the community sense of what was right." David Boaz writes,

By the 16th century the formally witnessed contract, called the "spousals," was usually followed by the proclamation of the banns three times in church, but the spousals itself was a legally binding contract.

Only with the Earl of Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1754 did marriage in England come to be regulated by law. In the New England colonies, marriages were performed by justices of the peace or other magistrates from the beginning. But even then common-law unions were valid.

If we care so much about tradition, shouldn't we go back even further to the point in history where marriage was not a government function? Isn't that more conservative than accepting this modern left-liberal notion that marriage is the province of the state?

If same-sex marriage is allowed, it is going to be nearly impossible to prohibit the sanctioning of any other kind of human "relationship" - from close relatives of different sexes who wish to marry (that has been outlawed because of biological and incest considerations) and polygamists to adult-child "marriage."

Ah, the classic slippery slope. Three responses:

1. Homosexual conduct is already legal. Incest and pedophilia are not. If legalizing homosexual conduct has not led to legalizing incest or pedophilia, why should we expect gay marriage to change anything?

2. The only thing homosexuality, incest, polygamy and pedophilia have in common is that they have all been condemned by traditional notions of morality. But if that's the case, then what separates interracial relationships from this collection? After all, interracial relationships were once condemned by traditional notions of morality just as much as homosexual relationships are condemned today. So how can the law permit interracial relationships? Won't this tear apart the very fabric of the space-time continuum? [Hat tip to Jonathan Rowe, guest-blogging at Freespace]

3. Very well: there is no logical difference between them, and thus, no good reason to permit gay marriage but prohibit polygamous and incestuous marriage. So what? The solution is to legalize all three. And we can easily distinguish between these three and pedophilia: a child too young to enter into legal contracts is too young to get married, just as an animal without the ability to enter into legal contracts cannot get married. Show me a three-month-old or a platypus with contractual capacity and I'll buy the wedding cake.

Maybe those of us wishing to preserve marriage for heterosexuals, imperfect as we may be at it, ought to ask those pushing for its redefinition what they mean by their "fairness doctrine" and upon what it is based. At least we heterosexuals have a reference that is thousands of years old. What's theirs and how do we know it won't change tomorrow?

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, Cal. For now, the fairness doctrine is quite simple. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don't make or enforce any law which abridges the privileges or immunities of your fellow citizens. Don't deny your fellow citizens equal protection of the laws.

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Amusingly, The Golden Rule

Amusingly, The Golden Rule is the fairness doctrine personified.

Matthew 7:12 [NIV] So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Luke 6:31 [NIV] Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Mr. Thomas writes "[...] ought to ask those pushing for its redefinition what they mean by their "fairness doctrine" and upon what it is based.", apparently he's not only not studied philosophy, but also not the book he appears to wish to base his arguments upon.

Myria

Re the Boaz quote: The

Re the Boaz quote:

The Catholic doctrine is that the marriage sacrament is performed, not by the priest, but by the couple themselves. The act of marriage consists in their own act of will in establishing a bond between themselves. The priest is just there to witness it on behalf of the Church. So I guess that reinforces Boaz's claim.

It's also a telling point

It's also a telling point that the licensing of marriages by the state came about in Europe during the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was a way of denying, in both Catholic and Protestant countries, the legitimacy of any marriage not performed in the established church.

I have a blog on moral

I have a blog on moral relativism. Please follow the link. I think it's too long to post in the comments block.

Thanks.

Re: the suggestion that

Re: the suggestion that atheists are more praiseworthy for good deeds because theists only do good deeds to gain favor/flee from wrath.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Biblical doctrine. The Bible does not teach that we can attain righteousness by our own works. Rather, we can only attain righteousness by faith in the work that Christ already accomplished; He lived a perfect life and died, and was the perfect sacrifice "once for all" for sin.

Anyone who does a good work to attain status before God is on a fruitless quest, as confirmed by Christ's teachings and His condemnation of the pharisees, who thought they could attain their own righteousness.

Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

Chris, My understanding of

Chris,

My understanding of Biblical doctrine comes primarily from Judaism, i.e. the doctrine of the "Pharisees." But from the little I know of Christianity, it doesn't seem like Christian doctrine overcomes this concern either. It seems to me that according to your understanding of Christianity, the only morally praiseworthy act is faith in God. In which case, my point still stands. A Christian who does things like giving to charity and helping little old ladies cross the street is not acting morally or immorally; he is acting amorally. He might as well be brushing his teeth.

Andy, I read your blog post.

Andy,

I read your blog post. A few comments:

Bill cannot logically insist that Bob?s moral beliefs are too strict, or outdated, or intolerant since Bill believes that moral standards change based on society?s feelings at any given time.

I think you are confusing moral relativism with cultural relativism. Cultural relativists believe that moral actions can be judged, but only within the standards of a particular culture. I agree with you that cultural relativism is incoherent, for many of the same reasons you argued in your post.

Moral relativists, on the other hand, bring this relativism down to the individual level. A moral relativist would claim that there is no way to empirically prove that a persons actions are immoral.

However, moral relativists can in fact make moral judgements about other people's actions; they just acknowledge that these judgments have no basis other than the judge's own intuition and feelings.

Fortunately, as I mentioned in my original post, most of us share similar values, and we can agree with each other on many moral issues, even though these moral beliefs may not have any factual basis.

Chris, The question is not

Chris,

The question is not "righteousness" but "praiseworthiness". Obviously an atheist rejects the concept of righteousness.

- Josh

That moral reletivism

That moral reletivism article that was linked to here in the comments draws a rather odd conclusion. Was it really the author's intention to speculate that laws based on any random moral code are de facto better than no law at all?

Micha, Your point about the

Micha, Your point about the need for morality being an argument for God's existence is a good one.

It seems to me, though, that Socrates's supposed dilemma concerning God & morality fails in the case of the Christian (and perhaps also the Jewish and Muslim) notions of God. As I understand it from the Bible, God doesn't establish morality by some arbitrary fiat; rather, moral truth is rooted in His nature. It is a reflection of His character. As I understand God, He is eternal, unchanging, uncreated, and self-existent. He is not mutable, he cannot be other than He is (indeed, He cannot change His own character), and hence morality could nt be other than it is. The Bible doesn't so much establish moral truth as communicate it as God has seen fit to communicate it. I suspect that Socrates had very different conceptions of God in mind when he formlated this argument.

Your comparison between the slavish theist and the noble atheist strikes me as a bit of a straw man when seen from the perspective of a fuller understanding of Christian doctrine. Chris has begun to address this question, and if I get a chance, I will also do so in my present quasi-blog. I'm not at all suggesting that you deliberately constructed the straw man, but the Christian (and particularly the Reformed) views on the righteousness of the believer are not at all what most people assume.

Your response #1 to the slippery slope: this response is compelling only if we grant at least two assumptions: (1) that all societal changes from the legalization of homosexual conduct have already played out, i.e. that there are no further consequences from it; and (2) that gay marriage will introduce no further changes over and above the legalization of homosexual conduct. Unless we assume that legalized homosexual conduct has no more potential to bring about change in society, and that legalizing gay marriage will not further change society, then we cannot say that it will not contribute or even lead to the legalization of incest or polygamy.

In fact, I think that it is obvious that the legalization of homosexuality continues to give rise to societal change--otherwise, we wouldn't be at the point where gay marriage could find as much support as it does now. Otherwise, why wasn't the question of gay marriage raised as soon as homosexual behavior was legalized? What has changed in the meantime, and why, to make the question mootable?

Your response #2 to the slippery slope argument: from the Christian perspective, there is much separating incest, polygamy, pedophilia, and homosexual behavior on the one hand, and interracial marriage on the other: the Bible (which I take to be God's word) unequivocally prohibits the first group, but not the second. I am well aware that this kind of argument will not carry much weight with a non-believer, but then also this point #2 fails when one grants the Christian premises. As you can see, much depends on one's starting premises, not all of which are arrived at through emprical, evidential means.

Note that I'm not saying that the slippery slope is vindicated by my points, but merely that points #1 and #2 fail as objections to it. Objection #3 seems to rest on #1 and #2, so if I understand it correctly, it fails with them as well.

Sorry to go on at such length, and thank you for making the comment space available. BTW, did you ever have a chance to look at that Plantinga book I recommended?

BTW, you seem to deal mostly

BTW, you seem to deal mostly with religious objections (Cal Thomas's) to gay marriage in this posting. How would you tackle the objections of a non-believing conservative like Keith Burgess-Jackson? In this blog posting he endorses Thomas Sowell's column on the topic. I think we can credit the unbeliever Burgess-Jackson at least with having thought seriously about ethical issues.

I am of course not suggesting that Burgess-Jackson's views decide the issue, but there are secular varieties of the counter-argument that you must also confront at some time.

Chuck, Yes, one way of

Chuck,

Yes, one way of getting out of the problem might be to equate the two. Roderick Long writes,

    [I]n the Thomistic version of theological intellectualism, this is because to be God is to be objective goodness personified, and so God cannot alter the requirements of goodness without ceasing to be God, i.e., without destroying himself.

But even if this is so, we do not need God to discover morality for us, because we can discover logical truths on our own. And if God does not exist, the logical truths by which He otherwise would have been identified with still remain. Either way, Cal Thomas's view that morality is logically dependent upon religion is false.

Your response #1 to the slippery slope: this response is compelling only if we grant at least two assumptions: (1) that all societal changes from the legalization of homosexual conduct have already played out, i.e. that there are no further consequences from it; and (2) that gay marriage will introduce no further changes over and above the legalization of homosexual conduct.

Let's assume that all societal changes from the legalization of homosexual conduct have not already played out. Perhaps one year from today, everyone all of a sudden realizes that there is no logical reason to permit homosexuality but forbid adult consensual incest (incidentally, many people already realize this, including myself). What will conservatives have us do? To act consistently, we must either reinstitute the legal ban on homosexuality, or remove the legal bans on adult consensual incest.

As Eugene Volokh has argued, in order to use the slippery slope argument legitimately, one must demonstrate the mechanism by which one thing today leads to another thing tomorrow. What is the mechanism whereby legalizing gay marriage will both remove the prohibition on incest, pedophilia and polygamy, and at the same time extend marriage rights to all three partnerships? And why would we expect this mechanism to do to marriage what legalizing homosexuality has not yet done to the prohibitions on incest? Perhaps we will slip down the slope any day now, and this slip can be directly traced back to the legalization of homosexuality. But then again, as Jonathan Rowe argued, there is no reason to stop at the legalization of homosexuality. The real culprit is the legalization of interracial marriage.

Your response #2 to the slippery slope argument: from the Christian perspective, there is much separating incest, polygamy, pedophilia, and homosexual behavior on the one hand, and interracial marriage on the other: the Bible (which I take to be God's word) unequivocally prohibits the first group, but not the second. I am well aware that this kind of argument will not carry much weight with a non-believer, but then also this point #2 fails when one grants the Christian premises.

Ah, but whose Christian premises? Remember, both slavery and the ban on interracial marriage were once justified by Christians who pointed to scripture as proof that God supports their views. Perhaps this was a misinterpretation of the Bible, but they certainly didn't think so back then. Further, the very fact that the Bible requires interpretation, and the fact that many different groups, even among Christians, interpret the Bible very differently from each other, means that we cannot simply look to the Bible to see what God's views are, because God's views clearly are not very clear (else there wouldn't be so much disagreement among believers in the Bible). As I posted a few weeks ago, Christians aren't entirely consistent about which parts of the Bible they adhere to. Both eating shrimp and engaging in homosexual acts encur the same punishment according the Old Testament. And it is in no way clear that Jesus claimed remove the prohibition against eating shrimp but did not claim to remove the prohibition against homosexuality.

Objection #3 seems to rest on #1 and #2, so if I understand it correctly, it fails with them as well.

Not at all. Objection #3 grants the slippery slope and says so what? Who cares if gay marriage leads to polygamous and incestuous marriage? That's a good thing!

BTW, did you ever have a chance to look at that Plantinga book I recommended?

I seem to recall you mentioning it, but I forgot all about it. What was the title again?

BTW, you seem to deal mostly with religious objections (Cal Thomas's) to gay marriage in this posting. How would you tackle the objections of a non-believing conservative like Keith Burgess-Jackson?

Although I do read his blog on occassion, I haven't had a chance to read those particular posts yet. I'll take a look.

The final few sentences of

The final few sentences of the Moral Relativism blog are as follows:

Moral relativism erodes the foundation of law and will lead to anarchy. Any behavior is acceptable and welcome.

Law must be based on absolute principles. We can debate until the end of time exactly which principles it should be based on, but to base law on nothing is to have no law.

Laws based on a random ABSOLUTE code or set of principles are stable. Laws based on a FLEXIBLE code or set principles are unstable. Over the course of time, lawmakers may tweak the laws to deviate from the original code, but the original source is unchanging. Without an absolute moral basis for law, no person could ever be prosecuted for anything. A thief could argue that his moral code allows him to steal from the rich because it?s not fair for them to have more than others.

Micah: Jesus Christ declared

Micah:

Jesus Christ declared all foods clean in Mark 7:17-19. This is confirmed in Acts 10:9-18, in Peter's dream, where God commands him to eat that which was ceremonial unclean under the law, because God (Christ) had now cleansed it.

Jesus Christ also affirmed the teaching of the Old Testament that marriage was between a man and a woman. He specifically linked marriage to the act of creation, citing Genesis as the continuing standard for marriage in the church today. Mark 10:2-12.

Re; your comment on faith. No, I don't believe God's Word teaches that faith is a morally praiseworthy act. If you reread the quote from Ephesians 2:8-10, it says that even our faith is a gift from God. Faith isn't a work either.

Chris, I stand corrected on

Chris,

I stand corrected on the scriptural references. Although that doesn't make too much of a difference for the policy debate, since the 1st Amendment kicks in.

So if faith isn't morally praiseworthy, are any human actions in Christianity considered morally praiseworthy?

Micah: I am intrigued by

Micah:

I am intrigued by your first amendment argument. Are you saying that I must set aside my religious convictions when entering the voting booth? Are you saying that the Constitution forbids the people of America from using their consciences--often guided by their faith in a transcendent God--to discern which political candidates they will vote for?

Ephesians 2:8-10 also answers your question on moral praiseworthiness. The verse basically says that our good works are a result of God's grace in our lives. We are changed in order that we might do the good works prepared beforehand by God. Grace preceded obedience.

You can see this in the Old Testament as well. God freed Israel from the slavery in Egypt (grace), then called them into the wilderness that he might order their lives to honor and worship Him (obedience). But Israel had no deeds that made her righteous before God freed her from slavery.

Micha: Sorry about

Micha:

Sorry about misspelling your name above. Please forgive me.

Chris

Chris, What I am saying is

Chris,

What I am saying is that if the only good arguments that can be mustered in support of restricting the institution of marriage are religious ones, based on scripture, then the Supreme Court should immediately strike such restrictions down, on First Amendment grounds. Now you might say to me, "So what? Christians should still publish editorials in the newspaper bases on scripture in order to convince others that they should oppose gay marriage." To which I would respond with two comments: (a) You're preaching to the choir; religious Christians already agree with you, and (b) unless opponents of gay marriage are able to put forth secular arguments, judges who respect the Establishment clause will strike such restrictions down.

If all good works are a result of God's influence, then our actions are not morally praiseworthy, because they are not free. Further, does God share his grace even with athiests? If so, why? If not, then athiests are in fact more morally praiseworthy when they do good deeds because they are acting out of their own free will rather than determined by God's will.

I strongly disagree with your interpretation of the Old Testament. Not all Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt, and not all Jews were permitted to enter into the land of Israel after they recieved the Torah. And one of the main reasons why the Jews were eventually redeemed from slavery in Egypt is that, even though they descended spiritually and sinned greatly, they still maintained certain cultural practices, like keeping their Jewish names. Further, God's "grace" to the Jews when freeing them from slavery was not completely baseless or based on pure love, as it is with the Christian claim of Jesus sacrificing himself to save us from our sins. Rather, God had promised Abraham that his lineage would inherit the land of Israel.

Jesus Christ declared all

Jesus Christ declared all foods clean in Mark 7:17-19.

So in other words, eating shrimp was one of the worst things you could do in the sight of God for 1500 years, and then suddenly God says it's okay? What a lunatic.

- Josh

Hi Micha, let me make clear

Hi Micha, let me make clear at the outset that my goals in these responses were quite modest. I'm particularly trying to convince you, nor am I advancing a position that those who don't share my premises will necessarily find compelling. I am not defending Thomas's (Cal's, not Aquinas's) form of argument. I am certainly not defending the slippery slope argument. After all, from the point of view of an antinomian, my theology is on the slippery slope to legalism, while from the point of view of the Arminian, my theology is on the slippery slope to antinomianism. I am arguing from what I take to be a consistent, Biblical Christian point of view, in part to show where your arguments seem weak from that perspective. In my experience, people spend a lot of time haggling over noetic superstructure, as it were, when the issues have actually been decided at a more fundamental level. Seldom are issues defined and assumptions exposed in a way that makes arguments terribly meaningful. And even the best seldom persuade the arguers. But, when conducted with respect and clarity, they do help us understand one another's positions better, and give us something to think about.

I first wanted to show that Socrates's critique of the connection between morality and God has no force against the (little-'o') orthodox Christian conception of God. I think I did that, though your response merits a further reply. This message is already long enough, so the reply won't be here.

Second, I wanted to show the limits of your first two responses to the slippery slope arguments. In the case of response #1, I asserted that it is valid only when the two assumptions I stated are granted. Perhaps you grant them, but if they are not granted, then this response fails as an objection to the slippery slope (again, please note that I'm not trying to vindicate the slippery slope). In the case of response #2, you ask "Whose Christian premises?" This is an understandable objection, but in this case, there is near-unanimity among (little-'o') orthodox Christians, from Catholics to Pentacostals to Lutherans to Methodists to Anglicans to Baptists to Presbyterians.

You mention slavery. To be sure, many Christians affirmed slavery as institutionalized in the U.S., including some Christians whom I (and probably Chris & Andy) deeply admire in other respects. Nonetheless, I think that there are enough clear, objective differences between the slavery sanctioned by the Hebrew scriptures and slavery as practiced in America to show that American chattel slavery, defined along racial lines, could in no way be considered a Christian institution. You also mention interracial marriage. I'm not even sure what Scripture passages arguers against miscengenation would cite that could be considered anywhere near as clear and unambiguous as the doctrines on sexual conduct. Moses appears to have married a black woman, after all. To me at least, it is obvious that the Christians promoting slavery and prohibiting interracial marriage were captivated by their times to the point that they overlooked clear scriptural evidence (or the lack thereof). It seems to me that this problem speaks more to the individuals and times in question than to Christianity as a whole. I haven't noticed that libertarians are particularly consistent across the board on certain questions, such as abortion, war, intellectual property, and the finer details of the legitimate role of the state, etc. If inconsistencies across times and parties are a legitimate argument against the truthfulness or validity of Christianity, it seems to apply with equal force against the crowd loosely gathered under the banner of libertarianism.

I should also mention that there is agreement among all the groups I named above with respect to most of the central doctrines of the faith, e.g. the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, inspiration of scripture, etc.

As for the fact that the Bible requires interpretation, I contend that there is no form of communication that is somehow immediately accessible to reason. The amount of interpretation required by a piece of communication can vary trememdously from that required by another, but language is an enormously complex phenomenon that we largely take for granted. We wave our hands over the complexities entailed even in everyday conversation. Yes, people disagree over important matters in the Bible, but also over important matters in understanding Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and probably Hayek and Ayn Rand as well. Yet that doesn't mean that there isn't meaningful agreement among the arguers on many salient issues, or that for this reason the arguers can't propose a common Kantian or Hayekian position on many issues.

Clearly, you have reasons other than ostensibly defeating the slippery argument for believing that homosexual marriage is a good thing. Clearly, I have reasons apart from the slippery slope argument for thinking that homosexual marriage is bad. I'm not under the illusion that I have demolished your position or convinced you, but I do think that my critiques on this topic are apt and consistent.

Wild Pegasus's last comment

Wild Pegasus's last comment is a perfect illustration of what I meant about haggling over noetic superstructure, when the issues have been decided further down.

The quip makes perfect sense if you have already decided either that God doesn't exist, or that God does exist but he/she/it isn't identical with the God revealed in the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

If you have already decided that God exists and is the God revealed in the Bible, or if you are leaving that question open, then the quip doesn't make sense (at least not as a positive assertion).

Of course, the haggling I referred to is often a good deal more serious and substantial than this sort of quick ad hominem.

Chuck, Very well said. I'm

Chuck,

Very well said. I'm impressed with your tact in dealing with matters which are obviously important to you, as well as your skill in communicating them. I appreciate your efforts in pointing out what you believe to be hidden assumptions in my argument; we could all use a little of that every now and again.

If most Christians were as respectful as you are (and most non-Christians as well), I posit that there would be a lot less strife over religious issues in America.