Belief is either true or it is not true

2016/11/05 § 2 Comments

Faith held to be true is both personal and worthy of telling everyone about, including your children. There is no other way to see this. It’s quite simple: either that which you believe, you believe to be true, or you do not. Simple.

I do not wonder any more about why some in our culture do not accept or endorse a perspective of religion that allows for honest and true belief in something outside themselves. Short of the quaint and convenient character of religious radicals that allows for a simple knockdown, modern liberalism – of the naturalist, atheistic sort – does not and cannot allow for honest and true belief because the notion of something beyond the material universe (let alone a God figure that not only created everything but transcends it all the same) is absurd.

Alan Jacobs put it very well:

If you decline to pass your religious beliefs on to your children because you think such beliefs could hurt them socially then there is no meaningful sense in which you actually hold any religious beliefs. No one who actually believes that Jesus is Lord, or that there is one God and Mohammed is his Prophet, would decline to explain that to their children for fear that the children would be made fun of. What such parents are actually saying is that they were raised within certain social practices, some of which happened to be religious, that they see no advantage in their children continuing.

The last sentence in Jacobs’ post is particularly interesting to me. Even if we were to allow for the faith of the parent to be just plain wrong, we now live in a world where the practice of just such a faith is neither encouraged for the sake of tradition, nor for its efficacy in the life of the child. That is to say, faith in a God is no longer a lucrative belief to hold, socially speaking. It does not allow for greater mobility among society, nor is there seen to be any sort of meaningful reason to pass it on to the child.

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§ 2 Responses to Belief is either true or it is not true

  • essiep says:

    So in short, you think non-belief is absurd and dishonest?

    • Chris says:

      Hi essiep,

      First off, thanks for commenting. I always appreciate the chance to exchange good dialogue. It gives us opportunity to learn from each other.

      To answer your question then, I would like to qualify what I said in my post as well as ask you a question of clarification (in order to best understand your question).

      First, the qualification. My post was specifically geared toward criticizing those parents who view their religious beliefs as, well, untrue. Allow me to briefly illustrate what I mean by looking at, for example, my very own religious beliefs. I am a Christian, and I affirm the historic Christian faith. What I mean by this is, simply put, everything that is to be found in the first seven ecumenical councils, which include the following conclusions: the deity and humanity of Christ, the triune nature of God, and a number other important items of clarification. Now, of course, I am a Protestant too, and there are some qualifications to make in light of this fact (but this is another conversation altogether). But more to the point, I would not hold to these views unless I believe them to be true. Plain and simple.

      Of course, a lot has happened since the seventh ecumenical council convened. The Renaissance (and all of its reformations: the Protestant Reformation, Catholic Reformation), the Council of Trent, the scientific revolution, the coming of Enlightenment thought, Romanticism, etc. And if one traces a line from Christianity’s founding, you will notice a lot of variation of thought. Not just from Catholic to Protestant, but from Protestant to Protestant (saying nothing about denominationalism, per se); Lutheran to Lutheran, Presbyterian to Presbyterian, Baptist to Baptist, etc. So why, then, has there been so much disagreement between Christians over the years?

      My short answer to this: enlightenment thought. The idea that man can know something apart from God is a novel idea, and is grounded in enlightenment thought (don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater of the Enlightenment; many good things have come from it). The other thing that it brought us is the advent of scientific thought. And if one presupposes that the only knowledge we can have is empirical, then this precludes a God from existing.

      Now back to what I was saying: if God is precluded from belief, or the resurrection of Christ is seen to be simply an allegory, or the concept of God is written off as mere metaphor, then one’s historic Christian faith – which holds these things to be true – is nullified.

      So in short, I am not concerned here with non-belief, atheism, or what have you. Rather, I was commenting on those parents that understand their religious faith to be inconsequential – inconsequential, because they believe it is not true in the empirically verifiable sense, of which religion is all but disqualified from actual, meaningful conversation in the public sphere.

      I do apologize for all of that. I hope my explanation was clear. I have a tendency to be a little long-winded.

      Now to my second item, clarification with a question: what exactly do you mean by non-belief? I want to make sure that we’re on the same page here.

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