Government as arbiter of religious truth

One other aspect of the NDP guidelines on transgender students that has really had me scratching my head is the de facto power to determine religious truth that is implicit in the guidelines. The major world religions all affirm the distinct human categories of “male” and “female” so if the guidelines attempt to blur and/or eliminate those boundaries, then the guidelines implicitly declare that any contrary religious convictions are false.

How are we to understand such metaphysical confidence on the part of the NDP?

This question is all the more pressing considering the guidelines, and Eggen’s public comments on the matter, make it clear that even the religious schools are expected to get in line, or else! With such unveiled threats one seriously has to wonder what the NDP think of religious proclamations on this matter.

There is no God

The first possible interpretation of the fact that the NDP won’t give the religious audience any serious say in this matter is because they have determined that God does not exist. That simplifies absolutely everything, of course, because now the question of whether Catholicism is right, Islam is right, or some other religion is right is very straightforward; they are all wrong.

Interestingly, though, if this is their approach then the NDP will find themselves at odds with the best thinking in philosophy of religion departments across the Western world. Indeed, it was the Atheist philosopher, Quentin Smith, who observed (and bemoaned) the resurgence of traditional Theism in philosophy departments everywhere (Philo journal, volume 4, issue 2 – The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism). According to Smith the evidence for God’s existence that is being presented by Theistic philosophers today – to put it mildly – has not been adequately rebutted by Naturalist philosophers.

Theism is on the rise, and being taken seriously.

The same could not be said of most pew-warming believers who are woefully ill-prepared to defend their religions’ truth claims on an intellectual level – instead usually opting to descend into a pietistic (and grossly misunderstood) “I Belieeeeeeeve…” mentality – but that’s a rant for another day.

Why rely on philosophers of religion when we can just turn to our government to answer these metaphysical questions for us? After all, they couldn’t possibly be wrong on something as important as whether God exists, could they? In their first year in office they seem to be getting everything else right. Right?

Um… More or less

Your religion is wrong

Ok, so maybe the NDP would not be brash enough to unilaterally declare an end to Millennia of philosophical debate and declare all religions false. They wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to claim to be able to unequivocally answer a question of such great importance, would they? Perhaps they will even agree with the overwhelming majority of humanity (including both the common masses and many enlightened scholars) who affirm the existence of God.

Perhaps their approach is to determine which religion is the right one, and any religion that sees gender categories as inherent to our human nature is obviously wrong. Catholicism, it would seem, is out. So is Protestantism. And Islam. Judaism. Come to think of it, I’m not sure which religions would still be in the game considering all the major world religions (barring vocal theological outliers – more in a minute) seem to affirm the reality of “male” and “female” as distinct and God-given categories of the human race, and they have very so-called “traditional” views on sexuality.

If one is excluding those religions that affirm gender categories, then it would seem one has to search fairly long and hard to find a religion to support transgenderism. This approach ends up looking virtually indistinguishable from the previous approach, so perhaps yet another approach is needed.

Your interpretation is wrong

So maybe they are going about the issue from a different perspective. Rather than declaring there is no God, and rather than selecting the one true religion from all the impostors, perhaps they recognize within each religion is a true interpretation of the religious teachings. And, of course, there are false interpretations too; they can tell the difference. All those religious nuts who think God actually cares about gender differences and the sexual procreation of the human race simply have it wrong, and the NDP have discovered the truth. The truth, it would seem, is embraced by those vocal outliers I previously mentioned; the vast majority of religious believers are flat out wrong on this one.

Somehow the NDP have come to know the heart and mind of God. Perhaps they have carefully examined the religious texts. Perhaps they learned multiple ancient languages and studied not only the religious texts but also other contemporary literature from their time in order to really dive into the social and theological context within which these texts were written. Perhaps they have accessed the best theological commentaries and scholarly work on the subject and concluded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the true meaning of these religious texts, at least with respect to the transgender issue.

Or maybe they took a different approach to discerning the truth; maybe they sought communion with God directly. Perhaps the Honourable Minister of Education took time out of his busy schedule to visit all the holy sites of the world. To meditate. To reflect. To pray earnestly. To seek oneness with the divine, or pursue the heart of God, or whatever you want to call it.

And like Moses descending from Mount Sinai, Eggen brings to us the very words of God as a result of his sacred pilgrimage. God, it would seem, has some clarifications to share with all those religious believers who have misunderstood what he previously said.

I cannot help but wonder which of these is the correct representation of the NDP perspective on this issue. God does not exist? Did they settle the greatest metaphysical discussion of all times and just put countless philosophers out of a job? One or more of the religions is wrong? Did they just free up Sunday mornings, Sabbaths and prayer times for billions of believers around the world? Only one interpretation is right? Have they provided humanity with the new, infallible, theological commentary for the ages? Is Eggen (or maybe it’s Notley?) the new Pope / Rabbi / Prophet?

If they are not claiming any of these, then it might serve them well to consider building bridges faster than they are burning them when it comes to the religious believers in our province which, incidentally, is most of us.