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Mr Pate THE PROBLEM OF TRUTH IN WORLD RELIGIONS
The Problem • There are so many religions. All claim truth. • Some claim that only they have the truth whilst almost all claim that they have more truth than any other group. • So much violence has been done in the name of religion and there is often little understanding of other religions by adherence to any one form of religious belief. • It is easy to see why some dismiss all religious truth claims…. .
This Powerpoint presentation seeks to chart the main ways of understanding truth claims in different world religions. It does so from a rational, philosophic basis and without seeking to make particular truth claims for any religion. Rather, it seeks to explain what it might mean to claim that a particular set of religious beliefs are true.
APPROACHES TO TRUTH (1) REALISM • REALISM uses a Correspondence theory of truth. This maintains that a statement is true if it corresponds to the state of affairs to which it refers. • Thus ‘There is a cat on the mat’ is true iff (this means ‘if and only if’) there is a cat and the cat sits on the mat. • Realists maintain BIVALENCE – this means that a statement is EITHER true OR false depending on whether or not it corresponds to the state of affairs to which it refers. • NOTE that truth does not depend on evidence or proof but rather on the state of affairs to which correspondence is claimed…
MOST RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE REALISTS! • They maintain that religious claims are true because they correspond. • Thus Muslims claim that it is true that the Holy Quran was dictated to the Prophet by the Archangel. • Jews claim that it is true that Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt • Christians claim that it is true that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified. • Buddhists claim that it is true that the Buddha found enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. • …. . and they claim that these are true because they correspond to the events they describe.
THE PROBLEM • The problem is that many religious claims conflict: • Thus Christians claim Jesus is the son of God and the second person of the Trinity; that he died on the cross and rose again. • Muslims claim that God is one, that Jesus was an ordinary human being, albeit a prophet and that he did not die on the cross. • It is impossible to hold that both these claims are true in a realist sense. • This leads to the view that one religion is true and another is false as they both cannot be literally true.
UNDERPINNING OF TRUTH CLAIMS • REALIST CLAIMS are supported by two approaches which seek to justify or underpin the claim that religious truth is based on reference: – NATURAL THEOLOGY (which uses reason to justify the truth claims of religion) – REFORMED EPISTEMOLOGY (which relies on revelation to justify truth claims)
Underpinning of truth claims (1): NATURAL AND REVEALED THEOLOGY • Natural Theology claims that it is possible to establish that ’God exists’ is true using human reason alone (e. g. the Cosmological, Moral and Design arguments for the existence of God). • Revealed Theology is the counterpart of Natural Theology and goes further, but nothing in Revealed Theology contradicts Natural Theology. • The Problem is that most philosophers consider that many of the assumptions underlying the arguments for the existence of God (Natural Theology) are highly debatable. They tend to be accepted by believers and not be non-believers so they cannot establish God’s existence unless one already believes…. • Reason, therefore does not seem able to underwrite religious truth claims.
Underpinning of truth claims (2): REFORMED EPISTEMOLOGY • This rejects the use of human reason as a basis for faith as, since the Fall, human reason is considered to be fallen • It therefore relies on appeal to revelation. • God is held to speak to believers through the pages of the Bible and directly in prayer. • Belief in God requires no justification – believers have a ‘properly ordered noetic structure’ and they see the world correctly as they have been given the Grace to do so. • The problem is in deciding which revelation should be accepted.
THE PROBLEM FOR THE REALIST • Those who wish to maintain a realist claim to truth in religion are faced by the problem that both reason and revelation are problematic in determining the truth of religious claims. • Reason does not seem to succeed and there is no way of deciding which of the many revelations to accept. • This difficulty has given rise to an alternative way of understanding religious truth claims…
AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO TRUTH NON-REALISM • Non-realists point out that there is no way of establishing reference and that realists claims to truth therefore fail. • They, therefore, reject claims to reference and instead use a COHERENCE theory of truth. • This maintains that statements are true because they cohere or fit in with other true statements within a particular ‘form of life’. • In non-realist terms, each major religion can be regarded as a ‘form of life’, although ‘form of life’ can be more narrowly defined as well – for instance Hasidic Judaism can be a distinct form of life. • One form of life can overlap others……
Some ‘forms of life’ closely overlap - for instance • The differences between these are minor and there is very substantial overlap. ORTHODOX JUDAISM HASIDIC JUDAISM REFORMED CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM
OTHER FORMS OF LIFE ARE FURTHER APART e. g. the three monotheistic religions • These share belief in one God but CHRISTIANITY differ on JUDAISM significant details. The area of overlap is considerable ISLAM – but so are the differences.
NON-REALISM IN RELIGION • Non-realists claim that truth depends on the Form of Life of the believers. Thus within Islam, it is true that the Holy Qu’ran is the word of God. Within Christianity this is false. • Within Islam it is true that a man may have four wives. Within Christianity and Judaism it is true that a man may only have one wife. • Such truth claims ARE NOT HELD TO CONFLICT as what is true in one form of life may be false in another. There is no absolute truth on the non-realist view. • Truth entirely depends on the Form of Life.
NON-REALISM • Maintains that religious truths are internal to the language game and form of life of the religious believer. • Thus Islamic truths are contained within the Islamic form of life and, within this form of life, no justification is required. • Theology is the ‘grammar of belief’ and theologian is the ‘guardian of grammar’. • Education is vital, as each religious group wishes to inculcate children into the truth of their own story and resist any attempts to give equal access to other stories.
The Priest as the ‘Guardian of Grammar’ • Thus Gareth Moore OP says ‘People do not discover religious truths, they make them’. He says that the priest and the Catholic Magisterium are the ‘guardian of grammar’ – in that they ensure that their flock only uses language ‘correctly’ according to the rules of the group. • The function of Systematic Theology is to guard what may and may not be said – this is what orthodoxy is. It is saying what is acceptable to the community. • Truth is not what is arrived at by independent enquiry, it is what is accepted within the form of life of the believing community.
EXTRACTS FROM GARETH MOORE O. P. • “. . . in religion there is a distinction between grounds and evidence. . That the pope says contraception is wrong is not EVIDENCE that it is wrong; but for a Catholic or mainstream Christian it is certainly grounds for believing it is wrong. " • ". . . in all fields a large importance is given to AUTHORITY. . . In religion, what is said and done is not to be in conformity with what is established by impartial enquiry, by going and looking at how things are, by experimenting. Rather is it to be conformable to what is AUTHORITATIVELY SAID. "
EXTRACTS FROM GARETH MOORE O. P. 2 • ". . . it is a feature of religion that people CORRECT each other in religious matters, or at least try to. Those people with a more authoritative voice, the leaders, correct the followers. . " ‘Now he has a wrong opinion. He has to be corrected, not in the sense of having his mistake pointed out to him. . . but in the sense of being persuaded to orthodoxy, won from his error. He has to be taught what is the right thing to say. ’. . • "In the end the argument of the orthodox may have to come down to saying, 'This just is what the Christian faith is. This is what is believed and is to be believed. Believe this, not that'. It is not that no other position is reasonably tenable, but that no other opinion IS TO BE HELD. " (Gareth Moore ‘Believing in God’ p. 32).
DON CUPITT • Don Cupitt is a leading Non-Realist – he is an Anglican priest from Cambridge University and his book ‘Taking Leave of God’ and the ‘Sea of Faith’ movement he founded as attracted many priests and teachers. • Don Cupitt sees Christianity as a constructed story – a means of giving meaning to one’s life in a meaningless universe. • We huddle round the fire of language and create meaning for ourselves – and he says that he is a Christian priest because he sees his task as helping people to find a meaning in their lives. • He accepts that the meaning is a construct, but we live by the truth of fictitious stories – stories that do not ‘refer’ to the events they describe but have come to have a particular status within certain communities… • Thus in Islam, the Ou’ran was not actually dictated by the Archangel – but it has come to have a particular place within the form of life of Islam…. .
NON-REALISTS AND STORY Non-realists see religious truths as being constructed. Religions, they claim, are based on stories by which people live and which have been built up over the centuries. Through these stories, communities are able to make sense of their lives. ‘Religious truths, they claim, are not discovered, they are made. ’ (This is the final sentence in the book by Fr. Gareth Moore OP) Within each community, certain claims are true – and these same claims are false in other communities. Truth depends on the story each community lives.
Non-Realism’s strengths & weaknesses • Non-realism enables each religion to claim truth and yet not to contradict other religions which have their own truths. • Non-realism explains how a religious story is built up over the centuries and the development of doctrine. For instance, in the early centuries of Christianity the Church, through a series of Councils, refined the Creeds and decided what was and was not ‘correct’ belief. • Non-realism explains the importance of education as each community seeks to educate its young into its own traditions. • BUT it is not faithful to what most people actually believe about their religion!! Most people are realists and maintain that if other religious groups contradict their own truth claims, these other groups are wrong.
THE ALTERNATIVES • The alternatives include: • Non-realism: To claim that each religion is true within its own community and to deny that there is any absolute truth. • Realism 1: to claim that there is one religion that has absolutely truth and that others are false if they disagree. • Realism 2: to main that behind all religions is a single truth which is filtered by the different perspectives of each religion. • The last is a popular view, but the content of such a ‘background truth’ might be very limited if it is to bring together Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, etc. .
NO EASY ANSWERS • There are no easy answers… but the issue of truth underlies all religious claims… • Each community emphasises education and seeks to ‘form’ its young people in its own traditions. If one is born in Iran one will probably be a Muslim, if in Italy a Catholic, if in parts of India a Hindu, if in Burma a Buddhist… • Each religion will claim truth and each community will seek to live by the truths of its own story but the question of the meaning of the claim to truth will possibly be the most important religious question in the new millennium.
AT THE END OF THE DAY • Realists will still claim that EITHER it is true OR it is false that there is a God. • EITHER it is true OR it is false that Jesus rose from the dead. • In other words, many will continue to insist on a realist claim, even though they may accept that there is no way of establishing the truth of such a claim. • HUMILITY, may, therefore, be required by those who insist on the truth of their own religious claims – as the possibility of being wrong always exists (at least if one is a realist!!).