Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It (Part 4 of 7)

by | Sep 18, 2005

Adapted from Chapter 1 of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It by Craig Biddle. There are hundreds of religions. Each is vying for your allegiance. Each denies the validity of the others. Each claims to be based on the “true” word of God. And each says that God said […]

Adapted from Chapter 1 of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It by Craig Biddle.

There are hundreds of religions. Each is vying for your allegiance. Each denies the validity of the others. Each claims to be based on the “true” word of God. And each says that God said something different from what the others say He said. Why? Why can’t any single religion convince the others of its divine “truth”? Because none can provide rational evidence in support of its particular assertions. And given the religious method of arriving at the “truth,” none can justify demanding such evidence from the others either.

Religion is based explicitly, not on reason, which requires evidence and logic, but on faith, which is belief in the absence of evidence and in defiance of logic.[30] Faith is essential to religion, because it is the only way to maintain belief in the existence of God: There is no evidence for Him; there are only books and people that say He exists. (This fact can be verified by asking any religionist to present the evidence on which his belief in God rests.)

How, then, do religionists attempt to justify their belief in God? By insisting, as does Dr. Laura, that God is “not an aspect of nature but a reality greater than the universe” and “beyond our sensory abilities.”[31]

But that raises the question: How can anyone know anything about that which is “not an aspect of nature” or “greater than the universe” or “beyond our sensory abilities”? Nature is all there is; the universe is the totality of it; and our senses are our only source of information. In other words, such “knowledge” would require understanding of a non-thing from a non-place by means of non-sense.

This is why religionists of all walks ultimately echo the famous words of Saint Augustine: I do not know in order to believe; I believe in order to know.[32]

By dismissing the requirement of evidence–and thus reversing the order of knowledge and belief–faith sets the stage for belief in “miracles.” A miracle is (supposedly) when something becomes what it has no natural potential to become (water turns into wine, or a woman into a pillar of salt)–or when something acts in a manner in which it has no natural potential to act (a bush speaks or burns without being consumed). In other words, a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.

The basic laws of nature are the laws of identity and causality. The law of identity is the self-evident truth that everything is something specific; everything has properties that make it what it is; everything has a nature: A thing is what it is. (A rose is a rose.) The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action: A thing can act only in accordance with its nature.[33] (A rose can bloom; it cannot speak.)

Insofar as our thinking is in accordance with the laws of identity and causality, our thinking is in accordance with reality; insofar as it is not, it is not. Our method for checking our ideas against the facts is logic: the method of non-contradictory identification.[34]

The basic law of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which is the law of identity in negative form: A thing cannot be both what it is and what it is not at the same time and in the same respect.[35] (A rose cannot simultaneously be a non-rose.) The law of non-contradiction is the basic principle of rational thinking. Since a contradiction cannot exist in nature–since things are what they are–if a contradiction exists in our thinking, then our thinking is mistaken and in need of correction. (If we believe that a bush spoke or burned without being consumed, then we need to correct our thinking.)

The laws of identity, causality, and non-contradiction are not rationally debatable. To begin with, all arguments presuppose and depend on their validity; any attempt to deny them actually reaffirms them. This phenomenon was first discovered by Aristotle and is called reaffirmation through denial. While trying to deny these laws, a person has to be who he is–he can’t be someone else–because of the law of identity; he has to act as a human being–he can’t act as an eggplant–because of the law of causality; and he has to use words that mean what they mean–he can’t use words that mean what they don’t–because of the law of non-contradiction. On a more practical level, these laws are why we fuel our cars with gasoline–why we refrigerate certain foods–why we wear warm clothing in winter–why we vaccinate our children–why we string our tennis rackets–why we put wings on airplanes–and why we don’t drink Drano. More broadly speaking, the entire history of observation, knowledge, and science is based on the laws of identity, causality, and non-contradiction. Every object, every event, every discovery, and every utterance is an example of their validity. These laws are self-evident, immutable, and absolute.

Yet religion flatly denies them.

Different religions go to different lengths in this regard, but all of them deny natural law and logic. Such denial is essential to religion, because if a thing cannot become what it has no natural potential to become, or act in a manner contrary to its nature, then there can be no miracles. In other words, if natural law is immutable, then there can be no omnipotent God capable of overriding, suspending, or muting it.

Thus, the more religious a person is, the more he has to try to defend contradictions. Such an effort is by nature frustrating, because contradictions are by nature indefensible. This is why the staunchest defenders of religion say the nuttiest things. For instance, while responding to criticisms of the illogic of religious dogma, the outspoken church father Tertullian finally declared: “It is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd

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Craig Biddle is the editor and publisher of The Objective Standard and the author of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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