MANN TALK: Begging the Question

by Perry Mann

 I read letters to the editor with regularity. I discover the same writers writing about the same stuff over and over and supporting their arguments on an assumed truth with no effort to prove their premise; that is, they beg the question.

 Those who take the position that abortion and homosexuality are abominations in the eyes of God always take for granted that there is a God and that He is a pro-lifer and a homophobe. They assume a premise they cannot prove and upon that premise castigate and denigrate pro-choicers and homosexuals and anyone else who thinks differently from them. And invariably their source of proof, if they cite one, is the Bible, a book they presume to have been written by God through his chosen amanuenses.

 One writer, a grim absolutist, whose concern for fetuses approaches idolatry,  in answering an angry letter directed at him, admits that he is not married and avers that in the event that his wife, had he one, were raped and impregnated, he would counsel her “to please carry the pregnancy to term  for her own sake  but also the child’s and mine because of our shared belief that Jesus forgave his murderers from the cross.”  He says further that Jesus overcame evil with good and because of him so could they. “This would be our healing and deepest joy, to see our unexpected child as God’s gift.” 

  Without doubt the writer is in hypothesis  reaching  the empyrean  level of the morality of Christ, mostly, however, on his wife’s sacrifice.  But in reality, the writer is as unforgiving of women who have abortions or advocate them as anyone who appears in print. If this man can forgive the rapist of his wife and accept lovingly the child of such a violent, horrendous and criminal  union  into his household, he is so filled with Christ’s charity that he could forgive any atrocity to himself or to anyone else. Certainly, he could forgive and be understanding of women wishing to control their reproduction, even if, as he sees it, they thereby murder  “God’s gift .” Their    response to him  should be  that Christ forgave his murderers so he should forgive them and not  incessantly rail against  them and  characterized  them as  less than human. And say of them that their belief in reproductive freedom is an idolatry, “damned foolishness” and a mockery of God.

 The essence of Christ’s message was forgiveness and humility. He taught that certainly one should not kill and that even if one so much as became angry with his fellowman  or called him a fool, he was in peril of judgment. The letter of the law killeth.  The Sabbath  was made for man and not man for  the Sabbath. Absolutism in defense or support of any religious  position for infinite man is not only unbecoming and unwarranted  but exhibits a   rigidity and righteousness that  clothed the minds of the Pharisees, those absolutists who were so consumed by their religious egotism they  crucified the most morally evolved human of which man has a  record , on the ground that he was an idolater and blasphemer and that  his message was damned foolishness.

Another writer who begs the question  opines that God instituted the Sabbath and that “He reemphasized the Sabbath  at  Mount Sinai when he wrote that commandment  and the other nine with His own finger on stone.”  Undoubtedly the writer learned such  untenable assertions  in Sunday school  years ago and has never seriously questioned the truth of  them. Does he really believe that God  is an entity in the image of man, has fingers,  left his throne up yonder  and came to earth to write the Ten Commandments in a language understandable to man? The questions all these assertions beg, among others, are what proof has he that  God exists,  that  if He does, He  has fingers, that He   knows how to write and  that He did in fact write in stone the Commandments in some language decipherable to man? To cite the Bible is only to beg further the question.

Another writer is miffed at a Gazette editor  for taking the position that  Jesus is not the one and only savior and the only way to know God. He retorts with the most potent weapon in the believers’ arsenal: “Have you never read the Bible?”, the implication being that if he had he would know better and not be so dumb about matters of faith and grace and truth. The writer believes undoubtedly that the Bible is God’s word and  that his  interpretation  of it is unassailably correct. He concludes his letter saying that everyone must make a decision regarding Christ.  “We can either believe the Bible and accept Jesus as our Lord, or we can reject Christ and follow any number of roads to hell. “

  This is the tale that has been formulated and perpetuated by ecclesiastical politicians through the centuries   in order to gain worldly power and prestige, not just by Christian clerics but the clerics of innumerable cults,  sects, denominations and religions. All claim that theirs is the only way. And the proof is always some holy book put together by man and attributed to God in order to gain His unquestionable authority. The same question is begged: how does one prove that the Bible is God’s word except by the word of some man, usually a man who has a vested interest in establishing that the Bible is indubitably God’s word.  

   One who is aware of the clergy’s tinkering with the Bible  and  the interpolations slipped into it  over the centuries by translators with an agenda  to establish the church’s legitimacy as the indispensable intermediary between  man and his salvation --  can with adequate evidence conclude  that one who takes an absolute position on any issue based upon the reading of the Bible  is likely to be on sandy ground instead of upon the rock he is certain he has set his feet.

 Thus, anyone taking a position on an issue with inflexible certainty first must examine his premise to determine how bed rock it is. If he does so with honesty and indefatigable diligence and with cognizance of man’s limits and  finiteness, he is less likely to be so absolutely sure of any position much less so sure that he can justify his  contempt of  those who think otherwise and his belief that  they are  lost infidels walking the wide way to hell. In religion, the ground for begging the question is pervasive and pernicious and allows men of little learning and  sense to dogmatize and proselytize, ad nauseam.  


 * * *  Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV.  
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