Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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Will The Real God Please Stand Up! (Part 1)

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

“All religions are equally true.”

No religion is the ‘right’ one or the ‘only’ one.”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.

It’s not uncommon these days to hear such catchphrases whenever the topic of religion or God is being discussed.  In fact, our culture today places such a premium on tolerance and diversity that if someone even suggests that all religions are not true, that person is going to be labeled as everything from “naïve” to “hateful”.  It certainly seems to be the case that over time, more and more people have come to accept the idea that all religions are true.  But is that really the case?  Is it possible for all religions to be equally true?  If not, then why have so many people bought into the idea that all religions are true?

The more I encounter this question, the more convinced I am that one of the biggest reasons that there’s so much confusion and disagreement on this is the failure of most people to understand the difference between belief and truth.  In conversation, I have found that it’s quite common for people to use those two words interchangeably as if they were the same thing, but they are not the same thing.  As we are about to see, there is a significant difference between belief and truth.

To illustrate, suppose that I asked those of you who never met my dad to write down what you sincerely believe to be an accurate description of my dad.  Write down what you believe about his physical appearance, as well as a description of his character and his personality.  Suppose that I asked all of you to submit your descriptions to me, and then imagine all of your papers spread out on a table in front of me for review.  What we now have represented on that table are various beliefs that people have about my dad.  Obviously, there will be a great deal of diversity among those beliefs because they are contradicting one another in their descriptions of my dad’s eye color, hair color, weight, height, personality, etc.

Even though this is a simple illustration, it contrasts the stark differences between belief and truth.  It tells us that:

1)  All beliefs cannot be true because they are oftentimes making contradictory claims. (My dad cannot be five feet, ten inches tall AND six feet, two inches tall!)

2)  No matter how sincere a belief may be, if it doesn’t agree with the truth, it is a false belief.

3)  The truth is not going to change in order to conform to one’s beliefs. His beliefs must change in order to conform to the truth.

Since it is reasonable to think that these unchanging, fundamental principles regarding the nature of truth apply to other truth claims as well, we have every reason to think that these same principles apply to truth claims about God.  Even though we recognize and respect the fact that there is a diversity of different cultural beliefs about God, that is a very different thing from saying that all of those beliefs are equally true!  In fact, as we’ve just seen, it is impossible for all of them to be true because in most cases they are making contradictory claims.  The atheist believes that there is no God.  Most religions believe that there is a God-  both claims cannot be true. Some religions believe that God is a vague, impersonal force whereas others believe that God is a specific, personal, moral, intelligent Being-  it cannot be the case that they are both correct.  Just as with the illustration about my dad, all beliefs about God cannot be true, and any belief about God that does not correspond to the truth about God is a false belief.

I’m not sure why we are so shocked or offended by that.  After all, entire cultures have been shown to hold false beliefs about much simpler truths.  For example, throughout history there has been a diversity of cultural beliefs about the earth with regard to its shape, its composition, and the means by which it travels.  But regardless how long or how sincerely those cultural traditions were held, their beliefs turned out to be false.  The point is, if entire cultures have been wrong in their beliefs about something that is much more accessible to them, it should come as no surprise to us that they may also be wrong when it comes to something that is much more difficult to grasp- that is, the truth about who God is and what He is like.

So, where does this leave us?  Is there any way to verify which beliefs about God correspond to the truth about God?  Can we know the truth about God?  If so, what is it?  In my next post, we will examine these questions and more.

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Posted in Theology | Comments Off

Why NOT Discuss Politics and Religion?

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

It’s election time again which means that it’s time for voters to begin the process of weighing out the candidates as well as the issues that are up for discussion.  Once again, friends, family members, and co-workers will engage in discussions that tend to come up during a political year.  Unfortunately, conversations of that nature have a tendency to stir up people’s emotions and before long, what started out as a civil discussion often turns into a heated argument.  Eventually, some well-meaning person listening in will try to ‘put out the fire’ by saying, “You see?  That’s exactly why I say that you should never discuss politics and religion!”  But even though people often say such things, there is a very real sense in which everyone brings politics and religion into their normal, day-to-day conversations and they don’t even realize it.

Take religion, for example.  I often hear ‘unbelievers’ say, “Don’t bring religion into this!”  (By that, they usually mean “Don’t bring Christianity or Christian values into this!”)  But the fact of the matter is that even those who would consider themselves “non-religious” have a ‘religious’ view of their own.  The reason that they may not think so is because most people today think of religion as ‘a belief in God’, but such a simple definition is inadequate because there are some religions (such as Buddhism) that do not necessarily believe in God.  So, that brings us back to the question, “What is a religion?”  A religion is fundamentally a worldview, a perspective, a set of assumptions, a ‘lens’ if you will, through which a person looks at everything in life in order to try and explain how all of life fits together in a coherent and comprehensive way.  It is a ‘framework’ through which a person is trying to make sense of the world around them.  This is extremely important to understand because it tells us that everyone, whether they realize it or not, is operating on a set of beliefs (a worldview).  This means that everyone, including the atheist, is ‘religious’ in that sense.  Furthermore, it tells us that ALL views expressed are ‘religiously motivated’ because they are an expression of that person’s worldview.  In other words, any time an individual gives their perspective on a matter in almost any conversation they are, in fact, bringing their religion into the conversation just as much as anyone else!

Even political discussions are not entirely avoidable.  Why?  Because political issues are ultimately about moral principles.  They have to be.  If you don’t believe me, think for a moment about the kind of issues that we typically refer to as ‘political issues’.  Most political issues involve that which is right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, fair or unfair- all of which are moral issues.  Even the questions of how and why people should be treated equally are moral questions.  In other words, by what objective moral standard did we determine that it is right (morally) to treat people equally and that it would be immoral to not treat people equally?

So, just as with religion, everyone has a moral point of view and they are asserting their moral point of view every time they use words such as ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘fair’, ‘unfair’, ‘just’, ‘unjust’, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘should’, ‘shouldn’t’, ‘ought’, ‘ought not’, (etc.).   It’s unavoidable.  So, the next time you hear someone insist that people shouldn’t get into discussions about politics and religion, you may want to point out to them that they just did!

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Posted in Christianity and Culture | 6 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.