I read some books and essays recently focusing on the “truths” that people of different religions have that differ with the “truths” held by people of other religions. The object of the books and essays is to find how we can improve interfaith relations when the lives of different people are based on ideas that they find it hard to give up despite others refusing or unable to accept what they believe. Examples include the “truth” held by many Christians that there is a trinity of three gods, that of many Jewish mystics that God was composed of ten parts that came apart, and that of Muslims who “know” that Mohamed received the Koran from God.
I have a totally different idea from most people about “interfaith relations.” I admit that I have found no one who agrees with me, but I still think that I am correct.
What is truth?
First of all. I noticed, as did virtually every thinker, that while people talk about truth, they make no real analysis of what truth is. I understand that truth is the understanding of what an item is, not what you do with the item. For example, a ball is a spherical or approximately spherical body. A ball is not an object used in games. The first is the truth about a ball, or at least as much as we can know about a ball. The second is one way that a ball can be used. Another example is our attempt to define what God is. The truth is that we lack the ability to understand what God is. We can at best study the laws of nature and say that these acts tell us somethings about how God functions or functioned. The Torah makes it clear that even Moses could not know what God is in Exodus 33:18-23.
Despite our inability to understand what God is, there are many people who speak about God in ways that indicate they think they know what God is.
We need to realize, as with the example about God, that the human mind has not developed to the extent that it fully understands anything. No Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or person of another religion can know the truth. Put differently, all people of all religions have erroneous ideas about God and the universe, and what God wants from them. In this sense, we are all equal.
The biblical view of truth
As previously stated, the Torah recognizes that people cannot know the truth. They cannot fully understand what a thing is? Therefore, the Torah does not speak about truths. Nor does it speak about religion. There is no word in the Torah that even suggests the idea of religion. The term used today in Hebrew for religion, dat, is a modern term. The Torah focuses on behaviors not beliefs or theology or faith. It tells readers how to behave.
If people would understand this, they would realize that it is foolish to say their religion is true and others are not true. They should only speak of behavior, how to be all they can be and how to improve society.
The common man and woman rarely if ever talk about truth. They and their clergy speak about beliefs. Beliefs are similar to truths. It is an idea of what is true despite what they believe being contrary to science, the senses, and logic. In other words, beliefs are not true, only an idea, a conviction that they are true.
It follows that people need to understand that what they think is true and what they believe is not true because people do not have the ability to know the truth. Thus, we are all the same. Whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, or something else, we are all ignorant of the truth. It is silly to say, my ignorance is better than your ignorance. We should all respect others and let them believe what they want without feeling threatened. It is like one man believing his wife is the best wife and another feeling that it is his wife who is the best. We would not fight over these beliefs, nor would we be threatened by them. We can be very friendly with a man who thinks his wife is nicer than our wife.
But there is an apparent problem. People are told (1) that the truths and beliefs that they are taught were revealed by God, and (2) that if they do not accept and act according to the taught truths and beliefs they will not gain a life after death and they will be punished.
Once we understand that these two ideas are also unproven beliefs, there is no problem. We can believe what we want and allow another person to believe what he or she wants to believe, realize that neither of us really knows the truth, not be threatened by the other’s opinion, and be friends, both trying to be all they can be and both seeking to improve society.