I was honored when I saw John Derbyshire at the Conversation with Heather Mac Donald at the Harvard Club Wednesday night, but disappointed with his much overstated note about it on The Corner.
John can’t truthfully state as he does: “Believers are not at all interested in the matter of truth value, certainly not in verification by ordinary evidentiary standards.” For John himself was a believer, and then reasoned his way out of it. Many have followed the same route, and many others the reverse route. It is crucial to have reasons for one’s beliefs, and to be able to give an account of them.
Actually, the index to No One Sees God notes several passages that explain the importance of truth. Although in one short hour there was never enough time to say all that was required, I went out of my way last night to stress how the American founders often publicly spoke of true as against false religions. (I agree entirely with Mark Levin here, as amply shown in On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding.) The Bible itself frequently stresses the distinction between true and false religion, true and false gods, and how to tell the difference.
Often enough, though, on all sides, the definition of “evidence” is so loaded that only one option is reasonable. How can a modern materialist find evidence for the Source of all intelligence and intelligibility in this world, when even the pagan Greeks grasped that such a God is, and must necessarily be, immaterial?
Wednesday night, Heather asked the audience whether anyone thought the reported vision of Joseph Smith and the Mormons is true. (I had replied to this question in writing on page 107 of No One Sees God.) I do not believe the story of the Angel Moroni to be true, but I do tremendously respect the way a great many Mormons live their lives. Something must be right in Mormonism, for Mormons to lead such good lives.
I agree with Heather that the Enlightenment showed Christians a new way of political tolerance; we owe much to the Enlightenment. Nonetheless, as I am sure Mr. Derbyshire would agree, the very term “Enlightenment”” is a bit of polemical bigotry: we the “enlightened” (or “brights”), you still in the dark. Very tolerant, that.
In his own Essay on Toleration, John Locke excluded both Catholics and atheists from the ranks of those to be tolerated. In the French Revolution and again during the Mexican Cristiada, thousands of Catholics were murdered. (To be continued.)