Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama vs. Obama

In Barack Obama's Cairo speech, he said the following:

"Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's."

This is one of those statements that's really so silly that it's hard to know where to start. I suppose in the interest of fairness, we should understand that Obama is responding to terrorist Muslims who appear, (if you've familiar with some parts of the Koran) to actually take the Koran seriously. Obviously, it's hard to argue with the assertion that you shouldn't kill people just because they won't believe as you do. But notice that's not really what he said. He said that the notion of measuring one's own faith by the rejection of someone else's faith is "disturbing".

What's so disturbing about it? Unless I've abandoned the Law of Non-Contradiction, I must reject every truth claim that contradicts the truth claims that I believe are true. That's just plain logic. If I am unwilling to say that contradictory truth claims are false, then I must not be convinced that the truth claims I claim to believe are actually true.

For example, if I say I believe that bigfoot exists but I'm unwilling to conclude that someone else's belief that bigfoot is a hoax is false, then by definition I do not believe that bigfoot exists. That bigfoot exists and that bigfoot is a hoax (doesn't really exist) are two contradictory truth claims. They cannot both be true. If I say I believe one, then I must reject the other.

How you deal with people who have different beliefs than yours is an entirely different question. Obviously, killing someone for this reason is not recommended. But there's nothing at all unreasonable about rejecting other peoples' religious beliefs as false. Doing so only demonstrates that you are actually committed to your own beliefs and you're willing to put your money where your mouth is. Notice, however, that this confidence doesn't prove that your beliefs are actually true. So it might be a good idea to examine your beliefs against all of the evidence and make sure that your beliefs are reasonable.

But there's something else funny about this statement that's much more subtle. Obama has made a truth claim here. The truth claim he's made is that the tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of someone else's faith is "disturbing". I assume he expects his audience to believe this statement (otherwise why say it?) but that would require his audience to reject the opposing truth claim which is that this tendency is totally reasonable and healthy and there's nothing at all disturbing about it. But, you see, in order to believe that this tendency is "disturbing" I have to be willing to reject the opposing truth claim! In other words, I have to give in to the very tendency Obama believes is so "disturbing" in order to agree with him that the tendency is "disturbing." Are you confused yet?

Obama's statement reveals a post-modern world view in which some rules of logic, such as the Law of Non-Contradiction, only apply when it's convenient for him. If you're a Muslim it's okay to believe in the Koran, but if you then conclude that every other religion is false, (which you would have to do given the Law of Non-Contradiction) then there's something wrong with you.

I'm a Christian, and by that I mean that I actually believe that the Bible is The Truth. I look at the numerous lines of historical and scientific evidence which support the Biblical account of history (evidence from biololgy, archaeology, sociology, geography, anthropology, etc) and I conclude that Christianity makes the best sense out of all the available evidence. Since the Koran teaches things contrary to the Bible, and since every other religion does as well, I must conclude that all other religions are false. That's just pure logic, folks. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that two contradictory truth claims cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. The Koran teaches that He is NOT the Messiah. They can't both be true. Now, I could reject BOTH (and many do) without violating logic, but if I believe one, I must reject the other. But notice I don't feel compelled (as Obama suspects I should) to kill people who haven't reached the same conclusion. People are free to believe what they want to believe and I'm free to believe that they're wrong, am I not?

And am I not also free to believe that I should make some reasonable attempt to persuade someone if given the opportunity? Is that wrong? And if so, by who's account? I mean… if you were to say to me that I'm wrong to try to persuade others that what I believe is true, then aren't you trying to persuade me that what you believe is true?

When a Mormon comes to my door, I actually make an attempt to persuade them that what the LDS church teaches is false. They come to me with the same motive, do they not? I don't hold that against them, do I? No, I don't. I'm polite, I'm respectful, I ask them questions and generally carry on a pleasant conversation with them. I just think they're religious system is false and I think that because it teaches something contrary to what Christianity teaches and, perhaps even more importantly, there's absolutely no evidence to support anything that the LDS church teaches. So if I believe Christianity, I must conclude that any religion which contradicts Christianity is false.

We have been overtaken in this country by post-modernism, a philosophy which denies absolute truth, denies objective morality, and believes that two contradictory truth claims can be true at the same time and in the same sense. It's an abandonment of logic. This will do us no good whatsoever.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I am a very busy guy who doesn't have time for all the pleasantries with the mor(m)ons that you do. If they ask me if I "want to hear some good news", (their standard greeting here), I tell them, "No, I'd rather hear what you plan to name your planet". This is typically followed by a look of confusion because they aren't usually exposed to this ridiculous notion at the "mission" stage of their careers, so I tell them, "just go ask your bishop".

  3. For whatever it's worth, the paragraph on the Mormons wasn't designed to make anyone question how they deal with Mormons at their front door. I'm a little unusual in that, well, I'm here all the time and usually I can move things around enough in my schedule to spend some time talking to them. Most folks don't have that luxury and I understand that completely.

    I've said before that I love the "What're you gonna name your planet?" line. There's no way for me to know that this approach isn't effective at some point, so if that's the way you choose to deal with them, then have at it.

    The first question I usually ask is "Do you (or can you) know for CERTAIN that you'll go to the third Heaven?"

    Their answer is always "No" although it takes some doing to get them to finally admit it. He, he.

    From there it's an easy jump into eternal security and absolute assurance and to show them how badly their doctrine conflicts with the Bible, which they CLAIM to believe. (and of course they don't)

    So hopefully at some point they'll realize that they're chasing their tail with Mormonism. It's a long shot either way you go, and even though it might seem a bit out-of-character for me not to use some smart-alek approach, I just figure that the less of that I use, the more likely it is that they'll listen to what I say and not "put up a fence."

    I think I would name my planet "Opus".