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A Question of Faith?

Faith is a central pillar of most religions. But what does it really mean?

There are those who argue that faith is not a function of evidence or proof. For want of a better description, we could call this ‘blind faith’. There are proponents of this kind of faith in most religions.

‘Blind faith’ is a curious approach. It requires absolute belief that something is true, without any evidence to support that belief, then uses the thing believed in as ‘evidence’ of the claims it makes.

We find such an approach in Islam, for example. The starting point is the statement of faith, the ‘Shahada’, which must be recited by converts to Islam. It declares that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet. From that follows a belief that the Koran is the word of God as revealed to Mohammed. The Koran then becomes the ‘evidence’ of the claim that Allah is the one true God, and that Mohammed is his prophet.

This kind of approach does not begin by examining the claim that the Koran is the word of God to determine whether there is any evidence to support that claim, and then forming a view on the evidence. It does it the other way round. It makes the claim, then uses the book as evidence to support the claim. In other words, you begin by believing, without any evidence, that the book is the word of God, then point to passages in the book as ‘evidence’ of the claim.

However, the approach is not unique to Islam. We find a similar thing in Christianity and Judaism.

Few people, I suspect, who convert to Christianity or Judaism, do so because they have examined the evidence and concluded that the evidence justifies their belief in the claims made by those religions.

Of course, there have been those in all these religions who have sought to provide evidential support for the claims made by their respective religions. But mostly, they have sought to identify the evidence to support their already held beliefs, not formed their beliefs following an examination of the evidence. Although there are exceptions.

That raises the question of whether faith can, or should, have any role in determining what we believe, and how we conduct our lives as a consequence of what we believe.

In recent times, people have been conditioned to believe that if something can’t be proved, then it is simply untrue, or not worthy of further consideration. That has one of two broad effects. Either, people simply reject religion entirely, or they resort to something closely resembling blind faith.

But the conviction that faith is incompatible with proof is an entirely false distinction. In fact, without faith, every system of justice on the planet would cease to function.

That statement may appear counter-intuitive, because most people associate justice and the courts with evidence and proof. But that is not the whole story.

As any litigation attorney would acknowledge, there is no such thing as an open and shut case. And that is in spite of the fact that no case has to be proved with absolute certainty.

There are two broad standards of legal proof in the Anglo-American legal tradition: ‘on a balance of probabilities’ for civil cases; and ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ for criminal cases.

As a consequence, in a civil trial, for example, a judge or jury has to decide whether it is more likely than not that the evidence supports one or other party to a dispute. To make that judgment, they have to weigh up the evidence, and that includes making assessments as to the truthfulness of witnesses. But making such assessments is a subjective process. One person may find a particular witness entirely credible, while another person will find that same witness entirely shifty and unreliable. In the end, it is for the judge or jury to make a decision. However, as convinced as they may be that the evidence supports one side or the other, their decision still comes down to a question of belief – whose case they believe is more persuasive. That means that their decision is really a matter of ‘faith’. They cannot know for certain that their decision is right.

In the criminal courts, the situation is the same. Although the standard of proof is the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, that does not mean beyond a shadow of a doubt, or with one hundred percent certainty. Even where DNA evidence, for example, shows that the defendant must have been responsible for the crime, there are other questions. Were the DNA samples contaminated or inadvertently substituted with other samples? Was there deliberate tampering with the DNA evidence?

The same applies to what some would consider absolute proof. What if there is video evidence capturing the defendant shooting the victim dead? The problem with that evidence is that it only goes to one element of a crime, the act itself, which lawyers call the actus reus. The prosecution also has to prove that the defendant possessed the appropriate mental state (mens rea) to commit the crime. And there is an array of defenses in respect of the mental element, from lack of intention, insanity, self-defense, provocation etc.

The point being that however convincing a case may seem at first, any half-decent litigation lawyer can raise any number of doubts in the minds of the judge and jury. And it doesn’t matter how convinced one person may be, others may harbor substantial and well-founded doubts. So again, it comes down to belief. And the law recognizes that fact by setting standards of proof that do not require absolute certainty.

The final judgment of the judge or jury, which may cause another human being to be cast into prison for the rest of his life, or even terminate his life, is simply a matter of faith that they have made the right decision on the evidence. In fact, the whole judicial system rests on faith that ‘justice will be done’.

Faith is therefore the cornerstone of justice. Without it, the legal system would simply grind to a halt. And those who have to exercise this kind of faith carry a heavy burden. The consequences of exercising their faith can be extreme; a matter of freedom or incarceration, even of life and death.

So faith is not just some feeble excuse to believe something in spite of the evidence. It is an essential element of human behavior. It is integral to the human character. It reaches into every human activity, from who we choose to marry, to where we choose to live, to our careers, jobs, car, and to everything else we do in life.

The important thing is that we exercise faith after careful consideration of the evidence. But in the end, every decision is a matter of faith. And religion is no different. Faith should follow a careful consideration of the evidence.

That is why I employed a rigorous legal methodology to evaluate the evidence of God in my latest book, A ‘Final Theory’ of God. The legal method is tried and tested, and has endured the ravages of time and history. It is the only really workable approach when there are limits to human knowledge.

So faith and proof are not diametrically opposed concepts. They are inter-related and inter-dependent. Each depends on the other.

But in the end, after careful consideration of the evidence, we always have to apply a measure of faith.


Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved



Why Government and Big Business are Intent on Destroying the Last Remnants of Marriage, Family and Faith

The last century has seen a concerted campaign by Western governments to erode the important role played by marriage, family and faith in people’s lives.

‘Controlling behavior’

The latest assault on these institutions comes from the British Government, which is to introduce a new law of “controlling behaviour” to make it a criminal offence, under threat of a 14 year prison sentence, for a husband, for example, to ‘monitor’ the activities of his wife if he suspects that he is being deceived.

According to the Daily Telegraph of London, the new law will make it “illegal for someone to exercise ‘coercive control’ over their partner. It means [that] for the first time men who control their partners through threats or by restricting their personal or financial freedom, could face prison in the same way as those who are violent towards them.” And “there will be no statutory time limit for the offences, meaning abuse dating back years can be taken into account.

But such a law will not be peculiar to Britain. According to the Telegraph, similar laws have been implemented in the United States which “led to a 50 per cent rise in the number of women coming forward to report domestic abuse.” Many other Western countries have similar laws, while yet others will no doubt follow suite in short order.

It seems most curious that governments that justify monitoring our every movement and our every word, on the basis that we ‘have nothing to fear if we have nothing to hide’, should consider it worthy of criminal penalty if a husband or wife does the same.

In the vast majority of cases, a husband or wife will have far better justification for resorting to such measures than government. So perhaps it would be more appropriate to apply an offence of “controlling behaviour” to governments and their agencies.

Reasons for the New Law

But why would Western governments be so determined to introduce laws that will quite patently serve only to further undermine marriage and family?

The most obvious reason is that the majority of people have been conditioned, mostly willingly, into believing that promiscuity and adultery are a ‘right’, and they see no reason why their ‘freedom’ to indulge that ‘right’ should be inhibited in any way by the small ‘inconvenience’ of marriage, or children.

Governments have been eager to promote that perception, and for good reason. It undermines the institution of marriage as a sanctuary in which people find refuge and strength. People derive their moral compass from the family, not from government. And when family is the centre of people’s lives, governments have less control over them.

So governments needed to drive a wedge between husbands and wives. And the best way to do that is to engender mistrust between them. That was done by promoting sexual ‘liberation’. Promiscuity before marriage has the natural effect of eroding the sanctity of marriage. Marriage becomes just another in a series of relationships (see article The Meaning, and Essential Ingredients, of Marriage). That inevitably leads to instability because, quite naturally, one or both parties will feel apprehension about the other’s previous sexual partners and practices. And apprehension leads to suspicion. When someone then becomes suspicious that they are being betrayed, they take measures to protect themselves and their security, and especially the security of their children. In fact, they have a moral duty to do so.

Yet, the consensus is that someone’s previous life is not the business of the person they marry, and with whom they have children. ‘What I did before is none of your business!’ is the usual refrain.

This mistrust between husbands and wives was further compounded when government declared that there should be no penalty for adultery. In fact, the person who does the betraying is often rewarded, which is hardly a disincentive.

Adultery has thus become commonplace. People see it all around them, every day. So it is not unnatural that they should fear that their own spouses may be doing the same, especially when patterns of behavior and routines suddenly and inexplicably change. So it should not be surprising that they would want to reassure themselves.

Having created this state of extreme distrust between the sexes, government is now intent on criminalizing the consequences. That is because government has declared that the kind of ‘controlling behavior’ such distrust engenders is ‘abusive’; it is, according to government, akin to physical violence.

There can be no doubt that once this law is introduced in Britain, there will be a concerted campaign by government and the sponsors of the law to exacerbate the distrust that already exists between husbands and wives. Even the slightest suspicion will be considered an infraction of the law and portrayed as ‘abusive’, requiring intervention by the police. The law will amount to a license for infidelity which will cause further discord in the family – hardly a conducive environment for children. But then, the object of the law is to facilitate infidelity and undermine family, not to create a harmonious environment for children.

Even where there is a strong suspicion of betrayal, voicing concern or requiring proof to the contrary will be considered abusive. That will leave spouses with only two options: To suffer the humiliation of being a victim of infidelity in silence in the hope of keeping the family intact for the sake of the children, or walking out and getting a divorce. And that will simply add to the number of children from broken homes, and thus compound the social problems already prevalent in society.

If government was even remotely interested in providing secure and stable environments for children, it would be taking steps to strengthen families, not destroy them. And the way to do that is to encourage parents to be thoroughly open with each other, not secretive and evasive. Parents should have shared bank accounts so that each can monitor the family’s finances; they should have unrestricted access to each other’s passwords for email and social media accounts; each should encourage the other to check email and social media messages as a means of reassurance; each should have mobile phone passwords for the other, and be encouraged to check calls and costs; and each should, as a matter of course, recount to the other their day’s activities.

Partners in marriage, and indeed any kind of personal relationship, especially when children are involved, have an obligation to make every effort to reassure each other. Each needs to ascertain what causes the other discomfort or apprehension and do whatever is required to allay any fears.

Parents should recognize that such actions are not concessions, and neither do they amount to submissive behavior. They are fundamental obligations parents have towards each other so as to provide the kind of harmonious environment for bringing up their children. These are the actions that create trust between people. But today, trust is something people believe they can demand as a ‘right’, not something that has to be earned.

Families are built on sharing and reassuring, not on secrecy and suspicion. A divided institution is weak, unstable and contentious.

And it is just such weak, unstable and suspicious families government wants to create. So it portrays such obligations as ‘abuse’.

The difference between marriage and work relationships

In order to fully understand governments’ intent and method to destroy marriage, family, and faith, we should briefly note the fundamental differences between marriage and work relationships.

Marriage has at its heart the aim and expectation that the relationship will result in the creation of a new human life, whereas work is a means of providing for our physical needs. Work is what we do to provide for our families. We do not have families so that we can work.

Of course, government has sought to invert the obvious commonsense of that premise by promoting the silly idea that the most important issue in life, apart from sex, is ‘career’; and many have been keen to delude themselves with that fiction.

But irrespective of that self-deception, the fact is that a relationship that has as its focus the wellbeing of a human life – and not any human life, but the human life that two people bring into this world by their own voluntary act – must necessarily attract fundamentally more onerous obligations on the parties than a relationship that involves stacking shelves, tending a check-out, treating patients, servicing clients, or pleasing shareholders. All of those things simply involve catering to the needs of others.

The elements for a strong and stable marriage and family

The obligations that attach to two human beings who create new human life form the bonds that define marriage and family. And they comprise three principal elements.

First, both parties have an obligation to ensure that the relationship is unique, exclusive and special for the benefit of the new life that is the objective of the relationship.

Secondly, it requires the autonomy of at least one of the parties. At least one of the parties must be free from the authority of other human beings; that is, not in service to a boss, patient, corporation, client, shareholder, or institution. The autonomy of at least one party to the relationship establishes the autonomy of the relationship itself. And there can be no doubt that, in the main, women have the unique strengths and qualities to secure such autonomy within a relationship.

And thirdly, the relationship requires a moral authority to bind it together, but which subjects neither party to the dictate of the other. And only mutual faith in God can provide such an impartial moral authority.

It is precisely these elements that define marriage and family, and which make it autonomous and secure, that are an impediment to government and big business exercising absolute control over people. So they have come under relentless attack.

How government seeks to undermine marriage, family and faith.

In respect of the first element, we have already seen how government, with the aid of devious marketing strategies by big business, has created the perception that uninhibited sexual indulgence is a ‘right’. That has created distrust between the sexes, thus undermining marriage and family. And those who have the autonomy, self-respect and self-discipline to resist indulging their new found sexual ‘liberties’ are made to feel “thoroughly ashamed”. Embarrassing someone into abandoning deeply held convictions is itself blatant emotional abuse, yet it is rife. But it is not only emotional abuse. Young people, and especially young girls, are pressured and ridiculed into turning their bodies into little more than pleasure-generating objects, and that is tantamount to physical abuse. And once they succumb, the consequences are irreversible.

In respect of the second element, the campaign by government and big business focused on belittling, ridiculing, and denigrating the autonomous role of mothers as the anchor of marriage and family. Mothers were portrayed as being ‘tied to the sink’, occupied in ‘baking cookies’ or knitting, and incapable of engaging in ‘intelligent conversation’ because they are focused on ‘bringing up children’. The most unpleasant aspect of this ongoing campaign is that it was, and still is, conducted mostly by women – women exhibiting the worst aspects of “masculine stupidity”. It is surprising that the women who engage in scorning those women who dedicate their lives to their children and families are unable to recognize that they are attempting to inflict emotional abuse on their fellow human beings, and indeed fellow women. Perhaps it is self-guilt that generates the kind of hostility that can only be assuaged by attempting to humiliate others.

This campaign also appealed to human vanity. Remarkably, many women easily succumbed to the peculiar notion that ‘autonomy’ was to be found in submitting to the authority of another in the workplace. They deluded themselves that being ‘chained to the bosses desk’, or punching timecards in a factory, or filling in timesheets in some office, gave them ‘freedom’. It was more ‘satisfying’ to please the boss than cater to the needs of their own children – probably because the latter is considerably more demanding than the former.

The final element of marriage and family that had to be undermined was belief in God. God provides a moral authority that transcends government, and transcends ‘career’. God provides the moral authority that determines the obligations we have, first and foremost, to our children. That requires one parent, at least, to be autonomous, which deprives big business of compliant labor. But perhaps even more concerning to business and government, God also provides a meaning to life that does not require the pointless and useless branded products produced by big businesses. And that is not good for demand. Those who have God don’t need logos to give their lives meaning.

So those who believe in God are ridiculed for the “narrowness of their intellects.”

The campaign to belittle those who believe in God has as its objective establishing government as the supreme authority, and the supreme lawmaker. Restraint in action should not be as a result of recognizing obligations that emanate from a Supreme Lawmaker, but by fear of punishment from government. God is replaced by ‘values’, which need to be imposed on children from an early age. Of course, nobody can identify the ‘authority’ for these ‘values’ other than the dictate or custom of some person or group of people. Then the only ‘moral’ prerogative is that anything goes as long as you can get away with it.

That gives government the authority to determine what is right and wrong, and compel people to obey under threat of sanction.

Belief in God directly challenges that ‘authority’. So God had to go.

The proper context and true intent in destroying marriage, family and faith

We can now go back to the issue of “controlling behavior”, and see it in its proper context and true intent.

Those very obligations and elements that are the rock on which marriage and family should be built are an impediment to government exercising unfettered authority and control over people. Neither are they conducive to a compliant and submissive workforce, and an easily manipulated market for pointless products.

The very qualities that give strength to marriage and family are the qualities government and big business want to appropriate and subvert to their own authority. And they have already achieved that for the most part. These new offences are directed at eliminating the last remnants of resistance.

A comparison between ‘abuse’ in marriage and the workplace

In order to ascertain what exactly this new law would consider to constitute ‘abuse’ in marriage, it would be informative to conclude this analysis with a comparison of the respective conditions under which parents operate in marriage, and the conditions imposed on them in the workplace.

So let’s start with that notion that pre-marital sexual practices and partners have nothing to do with the other party to a marriage; that refrain of ‘what I did before is none of your business.’

Those who invoke this ridiculous refrain in marriage should perhaps attempt to invoke it at an interview with a prospective employer. They could tell that employer that their previous education, interests, work experience, possible criminal convictions, are none of their business. They could insist that the prospective employer should simply ‘trust them’ to be the perfect person for the job.

In order to test the arguments and conclusions in this short article, I recently applied for a job as “Warehouse Operative” with a global corporation.

The job involved stacking shelves, so it seemed that my work and life history could hardly be relevant. On the contrary. But they were not looking for any higher qualifications, or even experience, in shelf-stacking, but they did require disclosure of pretty much everything else about my life, and they required the authority to conduct extensive and intrusive background checks, including police checks. That involved waiving most legal protections for personal data. And any untruthful or inaccurate information would be grounds for summary dismissal without pay, and a claim for compensation should the company suffer any damage as a consequence. Then there were the stringent confidentiality agreements, preventing disclosure of any information about the company, of whatever nature, to any other party. All for the privilege of stacking shelves.

Why would stacking shelves entitle an employer to such a detailed history of a person’s life, while creating new life gives no such entitlement?

Common sense would dictate that it should be the other way round. Parties to marriage are far more vulnerable to betrayal and deceit than a global corporation. And the consequences are considerably more damaging, especially for children.

However, if a party to a relationship contemplating marriage and children required the kind of detailed disclosure from the other party that is required for a shelf-stacking job, that would be regarded as ‘abuse’. So people contemplating marriage will just have to rely on blind trust; or better still, simply don’t get married or have children.

Yet, this kind of absolute disclosure for a job is just to get in the door.

Once in the door, things get considerably more tyrannical. In the case of the Warehouse Operative, an outline of employees’ duties was provided by a representative of the company to the mass of applicants who had been herded together like cattle at market – men and women, young and old.

Some of these duties were set out in a detailed employment contract that had been handed out to the candidates. But remarkably, the candidates were told that they need not read the contract, nor the waiver of legal protections against hours worked, because the contract was non-negotiable.

Of course, those who could take the time to read the contract, and who were in a financial position to decline the job if they were not happy with the draconian terms, could simply walk out. But what I discovered is that a large proportion of the candidates had been compelled to apply for the job because they were in receipt of state benefits. If they declined the job, or were rejected for seeking to negotiate any of the terms, they would lose their state benefits. That would leave them and their families homeless and penniless. No doubt the representatives of the company were well aware of the plight of so many of the applicants, and so able to take advantage of the situation.

In effect, people were being compelled to labor for the company under duress and threat. But worse, if they found the conditions of work intolerable and resigned, or if they were fired, they would likewise lose their right to claim state benefits. And that is nothing short of forced labor.

Quite rightly, Western governments do not condone similar duress when it comes to marriage. Forced marriage violates the most fundamental principle of morality – freedom. People must be free to decide whether or not to assume obligations, especially the onerous obligations of marriage.

However, government does not consider compelling people to labor an infringement of their freedom. The argument is that welfare benefits are a privilege, and people should be compelled to take whatever job is available, or lose their ability to sustain themselves and their families. That enables big business to capitalize on the situation by imposing intolerable working conditions on employees knowing that if they refuse they starve.

But we should also consider for a moment the argument that welfare benefits are a privilege.

Human beings, by virtue of the simple fact that they are human beings, are free to provide for their survival and security, and are therefore free to access the resources of the Earth to do so. The Earth is a resource common to all who inhabit it. Human beings are no less free to access the resources of the Earth to eat, than they are free to access the air to breathe. So when a small minority of human beings, mostly under the guise of artificial corporate entities, appropriate to themselves the vast majority of the resources of the Earth, they do not become owners of those resources to the exclusion of all other human beings; they become trustees. And trustees have onerous fiduciary duties towards the beneficiaries of the resources they hold. As the Preacher says, “the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.” Eccl 5:9. That is a fundamental principle not only in the Christian and Jewish traditions, but all religious traditions of any worth.

To argue that superior entrepreneurial ability vests ownership in the resources of the world to the exclusion of others is exactly the same thing as claiming that superior strength does so. Economic tyranny can no more vest authority in one person over others than can any other kind of tyranny.

So the fact that giant global corporations and financial institutions have appropriate so much of the Earth’s natural resources to themselves does not deprive human beings of the freedom to provide for their survival and security, and it does not relieve those institutions of their fiduciary duties towards those deprived access to those resources. Neither does it vest in any one person, group of people, or institution howsoever constituted, an authority to subvert the life of other human beings to their control. Economic tyranny is no different to military tyranny. Against either, human beings are free to exercise their freedom to provide for their survival and security if it is denied them. And history bears testimony to that truth.

We should now address the actual conditions under which people labor, and contrast that with marriage.

In the case of the Warehouse Operative job, the representatives of the company briefly described employees’ duties. Nearly 12 hours a day alternately on day and night shifts; half an hour for lunch/midnight dinner: two 15 minute coffee breaks a day; work activities would be monitored to the minute, and recorded; toilet breaks would be timed, and a point would be deducted from employees exceeding the allotted toilet time allowed; time off sick would also lose a point; loss of three points would result in summary dismissal; no telephone calls, texting, emails, or web browsing during work hours; a security check on entering the warehouse for work; and constant CCTV monitoring of the interior and exterior of the premises.

And all this for the minimum wage.

Now, we should just imagine if a husband or wife sought to impose such conditions on one another. It would, quite rightly, be considered abuse. Yet government considers such abuse to be absolutely acceptable when inflicted by a faceless giant corporation on those who have no option but to accept such conditions if they want to survive. Government even facilitates such economic tyranny by applying the necessary duress and threats to provide corporations with the cheap labor they are finding hard to recruit in the Third World. (see article The Feudalization of Britain.)

Yet, that is precisely why government and big business are intent on destroying marriage and family. Once they do so, there is really little else in life but work. So people have been conditioned to believe that even such work is preferable to, and more ‘admirable’, than looking after children in our own homes in order to build strong marriages and strong families.

Of course, there are those who will argue that such work conditions are the exception, and that other occupations, as in the professions, are in fact ‘rewarding’ and ‘liberating’.

Well, to finish off, let’s just compare the conditions imposed in even a relatively high paying job, an accountant or solicitor for example, with the kinds of things government considers abuse in a marriage or relationship.

Strict working hours will be required, mostly nine to five. Hours worked will have to be recorded in timesheets, and reviewed by the boss or management team. Telephone calls will all be logged, and will have to be allocated to clients. Some calls will be monitored and recorded. Email and social media activities will all be monitored. Receipts for expenses incurred on work related activities will have to be submitted for approval. Lunch and coffee breaks will be time-limited. There will be regular ‘performance reviews’ to check that performance is in line with expectations, and that will include a full review of time keeping, personal use of telephones, email and social media, interpersonal interaction with other staff and clients, and so on, and so on. In other words, every single aspect of a person’s work, performance and activities will be reviewed to see whether they are making a sufficient contribution to justify their continued employment. And if the review proves negative, a warning will be followed by dismissal if the person’s performance does not show considerable improvement.

Imagine now that one spouse sought to impose such conditions on the other. Every single aspect of such ‘controlling behavior’ would be regarded as ‘abuse’ justifying police intervention, and a severe prison term, especially under Britain’s proposed new law. And that will even be the case where one spouse suspects the other of betrayal.

Imagine also an employee telling the boss that it is none of his or her business where they’ve been all morning when they should have been at work; or that it is none of the boss’s business who the employee calls, what emails they receive or send, or what they read and write on social media; or that the employee’s expenses should not be questioned; or refuse to complete timesheets on the basis that it is an unwarranted monitoring of their time.

Imagine too the consequences of an employee betraying the employee, especially if that employee happens to be a government employee with access to sensitive information.

And yet, by a staggering inversion of logic, submitting to such ‘controlling behavior’ in pursuit of a career is regarded as ‘liberating’, while anything remotely similar in marriage is considered to be ‘abuse’. And betrayal of spouse and children in marriage is considered almost a duty if someone does not feel totally satisfied, or feels that their ‘liberty’ is being even remotely inhibited.

But that is precisely the outcome sought by government and big business: a total erosion of the obligations we have towards our families and children, and absolute submission to government and big business.

Human beings have been institutionalized in the corporate image, leaving children to be groomed by government as tomorrow’s productive economic units, or more properly, economic serfs of the new financial lords of the world.

Joseph BH McMillan

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2014 All Rights Reserved