Occam’s Razor

According to Wikipedia, Occam’s razor is “the problem-solving principle that ‘entities should not be multiplied without necessity.[1][2] The idea is attributed to English Franciscan friar William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), a scholastic philosopher and theologianwho used a preference for simplicity to defend the idea of divine miracles.”

I have been thinking about Ockham lately on two registers. One is the extravagant, ebullient, proliferation of dogmas required of and by right wing Christian nationalists as “biblical” or “Christian.” The other register involves the things we can say that, while most likely true and reliable, are not theologically required.

Take abortion. Neither pro- nor anti-choice, pro-life and anti-life, are biblical teachings per se. They are not “Christian.” This is not to say that Christians cannot build an argument on one side or the other. But Occam’s razor challenges us: why bother? Is it really necessary to the definition or identity of “Christian,” even “biblical Christian”? Not really.

But now take something like gun control. With all of the killing, violence, some of it quite grizzly and questionable, positively endorsed in biblical texts, there might seem to be no question but that Christians must be pro-violence, grizzly violence — dash the babies on the rocks violence. And, yet, most of us would say: well, no, there are really good, non-theological, non-required, reasons why we should control who owns and how owners use what kinds of guns. Gun control, required by the Bible? Probably not. A good thing? Probably.

One of the tell-tail signs of hypostasy is that it claims divine authority for convictions that are not clearly divine and denies recognition for human convictions that are not prohibited.

This is kind of a definition of white Christian nationalism, of Trump’s unique variety of fascism, which is not the same as German, Italian, or Spanish fascism, but is without question fascist. It claims divine authority for convictions — such as pro-life or gun ownership or police killings of black men — that are clearly not divine and it denies recognition for human convictions — the social franchise, public care for all, respect for all people — that are not prohibited by the Bible.

Occam’s razor. Think about it.

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