More Goldberg Bashing — Goldberg

More Goldberg Bashing — Goldberg concludes his essay thus:

Chesterton pointed out that when a man stops believing in God, he won’t believe in nothing, he’ll believe in anything. God isn’t necessarily the issue here. But the principle is the same. Humans, especially children, very much want to believe in things. If we don’t bother to teach — or impose — certain Western values on our own people, they will embrace values that are neither open nor tolerant. Belief in “something” just isn’t good enough.

First, Chesterton never pointed out any such thing, because pointing out a falsehood is like pointing out the winged horse crossing the street with the elf on its back. He asserted it, falsely. Indeed, it’s necessarily false, as it’s contradictory. A man who stops believing in God has, by that very action, demonstrated that he will not believe in anything.

The gist of Chesterton’s falsehood is deeply anti-rational. The claim is that baseless commitment to (i.e., faith in) the existence a supernatural entity is the only possible foundation for norms governing belief. But that’s bizarre. One needn’t have God’s assistance to arrive at the principle that you should only believe things you have evidence for (which principle is an excellent reason to stop believing in God.) With respect to value, the notion is that only God’s commands can ground our judgments about value. But of course this is false. There is something that it is like to be a human being, and there are real requirements for life and happiness imposed on us not by God or our own descisions or desires, but by our naturally evolved biological and psychological constitution. Pace Chesterton’s mystical skepticism, it is possible to discover what these requirements and values are using plain old human reason unaided by divine guidance.

We should certainly teach our children these values. But they aren’t really “Western” in any other sense than that Westerners first discovered some of them. In any case, I certainly don’t want people like Goldberg imposing them. Goldberg has just told us that he believes that you cannot discover these values by rational means, and the biggest problem in the world today is precisely that of people attempting to impose on others values that have been gained through leaps of unreason. The cultural source of the parental idiocy that allowed one stupid kid to join the Taliban simply has no significance compared to the danger posed by anti-rational religious commitment, which caused the death of thousands of Americans, and which Goldberg continues to recommend to us.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center