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Truth and truth (part II, the simplified version)

April 2, 2009

So, after the first article in the Truth and truth series, I got a strong signal that I wasn’t really quite reaching my goal. Truth and truth was meant to continue a dialogue between me and Mormon Heretic, so I was interested if he was understanding anything I was saying. Here was some of the feedback:

You must have some sort of background in philosophy or something. I think your shorter explanation of truth vs Truth was easier for me to understand.


Sometimes, I get rambly. That’s why when I saw my word count on the previous article hit over 1300, I shut it down.

So for take 2, I’m dropping the winding approach I had in the first article and I’m just going to try to explain things (hopefully) simpler. PROTIP: these are all just my silly hypotheses.

Truth (big T) is a pervasive and encompassing tenet of the universe. We cannot run from it, because it is the way things are. If we do not conform to it, it will still exist and still thrive without us.

In contrast, truth (small t) is not pervasive, nor encompassing, at least with respect to the universe. It may be seemingly pervasive in our world because of the social and constructed nature of human relations, but we can change it by changing our nature, and if we do not fuel it, it ceases to thrive.

Truth is tricky because its nature creates something of a destiny for us. This is not to say that we don’t have free will, but obviously, we are limited to go against Truth. For example, no matter what we do, we can’t so easily choose to ignore gravity. We have to find ways to work with and around this law (e.g., aerodynamics, sooner or later we might find out other ways to defy gravity, but that can only come after we understand Truth).

On the other hand, truth does not have such limitations. It may be true, theoretically, that sometimes, humans can act mean, spiteful, greedy, etc., but we can work past that without the attempt being utterly futile, so it is may not be Truth that we are bad.  If humans were intrinsically evil or intrinsically good, or the universe were intrinsically hostile or intrinsically supportive, then this would create limitations on us because of the supreme level of Truth rather than truth.

Some people cling to Truth and search for it. I guess they have their reasons, but to me, it seems like Truth has a lot of strings attached to it. Truth should prove itself to be worthy of that supreme, overarcing position. So, in my perspective, if someone wants to say their church is true, then that church all of a sudden takes a certain burden of proving itself.

This is a little bit of what I was trying to talk about (not so successfully) in my “I don’t believe the prophet is infallible” post. If we begin to accept human error and allow that to infiltrate into the church (e.g., if a flawed human can create and long-standing error into the church), then it seems like the church is not so powerful that it is True.

I think a possibly more plausible claim is when people suggest that the Gospel, but not any church necessarily, is True. So, this actually fits well with a Mormon context, for example, because then you have this idea that the Gospel is so enduring and pervasive that it can withstand mass apostasy. This is more attractive, but there are a few caveats. What gospel is True? There are different interpretations based on denomination or even religion. And it could be that none of them have it right. For example, if the universe is run by some system of laws of physics, it is certainly possible that we could be wrong about the details, but that doesn’t make physics less True.

And that’s an interesting conundrum. There are many religions, and then even nonreligious people, and it seems no one group has this certain hold on something that would lead them to be True rather than simple true. So, even if there were some kind of religious metaphysical Truth, it seems like it isn’t so dependent on certain interpretations of it.

aww snaps, I probably just went off on an irrelevant tangent there.

I think when I take an atheist position (and I take a weak/negative position), I am stating that I am unconvinced by particular models of Truth — and that liberates me. Because now I don’t see this church or that church or atheism vs. theism as this Battle of Truth vs. Lie. I see it as a constructed phenomenon that may have some truth to it, but it’s not like things are set in stone. When I see injustices, I don’t get indignant about them because I don’t have expectations of a Truth of a “benevolent” force throughout the universe (but I also don’t get depressed because I don’t have expectations of a hateful and vengeful force throughout the universe.) Things are neutral, and then it’s our interpretations and constructions, fickle and flabby as they may be, that make the difference.

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  1. “Sometimes, I get rambly.”

    Good thing that doesn’t describe me.

    Now I will go back and try to read the “shorter” post. *grin*

  2. Andrew, I liked this version much better.

    Ray, the short version is one of Andrew’s comments in the “I don’t believe the prophet is infallible” post. It’s right after my comment, “I don’t understand the difference between Truth and truth.”

  3. FireTag permalink

    Good post. I value my religion in and as it guides me to Truth by teaching me truth. But I value t only so long as I can continue to believe it does not contradict T.

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