XFiles Friday: Is any religion the right one?September 7, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
Having argued that only religion can provide the “box-top” view of the jigsaw puzzle of life (more or less by simply ignoring the alternatives), Geisler and Turek now turn to the question of whether or not any one religion can claim to be the answer to life’s puzzle.
So which world religion, if any, answers the God question correctly? Does any religion provide the true box top for life? The common wisdom says no, for a number of reasons.
Wait a sec. The “common wisdom” says religion is not the answer? Since when did atheism/agnosticism/liberalism become the majority view?
That’s a pretty big whopper to start off with, but it does fit in well with the pseudo-martyr pose favored by Christian supremacists. “Oh, poor us,” they moan, “everybody persecutes us by failing to endorse the exclusive supremacy of our religion over all other alternatives.” Never mind any actual statistics about how many people think religion gives them the answers to life’s most important questions.
But notice the other subtle assumption that slips in: “Which world religion, if any, answers the God question correctly?” It has to be a world religion, does it? Presumably we’re not going to find the true answer in the religious views of some trivial minority, then? Why not? Could it be that even Geisler and Turek can see how reasonable it is to expect a true religion to have a significant and measurable impact on the real world? In three short sentences, the authors manage both to complain about the minority status of their own faith, and to imply that minority beliefs are probably not true anyway.
Moving on, let’s look at the reasons Geisler and Turek give for why “common wisdom” (aka “common sense”) suggests that no religion answers the God question correctly.
First, many say that it is unreasonable to believe that one religion could be exclusively true. If one religion were really true, it would mean that billions of religious people from every other religious faith are wrong today and have been wrong throughout the centuries. (And that’s a big problem if Christianity is true because Christianity seems to teach that non-Christians are going to hell!)
It’s an even bigger problem when you consider how many different and incompatible versions of Christianity have arisen in the past 2,000 years, and are still arising today. It’s all very well to talk about Christianity being the one true religion, but it’s hardly realistic considering how many different religions call themselves Christianity. And if any one of them is the one true Christianity, that’s going to mean that billions of people who have considered themselves Christian are wrong, and always have been.
The second major problem with truth in religion is that some pieces of life seem to defy explanation–they don’t appear to fit any religious box top. These include the existence of evil and the silence of God in the face of evil.
And not just in the face of evil. God is not only silent but absent, whether we’re talking about evil or good or hope or despair or need or want or satisfaction or what have you. God does not show up in the real world in any objective fashion, whether for believers or for seekers or for skeptics or for the militant anti-theist. He’s simply not there, which is why Christians complain about the amount of godlessness (i.e. lack of God) that they perceive everywhere in the real world.
Finally, many modern intellectuals imply that any box top based on religion wouldn’t be legitimate anyway. Why? Because, they say, only science yields truth. Not only has evolution removed the need for God, they say, but only what is testable in a laboratory can be considered true.
Science is not about limiting reality to only that which can be tested in a lab. Science is about truth being consistent with itself, and about discovering truth by verifying claims against the standard of consistency (self-consistency and consistency with real world observation). Astronomers don’t calculate the chemical composition of the sun by bringing the sun into some laboratory somewhere and running in-lab tests on it. A large part of science consists of making careful and verifiable observations, either directly or indirectly.
It’s interesting that Geisler and Turek seem to think that defending Christianity requires setting up science as some kind of strawman adversary to be knocked down by some contrived set of arguments. Theology itself used to be considered a scientific endeavor, a form of objective and methodical inquiry into the true nature of God. That approach has apparently proven unsatisfactory, and now science–all science–is considered to be the enemy of Christian faith.
And yet there is nothing more to science, really, than a systematic application of the principle that truth is self-consistent. No one with a true, realistic, and self-consistent understanding of the world need ever fear anything from science, because even if science contradicts what you believe, it can only improve your understanding of the truth. And isn’t that the whole point of the search for some “box top” view of life?