Monday, October 4, 2010
Pragmatism isn’t Pragmatic Enough
Here is my basic response to an atheist who argued that law and government don’t require a belief in God. Instead, government can pass “just” laws just on the basis of pragmatism – what works for the majority of people.
To some extent, I agree with your pragmatic assessment. It does make pragmatic sense to regard people as “equal” and to grant them equal rights. However, here are some reasons why pragmatism can’t take the place of God:
1. Governments and laws based purely of pragmatic concerns are inadequate. People, places and practical concerns are always in flux. It follows that all laws should also be in flux. Many are and should be responsive to pragmatic concerns, but there also needs to be underlying and unchanging principles of justice and truth that pure pragmatism can’t support.
2. Pure pragmatism turns us into hypocrites. We treat people one way but have an entirely different attitude towards them. Just consider the psychotherapist who practices “unconditional positive regard.” On the surface he’s one way, but in his heart he despises the weakness or illness he sees in his client. In contrast to this, the Christian can be genuinely compassionate because they actually believe that this pure individual actually bears the image of God.
3. Pure pragmatism fails to provide an adequate rational basis for real compassion. Although many atheists are compassionate – far more than me – lacking an adequate philosophy to support compassion, compassion will atrophy. In this regard, I like what Dinesh D’Souza said about Aristotle:
• “Aristotle, too, had a job for low men: slavery. Aristotle argued that with low men in servitude, superior men would have leisure to think and participate in governance of the community. Aristotle cherished the ‘great-souled man’ who was proud, honorable, aristocratic, rich.” (“What’s so Great about Christianity”)
4. Pragmatism is myopic. It will inevitably sell-out to immediate needs and lusts. After all, getting that promotion is more pragmatic than living according to the uncertain principles of what society needs to function. Heck with that, if I need to put food on my table!
Just a concluding observation: The fact that what is pragmatic also so well accords with the moral absolutes that we recognize within our hearts, speaks persuasively to a grand harmony and design and a Designer! Besides, if you are truly pragmatic, you should believe in God!