Friday, March 17, 2006

Radio: Hunting on Sundays

Called into the Ken Bagwell radio show on WZGM 1350 AM regarding the issue of eliminating the ban on hunting on Sundays.

These were my comments:
"I believe in limited government. That means that the government is given a very small range of action and I get to decide the rest. Why would anyone need to impose their religion on me in order to preserve their traditions? Is hunting a legal activity? If that's true then: by what right does the government restrict my exercise of a legal activity? Is this a public safety issue? Is this a cost or budgetary issue? Is national security at stake? No, it is purely religious. If your tradition is popular then surely you don't need to use the government to impose your religion on me in order to maintain your tradition. There are some good traditions and some bad traditions. Some traditions should be preserved and some traditions deserve to be chipped away at. I believe that using the police power of the government to impose religion on a free people in a pluralistic society is a bad tradition."

I sent this email to Kathy Rhodarmer:
Kathy, I appreciate your comments on the radio today and I agree with what you said. But you left your argument incomplete. What you stated was a proposition, not an argument. You stated, essentially, that "the Christian religion is a very important part of the fabric of America." That is true, but it is not a complete argument. It is only one part of an argument: a proposition. For an argument to be valid it must have true propositions and a true conclusion. Without stating the conclusion that this proposition leads to, you are leaving it up to the listener to determine your argument. If a listener were to complete the argument in his mind it might sound like this: PROPOSITION 1: The Christian religion is a very important part of the fabric of America (TRUE). CONCLUSION: Therefore, one person has the right to use the government to impose the Christian religion on another person who is not a Christian (FALSE). So you see, the proposition, while true in itself, does not reasonably lead to the conclusion that is implied.

The exchange continues: wrote:

> By your logic then, we need to take all laws off the books
> that happen to coincide with what the Christian religion
> espouses as wrong. Stealing, lying giving just a couple.

Laws against stealing and lying (fraud, perjury, libel) are good laws because they protect my individual rights. Laws banning legal activities on Sunday are bad laws because the violate my individual rights.

America has a government established on the basis of secular law. In some cases these laws are in agreement ("coincide") with other codes of law in history; and in other cases they are not. For example, sanctions against certain criminal offenses are fairly common across cultures and across time. Both ancient and modern Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews--and even atheists--are in agreement that murder and theft should be prohibited by law. But there are some disagreements when it comes to adultery, coveting your neighbor's wife or keeping the Sabbath holy. In fact, there is even disagreement among Christians (Protestants, Catholics, Lutherans) regarding the authentic text of the Decalogue.

If American law was based on Christian religious scripture then worshiping graven images would be illegal and a punishable offense. And I can tell you that if someone where to slap me on the cheek, there would be hell to pay--and my response to unprovoked physical assault would be supported in a court of law; that is, secular law.

> By your standards, one might think stealing is wrong while
> another person does not. Who tells you that these things
> are wrong?

The standard of natural rights secured by secular American law enshrined in a Constitution which is designed to protect the individual liberty of the religious and non-religious alike in a pluralistic society.

> And to reference Ayn Rand's ideas of where she
> thinks right and wrong come from is not enough for me.

How about the words and signature of John Adams:

"The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

And this is my response to questions from radio talk show host Ken Bagwell:

Ken Bagwell wrote:

> Not so, my friend. Do you think you would have the right to
> life, liberty, and property under Sharia Law?

Those rights might not be protected to my satisfaction under Sharia Law but I would still possess them.

> Speaking of the Founders...where do you think they got their
> ideas concerning life, liberty, and property?

...and the pursuit of happiness...?

John Locke and Aristotle.

Ken Bagwell wrote:

> Locke, Montesque, Blackstone and the Scriptures.
> I don't doubt you, but I would like to see documentation
> indicating that they referred to Aristotle.

I don't think you'll find the founders very often explicitly quoting or tracing their influences; but they are evident in the subtext, their words and deeds, and the history of ideas.

You have cited some influential sources which have certainly helped inform the founders in the construction of a rational and just social system. My point in citing only Locke and Aristotle is that I believe them to be the most central and least derivative.

See Aristotle's "metaphysics," "politics" and "ethics" as the source for notions regarding the law of identity, epistemology, the supremacy of reason, and the ethics of rational self-interest and seeking the "good life." (In fact, it is useful also to note the enormous influence Aristotle had on Christian thought in the person of Thomas Aquinas.)

I think you will find in a survey of political history that the most influential thinkers have stood on the shoulders of giants and in the realm of modern American political philosophy I identify these as Locke and Aristotle.

Certainly a number of other philosophers are considered among the greats--Plato, Marx, Kant--but are flawed and their themes run counter to that strain that resulted in the great American experiment (most notably in their assertions of the primacy of consciousness over existence.) So, excluding the misguided and the derivative and reducing the list to its essentials I am left with these two. Since the founding, I would add the names of Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand to the pantheon of great thinkers who fully justify, explicate and expand on the political basis of America.

You may find some interesting source material on this in the classic work by Leo Strauss entitled "History of Political Philosophy."

Strauss has also produced a study of individual rights in his book "Natural Right and History" which you might find interesting.

For a specific review of John Locke's influence, I recommend "John Locke's Political Philosophy" by Harry Binswanger:

"More than anyone since Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, John Locke was responsible for the existence of the United States. He virtually created the theory of individual rights, and all the Founding Fathers were thoroughly schooled in his Second Treatise of Government."