Friday, July 02, 2010

Religion True and False

It is so refreshing to read an honest, straightforward, defense of religion. Case in point, Fr. Thomas Crean’s essay in the April/May 2010 issue of Philosophy Now magazine.

Fr. Crean begins with the assumption that judging a religion good or bad depends on whether or not that religion is true or false. For example, the Catholic Inquisition, which tortured and killed thousands in the name of doctrinal purity, is good if the doctrine of the Church is true, and bad if it is false. This makes perfect sense.

Thousands of Jews, among thousands of others, died at the hands of the Inquisition. Their crime? Not being Catholic, or, in the case of those Jews forced to convert to Catholicism before being tortured by the Inquisition, not being Catholic enough. Now if Catholicism is merely a figment of the imagination of Catholics, and hence false, murdering people for not adhering to it is wrong. But if Catholicism is true then those who deny it or pollute its teachings are a danger to the salvation of all humanity, and their murder is justified. How can you argue with this?

According to Fr. Crean, religion is powerful and morally neutral. Good people of faith will use their faith to do good in the world, evil people of faith will use that same faith to do evil in the world. If so, what good is religion at all?

What do you think? How do you know if your religion is true? What does the truth of your religion allow you to do vis a vis the false religions demanding equal standing in the community of human religions?

5 comments:

Karen said...

Another good article Rabbi! This question is a kobayashi maru test. Can't be answered. Who's to say what's "true" and what's not?

A friend of mine - who is a gay, single, intentionally pregnant, catholic - says the Catholic church is good because they've done many good and charitable things despite some of the not so good things done in the name of Catholicism. Another friend says Christianity is good because it's brought her closer to her spirit. And yet, both have been the sword that has been used to kill millions. I don't think a religion can be judged completly true or false any more than a person can be judged completely good or bad.

Derek said...

As long as organized religions present themselves as the "only" truth, and adherents view that truth as fact, evil in the name of religion will continue, even if the only evil is devaluing those who don't have the same beliefs. We all need to separate our definitions of fact and truth and accept that truth can be found in other places than we conceive.

Old Lady said...

ooooooh you cracked that egg wide open for me!!!! I have come to define religion as being man made. One man's idea of who and what God is and wants. I believe everyone who starts a religion has good intentions, but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. No one should be forced to believe in any religion. All should be allowed to search and find their own communion with God, or what ever they decide to call him.

Man's nature is beastial and violent. Religion was invented to control the masses, by man. Now some say they have personal coversations with God. I am not so sure I have. I believe that in this vast universe we are but a pile of sand to God. We might have conversations with God in our minds,but I kinda think that we are not more to God than the ants are to God.

Now I believe in the engergy that gives life. Some call this the divine spark, a piece of God so to speak. This energy is the spirit that runs through us all and the universal rule for this was brought about by Einstein. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it changes from one form to another.

Religion's place in the scheme of life should be to guide, assist, do good works. To me no one is right and everyone is right. If we could concentrate on what makes sense and is timeless, and shed that which is invalid (due to scientific advances and education) I think we would be a better world.

Then the powers that be would have to be honest about the mother load of minerals lying under the ground that the Taliban sit on, huh???

Barry said...

I'm a Jew, which is more like being part of a tribe than being in a religion. I'm affiliated with Reform Judaism, married to a rabbi. I like the logic of the Reform movement, which allows me to do my spiritual stuff on my own. Reform Judaism allows everyone outside to have whatever religion they want, while trying, as a movement, to do what is good.

I don't have much patience for other religions - I guess the more liberal Christian sects are okay, but the ones who think I'll read their pamphlet and become a Christian, or who voted to negate my marriage- I can barely speak to people like that.

A lot of my gay friends are ex- something: ex-Catholic, ex-Mormon, Jewish non-believers (you can't be an ex-Jew- the tribal thing) . Of course my husband is deeply religious, smart, and a profoundly good person, so it is possible.

To answer the question - A "true" religion is one that works for its adherents while leaving everyone else alone. God doesn't really enter into that. I don't think God cares if we are religious or not.

Jennie said...

I have come to believe that religion is perhaps the greatest stifler of man's relationship with God. In fact, because of religion many a man fails to acknowledge God let alone commune with Him. An individual must find communion with God within themselves, and that is between them and God. At best, religion is merely the doctrine by which one chooses to live, or perhaps worship and learn however; communion with God is something that religion cannot produce and often hinders.