Friday, May 6, 2011

Is Religion Fact or Opinion?

        Religion is like ice cream.  You can suggest your favorite flavors to people, but don't you dare say that chocolate is actually better than vanilla.  That's just your opinion, it's not a fact that chocolate is better than vanilla.  Likewise, you can't say that Christianity is any more true, as a fact, than say Islam.  That's just your opinion.  Or at least this is the mentality.
        You may have seen cars bearing the bumper sticker spelling "Coexist" in the Muslim crescent moon, peace sign, "e" with male and female signs protruding, Star of David, Wiccan pentagram as the dot of the "i", yin yang, and Christian cross.  If you've ever heard me talk about things such as pluralism, etc., you will have most likely heard the disdain and contempt for the ideas that "Coexist" embodies.  So much so that I have actively removed the words "judge" and "tolerance" from my vocabulary, knowing that the words have been so twisted that they no longer hold their proper meanings.
        As a note, when I refer to "Coexist" or the "tolerance movement", I'm not referring to some organization.  Rather, I'm referring to a societal undercurrent, displayed by popular figures like Oprah, or even perceived in daily conversation.
        "Coexist" is a complex ideology.  At its face value, it merely means that people of different beliefs should exist together with peace and understanding.  That doesn't sound so bad, right?  Who doesn't want peace and understanding?  The problem arises, however, when people start changing the definition of "peace and understanding" to something like "you can tell people about your beliefs [promoting understanding] but you can't tell them that your beliefs are any more correct than theirs [moving away from conflict and towards peace]".  Look!  Peace and understanding!  We like those.
        Can you see the problem, though?  No one's beliefs, especially religious, is any more correct than another's beliefs.  Where would humanity be if we actually kept this ideology?  Ptolemy's geocentric solar system is just as correct as Copernicus' heliocentric?  Aristotle's theory that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter bodies is just as correct as Galileo's proof otherwise?  The theory that the universe is expanding is just as correct as a still universe?  We would never say such things.
        Oh, but here's the kicker: "But these are issues of science!  Science is fact!"  And what is religion?  Opinion.  Ice cream flavors.  Something that has no bearing on reality.
        This kind of thinking is wrong.  And that's not my opinion.  That's a fact.
        Religion, much like philosophy, asks and answers questions of ultimate reality, things that exist, but aren't (or even can't be) necessarily looked at through the lenses of empirical study.  Does a divine being exist?  If a divine being does indeed exist, what attributes does it have?  Do humans have some purpose outside of passing along their genetic code or not?  What is this purpose?  Are humans inherently good?  Evil?  Is their such thing as either?  Upon what do we base what is good or evil?  Is there any way to be saved from our wrongdoings?  These all have factual basis in reality.
        Let's take the question of a divine being as an example.  If we look at the question , we come to three possible conclusions.  (1) One divine being exists.  (2) Multiple divine beings exist.  (3) No divine being exists.  If (1) is true, then a divine being exists whether we believe in that divine being or not.  Likewise, if (3) is true, it is true despite every religion and ideology that believes (1) or (2).  One of these statements must be true, because we're talking about the literal, factual existence of something, not whether or not we prefer whether or not a divine being exists.
        And while we're on preference, I'd just like to mention that if religion was merely a matter of preference, why wouldn't more people be hedonistic atheists?  Absolutely zero moral accountability with the ultimate goal of doing that which pleases you, whenever it pleases you.  This sounds much more attractive than my own religion, Christianity, in which we are all morally responsible for our actions, which constantly fail to live up to the standard of the holy God, and our only escape from the eternal punishment we deserve was the death of God's only son.
        But what about something that's not as black and white as existence?  What about morality?  Surely that's just opinion.  Since it would take too long to get into objective morality, basis for morality, and other important things, I'd like to use someone else's brilliant work to prove my point.  A simple parody of the Coexist bumper sticker.
        So I ask, should we Coexist?

1 comment:

  1. This was a great article, but I have to ask, do you support the idea of coexisting? I personally don't believe in one specific religion, I feel that there are multiple "gods and goddesses". For example, take the story of Noah's Ark for example, there is a similar one in Greek mythology with the same concept of a big boat with a bunch of animals to perform a natural selection. My theory is that most of the events we hear about in religion did happened, probably not as exaggerated as it is told but I believe it happened, and all the different religions are just different factions of story telling, so yes, I believe that we should coexist.