Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Subsidising Luxuries.

A patient came in the other day that was planning to go overseas on a six month holiday. As this was one of these New Age experiences, her journey was going to take her to the more inhospitable bits of the world. After working out what she was going to need we tallied up the cost of the vaccines and it came close to $180. She was indignant. Why did SHE HAVE TO PAY for the vaccines? She huffed. Wasn’t it covered by Medicare? When I explained that it wasn’t she replied with the typical mantra “the Government should pay for this”. When I asked her why should the Government subsidise her holiday with MY taxes, she looked at me totally dumbfounded.
You see, In Australia the overseas holiday seems to be a bit of a birthright. Anything which impairs that birthright is obviously a moral wrong. Flicking through our newspapers one see the story prolonged hospital waiting lists due to a shortage of funds juxtaposed to the soaring monetary value of building renovations. Obviously Australians are happier putting money into their granite kitchen benchtops than they are into the health system. More on this at a later post.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Is secularism a religion?

Secularism is a belief in the separation of the Church and the state. Most conservatives see no problem in this separation. However a more militant branch of secularism seeks to stop religion from making any input into the public debate. The argument being that as religion is not verifiable via the scientific method, it has no place in the discourse of society and in the formation of laws, government policy, etc This view is anchored in the empiricist philosophy which stresses the primacy of knowledge gained through the senses and reason, it dismisses any knowledge not gained by the aforesaid method as superstition or opinion.
Fair enough, but in my experience militant secularists take the next step in stating that as metaphysical truths are unverifiable they do not exist. Their line of reasoning goes along as such. As I cannot prove that metaphysical truths exist, therefore they do not exist. It’s a big call.
Suppose we take a silly example. I have never been to China nor do I read Chinese. Suppose a traveler tells me that there is a book in a library in Beijing that deals with ancient Chinese plumbing. Unless I learn Chinese and go to the library in Beijing there is no way I can verify this. Is it right for me then to dismiss the existence of this book just because I have never seen it? Or should I believe it, even knowing that my traveling friend occasionally makes up tall stories? The point is that the existence of this book is unverifiable by until I take the time an effort to go to the Chinese library.
However clearly the book either does or does not exist. One may be wrong either way but until the question is proved it's fair to have an opinion on the matter.
Clearly we have no way of verifying metaphysical truths via the scientific method, but why a secularist’s view of the metaphysical should take precedence over mine is beyond me. Indeed, a mans religion IS his belief about the metaphysical.
When I make a statement about the metaphysical, i.e. there is a God, I am being religious, when the secularist makes a statement about the metaphysical, i.e. there is no God, why is that not considered religous?
The fundamental difference between the militant secularists and religious is an opposing opinion on the existence of a metaphysical reality. The religious believes that the metaphysical exists while the secularist believes that it does not. The negation of belief in the metaphysical is just as much a statement of faith as an assertion.
So what’s the point of all this? Right now in the West we are in the throws of a good old religious war. Between the Secularists and the Religious, and at the moment the Secularists are winning.