by John Henson
Is there evidence that the thinking of atheists and their humanist friends are influencing more staid and steady aspects of society?
Oh, yes. Let us examine the most reliable and fixed aspect of society, the legal system. The relativism that is part and parcel of both humanism and atheism is attacking the tried and true judicial system and its settled practices of applying an objective standard to subjective man.
Legal cases are decided by attorneys making arguments before a judge and then, the judge (or a jury) arriving at a verdict on the basis of the law. Prior decided cases form a pattern of legal precedent and the objective standard is applied.
As stated by University of North Carolina Professor Edgar Butler, “once the similarity between cases is recognized, legal reasoning is simply a matter of making a logically valid deduction of a holding from a statement of the law (major premise) and a statement of the facts (minor premise).”
The relativistic view of what the legal system should be is that:
The law must be situational and contextual. Legal decisions must be made in accordance with the context of an action, and not by any objective standard. Of course, this follows the well-known precept of “values clarification,” that if an action is necessary on the basis of a need, then the action is justified. Therefore, if Ernie’s family is hungry, then Ernie is justified in robbing a store to feed his family.
The law must be instrumental. That is, instead of judging cases on the basis of past decisions and the objective standard of the law, the pragmatist judge looks to implications of his or her decision. If the judge decides his decision on a murder trial might cause riots or other problems, it may be best not to render a verdict on the basis of the law.
Legal cases must be decided on the basis of perspective. Law, instead of being carefully considered in light of rules of logic and deduction, should instead conform to a practical perspective.
The pragmatist’s legal system, according to Butler, is “messy, open-ended and subject to revision in light of another perspective or further information.” Therefore, “thou shalt not kill” becomes, “killing may be justified and legal depending upon a certain point of view.”
Pragmatism can be adopted by the legal system as nominative theory. Legal pragmatism has as its foundation the same ideas as philosophical pragmatism, which is an all-encompassing dependence on developing life through experiment and experience. To the pragmatist, nothing succeeds like success. A legal system that works for all is good.
For a detailed examination of legal pragmatism, please read Professor Butler’s essay./1 Butler is not in favor of legal pragmatism, but is warning of it.
by John Henson