In “Perceiving the transcendent God through transcending entities” I argued with overwhelmingly persuasive force that God can be experienced through great works of art and architecture.
Well, okay, maybe something falling just short of overwhelming persuasion. The argument did prompt some interesting comments. One of the more interesting of the batch came from Emilie who, so far as I can see, saw this as an occasion to try pushing me down a slippery slope into the use of hallucinogenic drugs:
“if your background beliefs are that a creator god exists and loves you and has created ways for you to know him/it, then it seems reasonable to believe that peyote would be one of those things that leads to you experience his/its transcendence. There are innumerable ways to have experiences like the one that Burton Cumming had, but you seem to know how to sort out the “real” ones from the fake ones. How do you do that?”
Note how Emilie steps quickly from God has “created ways for you to know him” to “it seems reasonable to believe that peyote would be one of those [ways]”.
The interesting thing is that Emilie seems oblivious to the evidential burden this leap presents. Shift from peyote to PAM (the no-stick cooking spray). If we accept that God has “created ways for you to know him” is it then “reasonable to believe that sniffing PAM in a paper bag would be one of those [ways]”?
Now shift again. If we accept that God has “created ways for you to know him” is it then “reasonable to believe that auto-erotic asphyxiation would be one of those [ways]?”
Um, no and no. In these cases it doesn’t seem reasonable. So why does Emilie think it reasonable in the first instance? To be sure, I am aware of important disanalogies between consuming peyote and sniffing PAM or choking oneself. But there are also important disanalogies between walking into a church and eating hallucinogenic drugs. And I trust that Emilie is well aware of them. So why does Emilie think those disanalogies are not relevant?
Let’s apply Emilie’s reasoning to some other areas:
“if your background beliefs are that it is appropriate to use corporal punishment in disciplining your child, then it seems reasonable to believe that a lead pipe would be a legitimate implement to use in inflicting that punishment.”
“if your background beliefs are that people ought to elect their leaders through democratic processes, then it seems reasonable to believe that children should be allowed to vote in that process.”
“if your background beliefs are that it is appropriate to allow commercial breaks on television, then it seems reasonable to believe that it is appropriate to have ads on Channel One in the elementary school classroom.”
In each of these cases most of us will balk at the leaps of logic. And here is the key: even if we cannot articulate all the reasons why these constitute leaps in logic, the burden of proof is on the dissenter to explain why these are not leaps. We are only obliged to take the leap seriously if and when the dissenter can demonstrate that it is not, in fact, a leap.
So before I get around to presenting some of the (rather obvious) reasons why Christians should remain skeptical about the use of peyote, I will wait for Emilie (and anybody else) to make a positive case for this not being a leap.