THE EDITOR, Sir:
I wish to commend Peter Espeut on a well-reasoned response to Hilaire Sobers' comments on faith and reason.
Faith is an axiomatic position, that is, it accepts a statement as true although the statement cannot be proven using the senses to measure natural phenomena.
Because no human being has complete knowledge of the universe, all human beings must make axiomatic assumptions. Although axioms cannot be proven, they are necessary for coherent analysis of real phenomena. For example, that a point has no dimension is a fundamental axiom in mathematics.
The validity of an axiom can be tested by the intellectual consistency of the truths derived from it. "In the beginning, God ... " is a philosophical axiom. This axiomatic claim states that matter was derived from mind and personality - it is the theistic world view.
The theistic world view embraces free will, objective morality (derived from God) and, therefore, a basis for law, social order and rights. All theistic axioms are clearly not equal, but from these assumptions one is able to derive coherent moral, legal, social and scientific constructs.
If the nature of the theistic axiom (e.g., Zeus) is flawed, the constructs which are derived from it will also be flawed. On the other hand, the axiomatic statement 'The cosmos is all there is and ever was' claims that mind and personality arose from matter. Logical consequences of this atheistic axiomatic position are that human beings cannot have free will. There can be no objective morality (every man does what is right in his eyes) and no philosophical basis for law or social institutions.
It is in the incoherence of the atheistic axiom and its constructs within which persons such as Hilaire Sobers live, leading them to claim "rights in the absence of free will and a basis for law".