Why is truth important?


#1

I found myself in two and a half simultaneous theological discussions after school today. One friend is a close-minded relativist and the other is an undereducated-but-searching Catholic. A Methodist was there for a minute but he had to go. The whole situation was difficult and confusing but one thing was nice: if I didn’t know what to say, an annoyed “one at a time!” would suffice.

The CMR’s argument boiled down to this: Why is truth important? I used this analogy:

Do you believe in that tree over there?
Yes.
Do you believe that if you cannot walk through it?
Yes.
And so you act accordingly, yes?
What do you mean by act accordingly?
You walk around it.
Okay, then yes.

But I was not successful in showing him that the analogy holds: if you believe that God exists you ought to act accordingly.

What I need is a defense of Truth. And something that a CMR can swallow - not “if you don’t believe in truth you’re going to hell” or anything like that. Something that makes sense logically and does not presume the existence of God.

Because if the whole point of religion is to give people a set of morals to live by and help society run smoothly (like he said), then all religions are equal. I said no, they’re not all equal, because they’re not all true. He didn’t accept that…

What is it, other than Truth, that sets Catholcism apart?

He’s stubborn, like me, and neither one of us will budge from where we stand, but I’m worried about my under-educated-but-searching friend. He really does have an open mind and I don’t want him to close it on anything other than Truth.


#2

Truth is when the mind comprehends reality. Reality exists whether or not we are aware of it, and whether or not we acknowledge it.
To believe in something that is not real, not actual reality is a delusion. There are not alternative realities, that is an oxymoron.

For example, if I believe that I am on an airplane going to Baltimore, but in reality I have boarded the plane headed to Boston, then no matter how fervently I believe otherwise, the reality is that I will end up in Boston. If I think that I am actually on the plane going to Boston, then I know the truth about my destination.
That is why it is important to know the truth, especially when it comes to our relationship with God…
We don’t want to think we are headed for Baltimore and end up in Boston (no, I’m not saying that Boston is H… :rolleyes: )


#3

The issue, I suspect, is not that you need to find some blazing, stellar, no-holds-barred argument that is simply going to cause instantaneous and fervent conversion.

What you need to do is find out what it is that he holds so dear in the need to maintain his position. And it is not stubborness in general, but stubborness about something in his life.

It almost always gets down to a very personal issue, and that is about how he wants to live his life. Most often, but not always, it has to do with sexual ethics; he wants choices that he makes, rather than choices God would have him make, and so he sets on, or settles on, a philosophy that says that the rules are not binding for all; that somehow he is able to make the rules he wishes to live by. It is most often an issue of autonomy. Unless you can get to that, you may be wasting your time. And if you get to that, lofty philosophical musings are not going to change much, as the choice is not being made from a philosophy to an action guided by that philosophy, but from an action which justifes its supposed ethical or moral rightness by the philosophy imposed.

In other words, a reversal of the cart and the horse. Horses should lead carts, and if you get the order right, the cart operates consistently. But if you start with the cart, if that becomes the rule, then the philosophy turns into a “whatever works at the moment” approach, which is a strong aspect of relativism.


#4

[quote=cardenio]Because if the whole point of religion is to give people a set of morals to live by and help society run smoothly (like he said), then all religions are equal. I said no, they’re not all equal, because they’re not all true. He didn’t accept that…
[/quote]

Well, obviously, they are not all true, because they teach different things. And if they are not all true, then not all will teach correct morality. And untruth about morality is bad for society, because people who learn untrue things about morality will then do objectively bad things, thinking them to be either good or indifferent. And that’s not good.


#5

update: the undereducated-but-searching friend said:

What if Jesus was insane, and some supernatural trickster entity resurrected him because he thought it would be funny, and all of Christianity is some celestial joke. That’s probably not very likely, but it would be funny.

I am not worried about this; I just added it for entertainment value.

The CMR said
*Is this an accurate appraisal of the situation?

Me: The objective right is that people should find a personally suitable religion to exercise.
You: Christianity (Catholicism) is objectively true.

Mine could use better wording. But just note its apathy towards whether such religions have objective truth or not.*

He doesn’t claim that all religions are true. He claims that they are all of equal importance, because religions tend to hold the same basic moral values, and when people follow these, society runs more smoothly and everybody is happier. Church attendance, prayers, etc. are superflous.


#6

[quote=cardenio]One friend is a close-minded relativist…
[/quote]

:rotfl:

I’m sorry, that hit my funny bone.


#7

[quote=cardenio]He doesn’t claim that all religions are true. He claims that they are all of equal importance, because religions tend to hold the same basic moral values, and when people follow these, society runs more smoothly and everybody is happier. Church attendance, prayers, etc. are superflous.
[/quote]

This seems a bit silly to me, when you consider all the strife in the world caused by people of differing religions. So I guess most religions tend to hold the same “my religion is right and yours is wrong” value, but that doesn’t make society run more smoothly; in fact the opposite!


#8

[quote=Atreyu]This seems a bit silly to me, when you consider all the strife in the world caused by people of differing religions. So I guess most religions tend to hold the same “my religion is right and yours is wrong” value, but that doesn’t make society run more smoothly; in fact the opposite!
[/quote]

Good point. I will ask him about it and see what he says.Thank you.


#9

The way I see it, there is an absolute Truth. Something cannot be both black and white at the same time, and black cannot be white and white cannot be black. Let us say that white is truth, black is outright falsehood, and all the shades of gray in between are varying degrees of truth. If one holds partial truth (gray), then they don’t hold full truth (white). There’s no other logical way to look at things. If someone assumes for a moment that black is white and white is black, then they have a very distorted view of reality. Absolute truth and outright falsehood are opposites. When seeking to bring the Truth of the Faith to people who do not hold the fullness of truth, we must take the gray that they have and move them down the scale–we have that white in common, those elements of truth.

Just my $0.02539 (adjusted for inflation)

-ACEGC


#10

I like your analogy, edward_george. :thumbsup: and your adjusted sense of humor :slight_smile:


#11

The purpose of religion is to get closer to God. To understanding of him. The fact that society runs smoother if people adhere to the morality of a religion is not directly relevant to the purpose of religion. If your religion means your relationship to God then you want to pick the one that is true otherwise your relationship with God is not based on reality. Your friend has the wrong idea of what religion is supposed to be. You can achieve a moral belief that supposedly makes society run smoother through philosophys that aren’t religious.
All this depends on how you define functional society, my definition is a society with a stable government and healthy economy: It seems like your friend is thinking only in terms of society’s functionality. If your goal is a functional society to the exclusion of all else then the truth doesn’t matter because there are functional society’s that exist on lies.If your looking for the greatest society however then you wan’t a functional society based on truth. Simply put a functional society based on truth is better than one based on a lie because as stated before it more fully coincides with reality. If he can’t understand why it is better to coincide with reality tell him that it is possible to ram your head through a brick wall without injury after 3 try’s.


#12

“***the root of religion: the attempt of man, conscious of his helplessness, to unite himself with the powers which do actually dominate.***” (Prof. R.B. Perry, “Religion. An Introduction,” Lectures on the Harvard Classics, 1909-1914)

If we accept the root of religion as stated above, then it is important that one’s religion be based upon knowing what powers actually dominate. Otherwise, you will find yourself attempting to unite yourself with the wrong thing, which can have disastrous consequences.


#13

He defines “spiritual fulfillment” as “taking the necessary steps toward salvation, or feeling that you are.”

Here is the example I gave him two emails ago:

If the stereotypical vehement protestant televangelism is true, then we’re both going to hell - you because you do not care to believe and me because i am a heretical saint-worshipping godless polytheistic catholic. (yes, both godless and polytheistic.) Now, we may both live very good and fulfilling lives, but we’re still screwed for all eternity.

He has not yet responded to this analogy.

I have also given him my Pascal’s Wager: Revised Edition. It goes something like this: If somebody tells you that you are going to hell, you should find out if that claim is true or not. If it is not true, you have wasted a few minutes of your life. If it is true, you have (potentially) saved yourself from hell.

He asked me what the main focus of my life was, giving me the following multiple-choice options:
(a) To have a fulfilling life on earth
(b) To have a fulfilling life in heaven.

My reply was:

*I hate to do this to you, but I choose ©. Choices (a) and (b) can be narrowed down to (a) Me Now and (b) Me Later, whereas © isn’t about me at all. I agree with you that unselfishness, making other people happy, the golden rule, etc. are good – but God before other people. The main focus of my life is simply that: to make God happy. For example, I am quite enjoying our discussion, but I am reading over what I say very carefully because I want to make sure God enjoys it as well.

Of course, as with most things, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.*

However… Catholicism is not about “achieving salvation.” Correct? Salvation cannot be earned or achieved, it is a gift that none of us deserves.

Ahh… I need a comprehensive study of Catholic salvation theology…


#14

I believe you have to first lay a foundation for discussion. What is his definition of truth? It seems that he toggles between various views, from what you’ve provided.

Here are various subjective views:
[list]
*]Pragmatic: “truth is only what works”
*]Empiricist: “truth is only what we can sense”
*]Rationalist: “truth is only what can be proved by reason”
*]Oneness: “truth is only what is in harmony with all ideas”
*]Emotional: “truth is only what I feel”
[/list]In contrast to the above subjective views of truth, all of humanity throughout every age has commonly understood truth in the Aristotelian sense, which is “truth is only what corresponds to reality.

You might also consider discussing a concrete example. For example, what would make this statement true: “The hat is red.”

We seek to answer the above question, not by what I feel or what you feel, or what I can sense or what you sense (e.g., I’m colorblind and my senses differ from others with regard to sensing color), or what I can understand or what you can understand (e.g. the science of optics, light reflection, wavelengths), etc.

All these things are important: what one feels, what one senses, what one understands, etc., but they do not DEFINE the truth. They only serve to help come to discover the truth.

My feelings cannot change the reality that surrounds me. Nor do my senses. Nor does my understanding. Consequently, they have no affect on the veracity of whether or not a hat is red.

In the example above, ask him if he should place his hand over his eyes, does he make the hat disappear? Is the hat not still there, reflecting light in some specific wavelength apart from what is sensed by only him?

Perhaps he mixes “belief” with “truth” as many I know do. A “belief” is “something that we hold true.” Truth is “that which corresponds to reality.” They are different words that mean different things and we shouldn’t linguistically confuse the two. Truth does not vary based upon my feelings, my ability to understand, sense, etc, because reality does not vary based upon these things. However, beliefs do vary because of these things. Yet, we may hold to a belief that is objectively true or false (depending upon whether or not it corresponds to reality).

We come to our beliefs in three ways…

  1. experience
  2. testimony of others
  3. reason

“The hat is red” is true (objectively speaking) only if it corresponds to reality. In other words, the only thing that would make the statement, “The hat is red,” true is if the hat were in reality, red.

As a colorblind person, I had to come to accept this understanding of truth early in life. When I see the hat as green, but everyone around me tells me it is red, then I have two conclusions I can draw:

  1. All the people I love in the world, the most trustworthy people I know who insist that the hat is red are lying to me, and I am right, despite the fact that they have no advantage in lying to me. The reality is that the light reflecting off that hat is in the wavelength of green, not red as everyone else has concluded.

or

  1. I need to trust the testimony of others and accept that what I see is not the truth. The hat is red. My senses don’t define reality, as my ability to sense things differs from others.

Which is more likely?

So why is it important that our beliefs are true? You might give him an example, such as the HEAVEN’S****GATE sect, who asserted a belief that their ‘god’ was on a spaceship in the tail of a comet, and if they committed suicide, they would join their god on the mothership. Tragically, they killed themselves. Now, if their beliefs are true, then they are on the mothership at this very moment. But if they are false, then they’ve made a tragic error in seeking a false happiness.

Humans are created to seek happiness. Truth is important because we may seek that which is only appearantly going to make us happy, but in truth will make us miserable. Thus, we fail in our quest for happiness by grasping for what is false instead of what is true.


#15

What I provided in post #14 is non-specific to any religion. However, you asked this…

Catholicism is not about “achieving salvation.” Correct? Salvation cannot be earned or achieved, it is a gift that none of us deserves.

Catholic teaching insists that humans can only find true happiness when they become perfectly united with the Power that does actually dominate. They attain this by supernatural grace (gift from God), which allows us to “***know and love God.***” Inherent to this simple statement is that in order to “know and love God” one must submit to His Will and obey Him.

Thus, Catholicism is about knowing and loving God in accord with His grace, and submitting to His will in all that we do. This will result in eternal life (perfect unity with Him forever and ever).


#16

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