Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should Christians be committed to small government conservatism?

I found a paper (PDF) on the University of Washington web site that makes the case for why Christians ought to care about more than just social issues.

Here’s the abstract:

What accounts for cross-national variation in religiosity as measured by church attendance and non-religious rates? Examining answers from both secularization theory and the religious economy perspective, we assert that cross-national variation in religious participation is a function of government welfare spending and provide a theory that links macro-sociological outcomes with individual rationality. Churches historically have provided social welfare. As governments gradually assume many of these welfare functions, individuals with elastic preferences for spiritual goods will reduce their level of participation since the desired welfare goods can be obtained from secular sources. Cross-national data on welfare spending and religious participation show a strong negative relationship between these two variables after controlling for other aspects of modernization.

Here’s the conclusion:

It is quite apparent that there is a strong statistical relationship between state social welfare spending and religious participation and religiosity. Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals. People living in countries with high social welfare spending per capita even have less of a tendency to take comfort in religion, perhaps knowing that the state is there to help them in times of crisis.34 As laid out in the theory above, there is likely a substitution effect for some individuals between state-provided services and religious services. Religion will still be there to serve the spiritual needs of people seeking answers to the philosophic mysteries of life, but those who value those spiritual goods less than the tangible welfare benefits churches provide will be less likely to participate in religious services once secular substitutes become available. Given that religious practice and values are often passed down from generation to generation, the weakening of practice in one generation will likely translate into weaker practice in subsequent generations. Does this mean that secularization theory is correct in its prediction that religion will gradually fade away? Doubtful. Realizing that there is still a yearning among many people to understand the mysteries of life, religion is not likely to dissipate at any time soon. Government simply cannot offer credible substitutes for these less tangible, supernatural goods. The explosion in spirituality once religion was made legal in former Soviet bloc countries lends credence to this assertion (Greeley 1994). As religious markets become more deregulated in various parts of the world, it is likely that new religious movements will take advantage of increased liberty and discover ways to expand.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from the findings above is that the religiosity of a society is not simply determined by sociological factors. Government policy can play an important role in shaping the religiosity of a nation. Policies aimed at regulating the activities of religious organizations — from tax laws to zoning regulations — have important effects on the firms that supply religious goods and services. Many of these policies are designed consciously to promote or inhibit religious practice. Alternatively, welfare policy has been shown here to unintentionally affect the demand for religious services, likely over the course of generations. And, finally, since an extensive welfare state is considered by many to be a hallmark of modernized societies, the microfoundational analysis presented above provides a way of incorporating a component part of the secularization thesis (which relies heavily on notions of modernization) into the religious economy perspective.

Have you ever heard a sermon that addresses the size of government and individual liberty and prosperity? I haven’t. You’d have to be reading Wayne Grudem or Jay Richards to find that. The typical church you attend either praises big government or says nothing about it. After all, we can keep making withdrawals on the liberties we have right now without ever worrying about having to make any deposits, right? Everything will be fine, and it’s easier not to have to think about what’s down the road to serfdom, so long as the scenery is nice for us right now. Religion is primarily about comfort, not truth. Right?

The funny thing is that when I talk to most Christians about this, especially non-Americans, they simply don’t have the knowledge of economics to understand how big government affects liberty, prosperity and security. There is no one reading F.A. Hayek and Thomas Sowell in Europe, and there are not that many people reading them here at home either.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , ,

NHS appeals decision allowing midwives to conscientiously object to performing abortions

What happens when you let a secular government take over health care provisioning?

Here is a story from the BBC about the state-run health care system in the UK.

Excerpt:

The UK’s highest court will hear legal arguments on whether midwives have a right to refuse to take any part in abortion procedures on moral grounds.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde appealed to the Supreme Court after judges in Scotland said Roman Catholic midwives had a right to conscientious objection.

[…]Five judges in London will hear the case. A ruling is expected next year.

Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, and Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

[…]This landmark case tests the balance between those whose religious beliefs do not allow them to play any part whatsoever in abortion, and the health authorities’ duty under the law to enable women to have an abortion. Many Christian groups back the midwives’ position.

The midwives’ counsel, Gerry Moynihan QC, told the court in the women’s earlier successful appeal that the law was clear that the right to conscientious objection contained in the Abortion Act was intended to apply to the whole team whose involvement was necessary to achieve the procedure.

If the Supreme Court upholds the midwives’ earlier successful appeal, it could set a legal precedent, allowing other midwives who object to abortion to take the same stance.

The Royal College of Midwives and the women’s charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service have both warned that any such ruling could have severe implications for the care of women choosing to terminate their pregnancy.

The BPAS is the largest abortion provider in the UK. I blogged before about their leader, Ann Furedi, who supports sex-selection abortions. I thought then that sex-selection abortions was the worst thing about abortion, but now I see that she would actually force her moral views on other people, compelling them by the power of government to act against their beliefs. There is something deep inside me that just recoils from making a person do something that they think is morally wrong. But I guess pro-abortion people don’t share my concern.

When I blogged before about these two midwives when they won their appeal case, I wrote this:

If the health care system were private, then it would be easy for midwives to find another company to work for that did not violate their consciences. But when the government runs the whole health care system, where are you supposed to go? They are a monopoly and they make the rules. Yet another reasons for Christians to vote for smaller government. In a free market, if you don’t want to buy something from one store, you can go to another store. There is competition. But where are these nurses supposed to go? They are midwives, and the government and the courts make the rules in a government-run health care system.

This is why we need to keep the government OUT of health care. When you work for a government monopoly, and they want you to do something that you don’t want to do, you have two choices – do what they want or leave the country. If the only health care system is government-run, then if you want to practice health care, you have to leave. That seems unfair to me.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T-shirt company forced to print gay pride t-shirts and attend diversity training

From Kentucky.com.

Excerpt:

Hands On Originals discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington when it refused to print the group’s Lexington Pride Festival T-shirts in 2012, according to a hearing officer in the case.

Greg Munson issued his decision Monday. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission released it Tuesday morning.

“The evidence of record shows that the respondent discriminated against GLSO because of its members’ actual or imputed sexual orientation by refusing to print and sell to them the official shirts for the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival.”

Munson wrote that the application of the Fairness Ordinance did not violate the T-shirt vendor’s right to free speech and the free exercise of religion. The Human Rights Commission found in 2012 that Hands On Originals violated the city’s fairness ordinance, which prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.

Alliance Defending Freedom defended the business, and here was their line of argument:

“No one should be forced by the government — or by another citizen — to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the hearing examiner on behalf of Hands On Originals on June 19.

“Blaine (Adamson, of Hands On Originals) declined the request to print the shirts not because of any characteristic of the people who asked for them, but because of the message that the shirts would communicate.”

In the statement, Hands On Originals’ co-counsel Bryan Beauman, with the Lexington firm of Sturgill, Turner, Barker and Moloney, said, “No one wants to live in that kind of America — a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote the Westboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the GLSO. … In America, we don’t force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions.”

In cases like this, the Human Rights Commissions will try to drag the trial out for as long as possible, in order to send an intimidating messages to minorities they want to discriminate against and coerce. This case went on for two years, and probably cost a lot of money to defend. In Canada, Ezra Levant’s case went 2 years and also cost $100,000. The goal here is to use the legal system as a form of terrorist action, to intimidate anyone who disagrees with the secular left. And it works.

If you are looking for something to do with your life, becoming an ADF attorney or supporter is probably a very good option.

Do you think that intimidation like this is uncommon? Well, I’ve blogged about things like before – e.g. – getting Frank Turek fired, forcing out Brendan Eich at Mozilla, expelling students from university, discriminating against foster parents,violence at student demonstrations, coercing Christian businesses, leaking the names of pro-marriage donors,closing down adoption agenciesthreatening teachers with termination, terminating police chaplainsvandalizing businessesvandalizing churches, or actually being convicted of committing domestic terrorism by attacking the Family Research Council building with guns. So sometimes it’s coercion, and sometimes it’s vandalism and sometimes it’s domestic terrorism. It depends on how extreme the gay activist is in his views.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. George Yancey lectures on anti-Christian bias in academia, and beyond

A 28-minute lecture on bias against religion in academia:

If you watch 5 minutes, then you’ll definitely stay and watch the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

Details:

Join Dr. George Yancey in an in depth discussion of the bias taking place within academia against religion in general, but more specifically Christianity. Within the discussion Dr.Yancey uses brief explanations of his previous book, Compromising Scholarship and many other excerpts of his past research as well as his forthcoming research to give us a new viewpoint on academia and religion.

I found a quick description of Dr. Yancey’s work in this New York Times article from July 2011.

It says:

Republican scholars are more likely than Democrats to end up working outside academia,as documented by Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University. Dr. Klein, who calls himself a classical liberal (a k a libertarian), says that the university promotes groupthink because its system of “departmental majoritarianism” empowers the dominant faction to keep hiring like-minded colleagues. And when a faculty committee is looking to hire or award tenure, political ideology seems to make a difference, according to a “collegiality survey” conducted by George Yancey.

Dr. Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, asked more than 400 sociologists which nonacademic factors might influence their willingness to vote for hiring a new colleague. You might expect professors to at least claim to be immune to bias in academic hiring decisions.

But as Dr. Yancey reports in his new book, “Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education,” more than a quarter of the sociologists said they would be swayed favorably toward a Democrat or an A.C.L.U. member and unfavorably toward a Republican. About 40 percent said they would be less inclined to vote for hiring someone who belonged to the National Rifle Association or who was an evangelical. Similar results were obtained in a subsequent survey of professors in other social sciences and the humanities.

Dr. Yancey, who describes himself as a political independent with traditional Christian beliefs and progressive social values, advises nonliberal graduate students to be discreet during job interviews. “The information in this research,” he wrote, “indicates that revealing one’s political and religious conservatism will, on average, negatively influence about half of the search committee one is attempting to impress.”

Dr. Yancey’s research was a survey, not a field experiment, so it’s impossible to know how many of those academics who confessed to hypothetical bias would let it sway an actual decision. Perhaps they’d try to behave as impartially as the directors of graduate studies in Dr. Gross’s experiment.

The lecture is a real eye-opener. It turns out that in academia, you are likely to be viewed the same way as blacks were viewed by slave-owners, and Jews were viewed by Nazis. Stereotypes, ignorance and hatred abound.

We have a lot of work to do to correct these perceptions, but that’s not going to happen unless churches and Christian parents start to take the life of the mind more seriously.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why doesn’t God make his existence more obvious to people?

Have you ever heard someone say that if God existed, he would give us more evidence? This is called the “hiddenness of God” argument. It’s also known as the argument from “rational non-belief”.

Basically the argument is something like this:

  1. God is all powerful
  2. God is all loving
  3. God wants all people to know about him
  4. Some people don’t know about him
  5. Therefore, there is no God.

In this argument, the atheist is saying that he’s looked for God real hard and that if God were there, he should have found him by now. After all, God can do anything he wants that’s logically possible, and he wants us to know that he exists. To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.

What reason could God have for remaining hidden?

Dr. Michael Murray, a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, has found a reason for God to remain hidden.

His paper on divine hiddenness is here:
Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993.

He argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.

But believing in God just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants for us. If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might try to get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

(Note: I think that we don’t seek God on our own, and that he must take the initiative to reach out to us and draw us to him. But I do think that we are free to resist his revelation, at which point God stops himself short of coercing our will. We are therefore responsible for our own fate).

The atheist’s argument is a logical/deductive argument. It aims to show that there is a contradiction between God’s will for us and his hiding from us. In order to derive a contradiction, God MUST NOT have any possible reason to remain hidden. If he has a reason for remaining hidden that is consistent with his goodness, then the argument will not go through.

When Murray offers a possible reason for God to remain hidden in order to allow people to freely respond to him, then the argument is defeated. God wants people to respond to him freely so that there is a genuine love relationship – not coercion by overt threat of damnation. To rescue the argument, the atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free choice of his creatures to reject him.

More of Michael Murray’s work

Murray has defended the argument in works published by prestigious academic presses such as Cambridge University Press, (ISBN: 0521006104, 2001) and Routledge (ISBN: 0415380383, 2007). The book chapter from the Cambridge book is here. The book chapter from the Routledge book is here.

Michael Murray’s papers are really fun to read, because he uses hilarious examples. I should mention that I disagree with his view that God’s work of introducing biological information in living creatures has to be front-loaded.

Here’s more terrific stuff from Dr. Murray:

Is there any evidence of God’s existence?

Yes, just watch this lecture by Dr. William Lane Craig. It contains 5 reasons why God exists and 3 reasons why it matters.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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