Four “Self-Evident Truths” That Go Unchallenged
By Vin Sparks
Widespread among us is the assertion that religion may be the greatest enemy of peace in the world. Pointed to in particular are the major religious traditions and the exclusivity practiced by them – each with its claim to truth.
I’m inclined to agree, to a certain extent. Think about it. Religious doctrine teaches followers that they have “the truth” which fosters, in some, feelings of superiority over those who do not believe the same thing. These believers are then moved to attempt to save those that do not have “the truth” and the debate begins. Many separate themselves from those who don’t believe the same thing – and from those who may be seen as less devoted. If debate was all there was we would be fine but “unbelievers” are then stereotyped, marginalized and in some parts of the world, oppressed, abused and, finally, there are those who resort to violence.
We’re seeing this all over the world and would see it here in the United States as well if it was not against the law. Look at the ridicule and marginalization of the church in education, in the public sector, Hollywood, the media, the music industry and popular culture. You can’t tell me that if our freedom of religion was not protected that we wouldn’t be seeing some of the same abuses and persecution seen in other parts of the world.
Once religion is seen as a barrier to world peace, people will want to do something about it and calls to outlaw religion will be heard. I’ve been reading a little bit by anti-religion authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and they recognize that a move to outlaw religion would be a futile effort – but there are other means.
History tells us that attempts to stifle or even annihilate Christianity date back to Rome under the Emperor Nero (64-68AD) and even before that. More recent efforts have been perpetrated by the Soviet Union, Communist China, the Khmer Rouge and Nazi Germany. They have not only failed to suppress Christianity but have been the cause of its explosive growth in the countries where containment has been attempted. Today Christians are being eradicated in many Islamic states.
What’s left is to either condemn or radically privatize religion in an attempt to address the divisiveness fostered by its exclusivity. The idea has been to condemn, through education and an “enlightened” cultural view, any religion that makes exclusive claims. This effort utilizes academia, popular culture, Hollywood and the media to advance a few ideas until they become accepted without question. These are examples of the axioms I’m talking about:
1. All major religions are equally valid and teach the same thing
This view says that the differences between the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are insignificant and superficial. All believe, for instance, in the same God – a universal loving Spirit. It insists that doctrine is not important.
First of all, it’s just not so. None of these major traditions of the world believe and teach the same thing on the very basic and most important tenet of any religion – the person, essence and being of God. Only Christianity, Judaism and Islam serve a personal God who requires accountability but none of those agree on who He is – Jesus, Jehovah or Allah. This axiom collapses under the weight of the facts. Nothing more needs to be said but I’ve not let that stop me before.
Next, the insistence that the teachings of the major religions are insignificant and don’t matter is, in itself, a teaching. This is a doctrinal stand made by a group of believers in an impersonal God. They believe that their view of things is superior – that they have “the truth”. Those who hold this view do the same thing they criticize other religions for doing.
2. Each religion sees part of the truth but no one religion has all of “the truth”
One of the ways this idea is illustrated is through the old story about the four blind men describing an elephant from different vantage points. The man at its side says it’s like a wall while the man in front holding the elephant’s trunk says it’s like a large hose. The man holding the elephant’s tail says it’s like a rope and the man with his arms around a leg describes it as a large tree.
An interesting question regarding this illustration is, “Who is telling the story?” It has to be coming from an individual with perfect sight in a position that would allow a clear vision of all four men around the elephant. Those who take this point of view, that no one religion can have all “the truth”, must position themselves as the only one in the story that can see and they put themselves in a lofty place as the only ones that can discern what is truth and what is not.
That’s pretty arrogant is it not? Not only that, there is a healthy dose of hypocrisy as well. How can one know that no religion has all the truth unless that one puts themselves in a place of knowing all the truth? This argument fails the test of absurdity.
3. Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be “truth”
The social conditioning of our belief is a fact, but that doesn’t mean that the religious faith of hundreds of millions of people can just be brushed aside as irrelevant and in error. To argue against all religious truth on the grounds that it is culturally influenced is an example of not thinking an argument through to a logical and obvious conclusion.
If someone argues that no belief can be held as universally true for everyone because our faith is the product of our social and historical conditioning, then the arguer must exempt his own argument from this universal “law”. See, his argument is the product of social conditions as well, – so it cannot be true. It fails under the weigh of it’s own demands.
4. It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it
This argument says that, once we come to realize that there are many intelligent, good and thoughtful people around the world that do not believe as we do, to continue to attempt to change their mind is arrogant. Non-Western cultures have no problem thinking their religion, belief structure and world view are true and correct. The idea that it is wrong to do so is purely a Western idea. It’s rooted in our embrace of individualism and independence – the “I’m okay, you’re okay” mindset.
The contradiction: To believe that our Western idea of individual thought is superior to that of all those thoughtful people in the world who believe that their faith is the true religion would, itself, be arrogant, would it not? This objection to Christian thought fails on its own merits.
These are the ideas, the axioms being advanced by the efforts of academia, popular culture, Hollywood and the media. They fail under the weight of their own arguments and need to be met with a thoughtful challenge, articulated clearly with sound reason and delivered widely via the only tool at our disposal – social media. If some of the “unenlightened” out there would care to help challenge this orchestrated effort to marginalize our faith, please share with your networks.
I relied heavily on Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, New York, Penguin Group, 2007