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Don’t let Scalia tell you there’s nothing wrong January 5, 2016

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Democracy, Politics, Religion.
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3 comments

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently graced some students in Louisiana with his learned opinions.

He told the audience at Archbishop Rummel High School that there is “no place” in the country’s constitutional traditions for the idea that the state must be neutral between religion and its absence.

“To tell you the truth there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?” he said. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”

I wonder, what are Scalia’s criteria for a religion to be eligible for favored status? Would he include Scientologists? Satanists? Followers of Zeus and Ra? Is any belief too crazy, or is it sufficient to believe in something for which there is no evidence?

He also said there is “nothing wrong” with the idea of presidents and others invoking God in speeches. He said God has been good to America because Americans have honored him…

“God has been very good to us. That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,” Scalia said.

“There is nothing wrong with that and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that,” he added.

I’m afraid there are several things wrong with that. If we actually look at the other countries of the world, we find that highly nonreligious societies like Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands rank higher than the U.S. on indexes like life expectancy and education; while the poorest countries tend to be the most religious. And you know who else believed they had God on their side? The Romans. And the Mayans. And the Egyptians. For a while, anyway.

It turns out that societies do better when they base their policies on reason and evidence rather than magical thinking and dogmatic adherence to tradition. After all, one person’s religion is just another’s superstition. Do we really want our leaders invoking the magical, and our laws favoring the superstitious? Even Scalia ought to be able to see what’s wrong with that.

(via Why Evolution is True)

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Stupidity regarded as wisdom March 13, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Reason, Religion.
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3 comments

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a keynote speaker at the “Living the Catholic Faith Conference” in Denver last week, where he argued that his Christian faith is not irrational:

… Scalia today told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 Catholics to have “the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity” by society’s sophisticates…

The 75-year-old Scalia said that today one can believe in a creator and the teachings of Jesus without being the brunt of too much ridicule, but that to hold traditional Christian beliefs that Jesus is God and He physically rose from the grave is to be derided as simple-minded by those considered leading intellectuals.

Traditional Catholics, Scalia said, are seen as peasant-like in their saying the Rosary, kneeling before the Holy Eucharist and indiscriminately following the teachings of the pope.

“(Yet) the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight,” Scalia said, quoting the Bible…

In Washington, Scalia said, the pundits and media couldn’t believe in a miracle performed under their noses.

“My point is not that reason and intellect need to be laid aside,” Scalia said. “A faith without a rational basis should be laid aside as false. … What is irrational is to reject a priori the possibility of miracles in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular.”

Nice try, but Scalia demonstrates exactly why his beliefs do deserve to be “derided as simple-minded.” Non-Christian “intellectuals” don’t reject the possibility of Jesus Christ’s resurrection a priori: they reject it due to lack of sufficient evidence — just like Scalia rejects the miraculous claims of Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Stories of miracles occurring “under people’s noses” are a dime a dozen; one would expect a judge to know that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Of course, even if there were good evidence that Jesus is God and that he physically rose from the grave, it would not follow that we ought to kneel before him and follow his teachings indiscriminately. That’s not wisdom — it’s servility. Indeed, we all pay the price for Scalia’s reverential adherence to stupid Iron Age teachings which he believes to be the will of God.

So it’s good that the irrational beliefs of Scalia and his church are coming under pressure. Instead of hunkering down and insisting that folly is wisdom, I hope the faithful will have the courage to examine their beliefs critically, so that one day our public policy will not be constrained by ancient miracle stories. As a wise man once said: “A faith without a rational basis should be laid aside as false.”

(via Thoughts from Kansas)