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How Everyone Could Be Right....


des
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This is an interesting paradox, which I have basically heard answered a few different ways:

1. It's not true.

2. The basic beliefs are the same (love thy neighbor, Golden Rule, etc.)

3. Blind men and the elephant-- we all are feeling parts of the same thing.

4. Different analogies here but the idea is that there is a "river of wisdom" that we are all drinking from (or some other similar).

 

I had a different idea. Maybe kind of relates to 4. I find 3 basically unsatisfying. It implies that there is something essentially knowable that we can all grasp parts of. If we could just "see" we would know the whole. My feeling is it is a flawed analogy. Perhaps 4 is closer... And maybe I am just about to word it differently but here goes.

 

There is an essentially unknowable, a Mystery. We as flawed humans attempt to know something about this Mystery, so we have thru our various cultures, languages, traditions created philosophies, ideas, etc that give us some limited understanding fo this mystery.

We might, for instance, see this Mystery as a multitude of gods that inhabit various parts of the Earth or nature, or perhaps that are in us. Or we might, as an opposite track attempt to describe it as one God. We might try to define it as personally, inhabited (incarnated) by an individual, or as an impersonal Creator/governor.

 

We are all essentially right, in that our attempts to define this Mystery are partial truths (not, therefore, lies though) and we are also all incorrect and wrong, in that nothing fully describes this.

 

BTW, do I buy my own idea here? Not sure. I think it is a kind of "agnostic" belief, but not in the same sense as I think the term is usually used. Agnostic generally means that we have taken a belief that we cannot know. I think that what I am implying is more of a partially agnostic belief, that we cannot know everything. We arent' the Mystery, we are only a part of it.

 

--des

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Or we could say nobody is totally right, or has the absolute TRUTH on the matter. Truth with a capital T, being something we move toward, not something we possess. It's progressive, dynamic. Whatcha think? Is that similar to what you are saying, des?

 

Or maybe we should ask a different question entirely, like:

 

Why is it so important to be RIGHT?

OR

Does it WORK?

OR

How's that working for you? --Isn't that a TV Phil, thing? ;) Not that I watch that show. Just that I've heard people quote him saying that.

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No I'm not concerned with being "right" but more with Truth with a capital T. It's not so much a question to me a to who is "right". Being "right" and having truth are two different things, imo.

 

--des

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Soma, I don't quite know what to make of your comment. But M. Borg has some interesting comments on this whole topic which I found quite interesting in "Heart of Christianity".

 

 

--des

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We get high because the highest exercise of our intellect knows the purpose of our existence and can proceed to live intelligently according to it, if we direct our physical and mental activities to the pure consciousness of God. We know we are on the right path and the theory is correct because pure consciousness makes cheerful every action and person contacted.

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Well, yeah I agree that #4 sounds the most logical to me. I know a vast number of Liberals and Progressives are not big fans of the book of Revelations...But in there is talk of when thy Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven,,then The New Scrolls will be opened and then we will learn where are ideas were correct theologically or not. So everyone is on this quest to 'try' and gather as much info that they can, here, in this imperfect world/age..and that is the point..the quest..that is, that we try...the ending destination will not come untill the day the New scrolls are opened.

 

So, in a sense, I see that for the far right fundamentalists to demand that everyone get all the doctrines correct right now...is, in a sense, a demand that we understand the New Scrolls when we have not arrived into the perfect Kingdom..No one has this abiltity. It's like fundamentalists are claiming to have read the New Scrolls before everyone else...which is like claiming that you have reached perfection..which is not possible when you are not in the Kingdom yet. What we CAN understand is The Golden Rule.

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I notice Borg has a chapter on Revelations. It always sounded like really wierd ancient sci-fi (or fantasy). I'm hoping that he can shed some light. I have yet to hear a liberal/progressive sermon on it. (Not to say one hasn't existed somewhere.)

 

Thanks for all the comments, guys.

 

--des

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  • 2 weeks later...

I find bits of each of des's 5 ideas useful. The most useful is Mystery. Here are 2 quotes I find meaningful on that:

"now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face" I Corinthians 13:12

"my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

 

On des's suggestion 1, "it's not true": Human limitation is such that we humans can misunderstand anything, including Christianity or any other great religious tradition; and Christianity, like the other great religious traditions, certainly have practitioners who don't get the essence of their own traditions. I think there is something really wrong about, for instance, the idea that Christians should run the world as an empire, which is a belief that's out there. So I don't think everyone could be right. In fact, I rather doubt that *any* of us is 100% right (including myself, of course).

 

On des's suggestion 2, "The basic beliefs are the same": This is a partial truth; although the Golden Rule doesn't seem to me to be the essence of Christianity. (It isn't as challenging as the Great Commandment, John 15:12.) I did see an interesting book the other night, finding roughly parallel quotes between the Bible and Buddha's teachings.

 

On des's suggestion 3, "Blind men and the elephant": Certainly all of us have serious limitations of vision (I Cor. 13:12 again)

 

On des's suggestion 4, "river of wisdom": This one is a little vaguer, but we are created in such a way that we *won't* see everything the same way. This is not always a limitation. Some diversity is good for us as a species.

 

-- oaklandguy 4/8/05

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Hi Oakland guy, haven't read your posts before so am assuming you are new. Welcome!

 

I never meant that all of my "possibilities" would be equally valid. For example, I don't consider one to be right. What I meant was that it isn't true that everyone "can" be right, with the correlary that there is ONE right way. OTOH, I think it likely that everyone is equally wrong. Hadn't really thought about this, but to the extent that we all human understandings of the mystery we are all wrong to a certain degree, I think.

 

No. 2 of basic beliefs being the same only goes so far. We can find, for example, a "golden rule" in just about all major religions. However, I think it is something that an atheist could come to as well for other reasons. You know it stops a lot of bad behavior generally if you treat others at you would treat yourself. You hardly need spirtuality to justify this idea.

There are interesting parallels between Christianity and Buddhism, for example. (The movie "Little Buddha" showed some interesting parallels in Jesus', Moses' and Buddha's life.)

 

No. 3, blind man and the elephant. I have heard that fundamentalists are so good at countering this one that one should not even bother with this. :-) But there is a germ fo truth in it. Borg mentions all the healings of blindness (over many other types of conditions). One of the reasons (not to put aside spiritual/paranormal type healing) was to show the person's eyes as opened.

 

I think, as well that our traditions blind us to some things and open our eyes to others. We in the West have a very linearly based type thinking process (a leads to b leads to c). This is helpful in some ways of thinking about the mystery but not helpful in other ways.

 

I have heard the river of wisdom idea presented as the a prism, a lake, etc etc. Perhaps a prism might be the best as it shows how truth might be changed depending on culture and viewpoint.

 

--des

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  • 9 months later...

I like how succinctly des listed the responses to “everyone is right” initially. Certainly there are real things where people see the same thing differently, whether subjective things like morality and love or potentially objective things like the best way to educate kids. When Joseph Campbell was on PBS, he helped me hope that there might indeed be some common truth to religion, but then again that might only be what evolutionary psychology sees God to be, a side effect of how our brain looks for hidden causes and inside information, for father, for simple fantasies instead of unfathomable reality. In recent years, I find more reality in everyone being wrong than right.

 

The first response could actually mean:

 

1a) It’s not true that everyone is right. Only my group is right, and everyone else is condemned to hell, to being ignorant, to paying me hundreds of dollars to show them the one true path or something else like that.

 

1b) Everyone is right except those performing human sacrifices or something else considered to be definitely wrong.

 

1c) All religions are false, so be an atheist.

 

1d) All religions are false, including atheism.

 

I don’t think it makes sense to say everyone is right about something as broad as religion. It’s like saying everyone is right about medicine because everyone has some response to illness. Yet one can see different outcomes from different societies or subcultures and be confident that not everyone is right.

 

So then which subcategory of #1 is best? In my twenties I was closest to 1c, like most scientists, but then I started feeling incompetent at life, started praying again regularly, had this presence build up in my prayers, and had other experience that makes me sure that atheists are as oversimplified and lost in fantasy as any religion. So I could go with 1d, but there are further categories to that:

 

1d(i) All religions are false, because God is unknowable.

 

1d(ii) All religions are false, because it takes a very precise path to know God well, and all human beings have fallen short so far (or they haven’t, but then that goes back to 1a).

 

1d(iii) All religions are false, because it is impossible for a human being to know God well until culture, material knowledge and/or other circumstances have evolved enough for any human being to understand what is God and what is not, if anything.

 

Does even God know Himself that well? Many assume so, but why should He? Can He get outside Himself to see Himself objectively, or is He like we are in defining ourselves through our relationships with everything we are not? There is enough uncertainty to make all religions false, in large part or even entirely. Is there any way around that? Who knows? Maybe even the part of God that goes through time with us greets each day thinking that this might be the day when He figures out the ultimate truth, when He finally has enough experience, concepts, other tools and materials to put the rest of the truth together. Or maybe He’s at peace with just knowing what He knows, even if that is surprisingly little, and God is actually instinctive or intuitive while we’re the knowledgeable ones, the ones with memories. What a frightening thought.

 

One could say that the possibilities for being objective about a spiritual reality, someplace where our senses don’t reach, are so bad that everyone has an equal chance at being right. All religions are entitled to their guesses. I don’t see that being the case, though. Religions all make claims for being right far beyond anything that can be demonstrated. They’re all wrong just for doing that. So is the agnostic who says that because of this, the only sensible way is to keep one’s distance from God. No, one can approach God as if 1d is the truth, not sure why it’s true, but sure that no human being knows why it’s true and maybe God doesn’t either. That’s what I wound up doing, not by plan surely. I just wanted to embrace Christianity again, but how to do that without glossing over the long lists of problems atheists compile about Christianity, that dedicated atheists compile about any religion?

 

I have noticed that people don’t like this approach, but I don’t know a better one, and I’m not giving up the God who showed up in my prayers just because other people can’t believe in Him. People’s track record on beliefs just isn’t that good. It seems to me that record is much better summarized as “all religions are false” than as “all religions are true”. The blind men are studying an elephant, but needed to find a horse. What the river people are drawing from is not wisdom at all, but fantasy. There are many ways to go wrong. Is the answer to keep trying the same way, try a different way on our own, or ask for help? It depends on what’s real, doesn’t it, on knowing the big picture. So to know the big picture one can keep trying the same way, try a different way on our own, or ask for help. Repetitive, isn’t it? The good part of that is that we live long enough to try every way we can think of. We don’t have to choose. We can see what works best for us. I just hope people include the idea of asking God for help directly. It’s strange. It’s possible to get something completely wrong that way. It is, however, the one way I know to get around the problem that all religions are false, including atheism.

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What about all religions are false and true, including atheism.  That is to say there is truth in all religions and there are lies in all religions.  No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't.

That might be accurate, but it doesn't help us determine which religious claims are true or false.

 

For instance, Christianity claims that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment," whereas Eastern religions favor reincarnation. Which is true? Christianity is founded upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but Islam teaches that Jesus was taken into heaven and not crucified. These are contradictory truth claims that lie at the heart of the major religions.

 

Also, your comment "No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't" is a religious statement that must itself be subjected to your criterion of being partially false.

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That might be accurate, but it doesn't help us determine which religious claims are true or false.

 

That is the point. We can't. Nor are we meant to.

 

Also, your comment "No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't" is a religious statement that must itself be subjected to your criterion of being partially false.

 

Not following your logic.

Edited by October's Autumn
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That might be accurate, but it doesn't help us determine which religious claims are true or false.

 

That is the point. We can't. Nor are we meant to.

But then there's no way of knowing whether the theology of Jim Jones or Pat Robertson or Marcus Borg is better or worse. By your own logic, liberalism is no closer to being true than fundamentalism, because we can't know which is true and which is false, or how much of which is true or false. I'm not saying that any human being or institution can be confident that they are in possession of perfect truth; but if we abandon the notion of truth altogether, the quest for logic and rationality and consistency, then you're not allowed to criticize fundamentalism for being false. You may be allowed to say you don't personally like it, but frankly, why should anyone care? I reject fundamentalism precisely because I believe in truth, not because I don't.

 

Also, your comment "No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't" is a religious statement that must itself be subjected to your criterion of being partially false.

Not following your logic.

The logic is, if all religious statements are partially false, then your statement that "No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't" is, by definition, partially false too. Indeed, "all religious statements are partially false" is also, by definition, partially false. This is the self-defeat of strong post-modernism in a nutshell -- as soon as you say, "We can't know the truth," you've shot yourself in the foot, because then we have no way of knowing that "We can't know the truth" is true. If it's true, then it isn't.

 

:)

Edited by FredP
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The logic is, if all religious statements are partially false, then your statement that "No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't" is, by definition, partially false too. Indeed, "all religious statements are partially false" is also, by definition, partially false. This is the self-defeat of strong post-modernism in a nutshell -- as soon as you say, "We can't know the truth," you've shot yourself in the foot, because then we have no way of knowing that "We can't know the truth" is true. If it's true, then it isn't.

 

 

"I am lying at this moment." ;)

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The logic is, if all religious statements are partially false, then your statement that "No single one corners the market on who God is or isn't" is, by definition, partially false too. Indeed, "all religious statements are partially false" is also, by definition, partially false. This is the self-defeat of strong post-modernism in a nutshell -- as soon as you say, "We can't know the truth," you've shot yourself in the foot, because then we have no way of knowing that "We can't know the truth" is true. If it's true, then it isn't.

 

 

"I am lying at this moment." ;)

 

And... "It's abnormal to be completely normal."

 

minsocal : :o

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I notice Borg has a chapter on Revelations. It always sounded like really wierd ancient sci-fi (or fantasy). I'm hoping that he can shed some light. I have yet to hear a liberal/progressive sermon on it. (Not to say one hasn't existed somewhere.)

Ok, so this thread is like a year old, but I just happened to notice it. Maybe I couldn't preach a liberal/progressive sermon on it, but I could probably come up with a fairly decent non-literal/esoteric sermon on it. :D

 

The three main features would be:

  • That the Seven Churches refer to the (roughly) seven developmental levels of consciousness (chakras, etc.), which must be properly aligned for Christ to emerge in the soul/cosmos;
  • That the Great Battle refers to the transformation of the self/cosmos, and the emergence of the Cosmic Christ as its center and organizing principle -- a process which the ego resists with all its might, and launches every psychological and spiritual attack it can muster;
  • That the Wedding Feast refers to the integration of the masculine and feminine energies/principles in the soul/cosmos -- the ultimate union that finally occurs when we become fully awake

It's a rough sketch anyway....

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Ok, so this thread is like a year old, but I just happened to notice it.

 

Yeah, I went on a resurrection spree the other night, trying to stir up some conversation. :mellow:

 

 

Oh, and PS - Let me know when you get that sermon fleshed out. I'd love to read it.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Ok, so this thread is like a year old, but I just happened to notice it.  Maybe I couldn't preach a liberal/progressive sermon on it, but I could probably come up with a fairly decent non-literal/esoteric sermon on it. :D

 

The three main features would be:

  • That the Seven Churches refer to the (roughly) seven developmental levels of consciousness (chakras, etc.), which must be properly aligned for Christ to emerge in the soul/cosmos;
     
  • That the Great Battle refers to the transformation of the self/cosmos, and the emergence of the Cosmic Christ as its center and organizing principle -- a process which the ego resists with all its might, and launches every psychological and spiritual attack it can muster;
     
  • That the Wedding Feast refers to the integration of the masculine and feminine energies/principles in the soul/cosmos -- the ultimate union that finally occurs when we become fully awake

It's a rough sketch anyway....

 

Gee Fred, How thoroughly radical and Eastern. I Love it !!

 

flow.... :)

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Ummm..ok..well, let me review David D's points again and see which of them I most agree with....

 

 

DavidD

 

 

(A) All religions are false, because God is unknowable.

 

(B) All religions are false, because it takes a very precise path to know God well, and all human beings have fallen short so far (or they haven’t, but then that goes back to (A).

 

© All religions are false, because it is impossible for a human being to know God well until culture, material knowledge and/or other circumstances have evolved enough for any human being to understand what is God and what is not, if anything.

 

Hummm..all of these work for me..but I think © comes the cloest...But as for myself I'd rephrase it just a little...

 

For the most part, All religions have both true pieces in them as well as false, because it is impossible for a human being to know God well until...we eneter into the perfect Kingdom of God...thus in a Imperfect world or age or relm it is NOt possible to have a prefect understanding of God nor a prefect grasp of theology/doctrine.

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