[quote=Joey warren]I know what Absolute Truth means with respect to Computer Programming and Mathematics. But with respect to Religion…
Hmm…I’m going to toss in my orthodox Jewish $0.02 here because I think it’s relevant to the general question of Absolute Truth and Religion.
Do I, as an orthodox Jew, believe in Absolute/Ultimate Truth?
Do I believe that it is within our grasp?
The Talmud tells about four Sages, Shimon Ben Azzai, Shimon Ben Zoma, Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuya and Rabbi Akiva who “entered the orchard”, which is a euphemism for engaging in kabbalistic/mystical/theosophical speculations on, as the story goes, Ultimate Truth. The Talmud says that, “Ben Azzai looked and died. Ben Zoma looked and went mad. Acher ‘mutilated the shoots’ and Rabbi Akiva departed in peace.”
Ben Azzai gazed at Ultimate Truth and could not bring himself to return to this world; his soul clung to Ultimate Truth, thus, he died.
Ben Zoma beheld the Ultimate Truth and wasn’t able to cling to it like Ben Azzai did. But he could not reconcile the difference between what he had beheld and where he came from, i.e. our mundane, everyday world. “The Talmud makes it clear that he [Ben Zoma] was torn between two worlds. He saw the heavenly sphere, the perfection the world could be, but he could not reconcile life as it was in the imperfect world he found…Caught again between two worlds, Ben Zoma went mad.” (See tinyurl.com/33n7l; scroll down & start at the 3rd paragraph.) Or, as Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok writes: “Thus when the Light shined upon him [Ben Zoma], he could not receive it. Nor could he go back to where he was before. He got stuck, his mind split between that which he had seen, and that which he could not bare to see.”
Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuya, like Ben Zoma, “saw the heavenly sphere, the perfection the world could be, but he could not reconcile life as it was in the imperfect world he found.” But whereas Ben Zoma went mad, Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuya had an altogether different reaction. He turned heretic and become an apostate, and was henceforth referred to as Acher, literally “[The] Other.” His having “mutilated the shoots” is a reference to his attempts to persuade students that there was no God, that the Torah was a fraud and that they should junk the lot. As the aforementioned link says of him: “To the end, he never repented or returned, but he was never able to find another place in the world where he felt he belonged. He remained separated from his former colleagues. He wandered on the fringes.”
Only Rabbi Akiva (tinyurl.com/39bdl), it is said, emerged in peace. But did he? It was he who declared Shimon Bar Kochba (tinyurl.com/2w4wj) to be the Messiah, helping to trigger the Bar Kochba Revolt (tinyurl.com/ypnjl) against Rome & the unparalled destruction that the Romans visited upon Judea as they brutally put down the rebellion (which would never have gotten off the ground if Rabbi Akiva hadn’t endorsed it). He himself was tortured to death by the Romans, who scraped his skin off with iron combs.
Thus, in our view, speculating on/debating about Absolute Truth is an exercise that, as Buddha said, “will not edify.”