Michael Jackson

Religion and Truth

Of all religions, I know Judaism and Jewish people the best.  However, there is a commonality to most religions in their acceptance of supernatural entities, actions, and beliefs.  This entails beliefs that cannot be measured, quantified, proved, or demonstrated.  For example, Jews and Christians believe that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.   It is not provable by any means whatsoever.  This belief in the giving of the Ten Commandments makes it different from the speed of light that can be measured, quantified, proved, and demonstrated.

I think that we can divide attendees at religious services of all sorts into two groups:  those who sincerely believe and wholly subscribe to the tenets of their religion as expressed in the religious service and also as practiced outside in their homes and communities, and a second group who somewhat believe, half-believe, are uncommitted, or even somewhat skeptical but go along to adhere to communal standards.  Both of these forms of profession of belief or faith base themselves on unproven and unprovable concepts.  The veracity of these concepts rests solely on the believer’s faith.

The title of this essay, “Religion and Truth” relates to how religious belief may influence the perception of truth and falsity in secular areas such as politics, society, and science.   Some issues on which religious believers differ significantly from secular people are man-induced global climate change, evolution, gun control, abortion, civil war causes, and political party affiliation.  A higher percentage of religious believers of all faiths than secular people reject the idea of man-induced global climate change.  Similar differences in opinion are found on the other above-mentioned issues.

Religious believers who adhere to unprovable beliefs that must be taken on faith are more susceptible to beliefs that have a shaky factual basis or are false.  Two prime examples of false beliefs are the denial of man-induced global climate change and the denial of evolution.  The belief that a human being is formed at egg-sperm fertilization time is another.  The idea that more guns make for a safer society is another.

There is a reason for the acceptance of these false beliefs.  The religious believer is centering her life on the unprovable, on the undemonstrable, and on articles of religious faith.  Whether the religious believer is a convert to the religion or a person inculcated in the faith from birth there is a “leap of faith” (as Kierkegaard phrased it) between the teenage years and adulthood when the person becoming an adult decides to accept the theological precepts of his traditional or new faith.  This life decision is overwhelming.   This leap of faith makes much smaller leaps, in reality, hops, skips, and jumps, on secular issues much easier.  She is more likely to succumb to an erroneous belief in a purely secular arena.  Given a far lower level of religious belief in Western Europe, it is not surprising that some issues that pervade modern American political discourse, i.e., man-induced global climate change, evolution, gun control, LGBTQ rights,  and abortion have been permanently resolved in Western Europe. 

Beyond the issues of fact such as evolution or climate change there are moral issues that have no factual resolution.  These salient moral issues include capital punishment, abortion, LGBTQ rights, and book censorship.  In all of these issues, there is a consensual agreement among Western developed democracies while America is an outlier in the disputations in these areas.  On each of these issues, the influence of religious believers is strongly against the international democratic consensus.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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