Absolutism and Relativism

Since there is a lot of talk about this, including advertising just above this box as I type, I though I might just talk as this question:

I believe there is such a thing as absolute universal truth. This is the position of the Roman Catholic Church, most self-respecting Protestant Churches, the Orthodox, Judaism, and Islam.

We all believe in absolute reality, but we don’t agree on what that reality is.

Explain the difference between absolute reality and reality.

There is no difference, of course. However, among relativists, there is generally the thought that you can have your reality and I can have mine. So, just to be sure we know what we are talking about, I have used the term “absolute reality”.

Makes no sense.If there are ten people looking straight ahead and a car drives in front of them all see the car.of course unless the are blind or daydreaming.Reality is the same for everybody.

We all agree that it makes no sense. However, the idea that my reality is not your reality is very prevalent in the thinking relativists.

I just saw a bumper sticker suggesting that readers “curb your God”. As if one person’s God is not the same as another person’s God.

Now, Muslims and Christians disagree about the nature of God, at least to some extent. However each one believes that whatever our belief, the one God is the Creator of the universe and all that is.

I guess it’s easier to be a relativist about some things-like the existence of God -while it’s much easier to be an absolutist when a speeding car is coming at you. But reality is still either absolute or not, i.e. God is either absolutely real or He’s not at all, but it’s more difficult to have objective knowledge about Him in any case because that knowledge is seldom directly intuitive.

Put that way it sounds like “objective reality” and “absolute reality” are synonymous.


The funny thing is that lots of people believe in absolute reality. They just differ as to what that reality is.

But to arrive at Absolute Reality you have to look at all possible conflicting ideas about what reality is and then decide which ideas and concepts have more (the most) merit. Deciding who came up with the ideas and concepts is the basis Catholics use to arrive at reality. Listen to what God has to say on the matter versus what a man has to say. Even though many men have come up with some pretty pleasing to the ears descriptions of reality, one has to remember the phrase too good to be true. Reality isn’t what we want it to be, it is what it is. We have to discover it using reason.

Relativism is to see conflicting ideas as equally valid or tolerate it to the point where people don’t think it matters what one believes. This is where you get in trouble, you can’t grasp reality because it doesn’t exist in this line of thinking. A relativist thinks everyone has their own reality. But the laws of nature/the universe apply to everyone. No matter how much I wish I could fly like superman, gravity stops me from taking off without growing wings or riding in an aircraft. No matter how much an atheist wants God to not exist, they have to explain away Jesus Christ and His Church’s (Roman Catholic) existance to arrive at that conclusion. Who are they listening to in order come to that conclusion versus what the Church and others have to say?

But we are all in the same reality, people simply choose (free will) to listen to different people to arrive at what they think reality is. A Catholic relies on what God has told us as the determining factor in shaping reality, which only makes sense because God created our reality in every aspect. He would know the most on the subject.

If it didn’t matter to try to arrive at Absolute Reality, it would be de-humanizing, because we would be no more than intelligent animals each doing as we please. There would be no civility, because our actions would all be equally valid, one person would argue in their reality it isn’t wrong to steal, kill, or change what marriage means. If arriving at reality lost its importance to us as a society/human race we would no longer have civilization as we know it.

We are left, however, with the nettlesome question of those of many religions, including within Christianity, even within Catholicism, having their own take on what Absolute Reality is. I assure you, that if you were to discuss Islam with a learned Muslim, you would appreciate the depth and breadth of their philosophical arguments about non-Trinitarian monotheism. I do not share their beliefs, but in a world where there are many competing claims as to what is absolute reality, we best off respecting each other’s decision and right to come to that conclusion.

This is slightly OT, but one of the issues that confront the interfaith movement is that you end up with liberal Christians talking to liberal Buddhists and liberal Muslims. Often the interfaith movement does not come from the orthodox heart of each religion, and it often, though not always tends toward relativism, even syncretism.

I think I would rather know the mind and heart of an orthodox Muslim rather than a liberal, watered down version of that religion. The same, of course, goes for all non-Christian religions.

Absolute truth (or here, absolute universal truth) has always struck me as a nonsensical term. Assertions of fact are either true or false. Facts cannot be true in a relative way; some true things are not more true than other true things.

If we didn’t know what “truth” meant, we would be rendered unable to take a true/false test.

I think that “relative” truth is nonsensical. But truth can mean more than mere facts. All seeing sentient beings know that the sky is blue and grass is green. They get into trouble when it comes to deriving a theory of creation, and hence a creator, based on the existence of excellent phenomena such as grass, sky or us sentient beings.

As I understand it, anyway, relativism is based on the idea that our opinions are so closely entwined to our perspectives that we can’t help but be somewhat biased. For example, to a child, parents are overbearing, but to the parents, they are merely being protective. The child is heedless, not so much because of his ignorance, but because kids simply want to have fun in spite of danger; on the other hand, the parents are driven by maternal and paternal instincts, which aren’t entirely rational, and therefore they may be overreacting. Notice that neither of these perspectives is necessarily wrong with respect to the facts, but both are inclined toward the interests of the people who hold them.

It’s really a very simple idea, but if you take the “different realities” thing too literally, as Christians are wont to do, you end up missing the point and looking like a fool.

Yes, certainly. Propositions are either true or they aren’t. Though we may be mistaken about things.

Yes, speaking about religious propositions is of a different category all together, which is where things usually bog down, as you observe. The proposition “God loves you” is something one can certainly believe in or trust in, but I don’t think you can say that it’s true in the same way facts are true, e.g., “the American civil war was fought in the 19th century.” Particularly in a post-Enlightenment world, things that we speak of as “true”–and remember, these are all simply conventions of language–are things that are in some way observable or at least verifiable. The propositions found in the Creed, just as an example, aren’t well-suited to laboratory testing.

Thus when people say “truth is relative” (which, as you said, is nonsensical statement) what they actually mean is that belief/faith is relative or better, “subjective”–which is…true. :slight_smile:


It’s really a very simple idea, but if you take the “different realities” thing too literally, as Christians are wont to do, you end up missing the point and looking like a fool.

for example??:confused::confused:

What do you want an example of?

“Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”


How have you been my friend?

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