Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Liberalism vs. religion

J. David Velleman makes a couple of revealing admissions in the course of a longish post deprecating conservative "people of faith."

First, there’s this:

Although I don’t think that moral seriousness requires religious belief, I do think that it requires faith.

What he means here is that moral seriousness requires faith in reason.

Second, there’s this:

I now consider myself an atheist, not because I think that I have conclusive reason for denying the existence of a personal God, but because I take His nonexistence, as it were, on faith. My willingness to embrace this indemonstrable vision of the universe is of a piece, to my way of thinking, with my commitment to the incommensurable value of persons as ends in themselves, the value that underwrites my moral code.

It turns out that his atheistic faith in reason is intimately connected with his "commitment" to human dignity, i.e., a kind of Nietzscheanized Kantianism. But is it not possible--just possible--to regard human beings as having dignity because they are created in God’s image? If that’s possible, then liberalism and religion are not inimical and Velleman’s atheism needs another explanation, since his isn’t sufficient.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I may have misunderstood the point of his post you quoted, but wasn’t it that humans should have value independent of anything else? Giving humans value because they are like something (which necessarily gives that thing more value than humans) defeats what he wanted--humans having value merely because they are humans.
I think he might want to avoid a situation where humans more like God have more value than those that are less like God. He wants some indeterminate value attached to all humans as humans. I suppose if humans being ends in themselves is crucial to liberalism then liberalism and belief that humans have value only because they are like God conflict.
Independent of this, I have always found the entire God’s image metaphor to be quite confusing. What attributes do both share? If anyone could clear it up I would be appreciative.

I was only suggesting that regarding persons as ends in themselves (with "incommensurable value") doesn’t seem to me to require atheism. In fact, Kant seems to argue that regarding human beings as ends in themselves "requires" "faith" in the existence of God (along with freedom and the immortality of the soul).

"I have always found the entire God’s image metaphor to be quite confusing.What attributes do both share? If anyone could clear it up I would be appreciative."

The ability to create.


Steve Sparks,

My answer to your question seems hidden in my previous post so I post it here again.

You asked: “I have always found the entire God’s image metaphor to be quite confusing. What attributes do both share? If anyone could clear it up I would be appreciative."

The answer to your question is “Both have the ability to create”.

(One note: God is spirit, so shared attributes must be spirit as well. Spirit does exist in our universe and can be, seen even scientifically, in the qualities of "information" [see Claude Shannon – information theory]).

If an artist, using matter (paint, clay etc.) is said to “create” art, then humans can be creators. Paint and clay are manipulated so they imitate reality (art), but the smallest child can manipulate matter by feeding himself (food is made of matter) and create an adult in actual reality. Who is more creative; the artist or the child?

Creativity is not blind. Actions made by people without regard to truth are blind, and most often destructive. Destruction is not creation. Creativity requires that people use the same parameters used by God: truth

By taking action based on thought, people can alter the universe. Accurate perception allows predictions upon which sound reason can act - to form reality into an arrangement that fits the prediction. Sadly, an inaccurate perception (a lie) will fail to consistently provide accurate predictions of the consequence of an action.

Since there is no new matter or energy in the universe all any human can do is rearrange the matter that exists: When reality is rearranged, the former pattern of reality is destroyed. It only follows that false perceptions caused by believing lies cause blind destruction, not intentional creation. Those who fail to question their perceptions act without being able to predict the consequence of their action; they do not know what they make.

Jesus said “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” No one can be sure what picture they make when they paint in the dark.


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