Friday Roundup

Here is another atheist, and self-described “pagan” I can find common ground with.  Here we see an atheist taking the post-modern turn seriously and how a modern or fundamentalist sensibility is not limited to religious people (See Rob).
Notice, the writer is not telling us truth is unimportant or just a matter of opinion.  But truth is much more than a mere “fact” or piece of knowledge.  Truth is complex and deep, unless we are speaking of that which is only trivially true, i.e., the earth is round, the sun is hot.
“Words are not just representations of reality; they are carriers of meaning. And the same goes for words like “God”. I’m becoming more interested in what “God” means to someone — how it fits into their lives — than whether it corresponds to an objectively verifiable phenomena that can be repeatedly tested under controlled conditions — just as I was more interested in what being pregnant meant for our family than what it meant in the lab test.”
Whether he knows it or not, he is taking a swipe at the correspondence theory of truth here and he is exactly correct in my view.  The fact the word “hot” corresponds in reality to one aspect of the sun’s physical effects is hardly the final word or summation of the sun’s existence, or any number of similar words and topics, objects, etc., where there is a relation of description or naming in physical, measurable, and testable, terms only.  This sort of sensibility imagines the world to be an inch deep.  It is a truncated, surface, narrow, and entirely partial or, better, superficial view of the world.  If it is imposed on the rest of the world, outside of the purely scientific or empirical arena, it becomes the view of the immature and infantile.  It becomes the view of the parochial, the philistine.  It becomes dangerous in fact.  There is, as any poet, writer, philosopher, theologian, blues artist, artist in general, or anyone (including the scientist and more analytical among us) who has drank deeply from the wells of life, taken in both the brokenness and the beauty, will tell you, an infinite depth to all things.
He goes on to note:
“Rob also made the remarkable claim that *‘Any religion or philosophy that is does not make objective truth a central value is going to be ultimately morally corrupting even though in the short term it may seem empowering and uplifting.’  I used to believe that, too — I really did.  But over the years I have seen how being ‘right’ can sometimes be more ‘morally corrupting’ than being ‘comforted’. I’ve seen it in others and in myself. I keep coming back to the saying, ‘Do you want to be right or do you want to be in a relationship?’ More and more, I want to be in relationship, more than I want to be right. In fact, I think being in right relationship — with my fellow human beings, with the web of life, with the earth — is its own kind of ‘truth’.
And as far as I can see, being right or having the ‘truth’ does not necessarily make us better people, more moral people, or happier people. In fact, some of the people I know who profess great concern for ‘truth’ are the biggest assholes. I think concern about other people’s perceived lack of truth is often a cover for not dealing with our own shit — and, yes, I’m talking about myself here.
Truth is important — undoubtedly.  And I have probably overstated my indifference to questions of truth here. Perhaps I should just say that there are other things that matter as much as truth to me. Things like beauty and compassion, a sense of meaning and a feeling of connectedness.  And I think concern for the truth needs to be balanced with these things or in order for me to live what I think is a fully human life.”

To which, I can only add, amen, amen.  Truth is about much more than “facts” or empirical correlations/correspondence.  In fact, such may be the least important or significant aspect of truth when reflecting upon and addressing life in general.


*Just so there is no confusion (I can hear the wheels turning), Rob isn’t using the word “objective” in the sense I have been doing in reference to morality/ethics.  He is using the word to mean that only those things we can prove scientifically and empirically are “true” things or things that actually exist—thus, “objective” in that sense.  As I have noted many times now, the word “objective” does not mean such when speaking of abstract concepts like “good” and “evil” or supposed realities like God or the platonic.  Given such, my presumption would be that Rob is a relativist/subjectivist when it comes to morality and ethics.  And the writer may be as well, although he clearly gets the postmodern notion of truth, which is where we agree here.

This also shows how the religious fundamentalist and secular fundamentalist have the same epistemology and mind-set.  The irony escapes both—that each holds to the same correspondence theory (Cartesian foundationalism) of truth (modernity), but come to completely different conclusions regarding the “big” questions. 

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2 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    I would suppose, however, that the meaning of being pregnant has something to do with actually being pregnant. If a person decided that they would make believe that they were pregnant, and make a lot of unverifiable claims, that tends to have some meanings that are different in important ways.


  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “I would suppose, however, that the meaning of being pregnant has something to do with actually being pregnant. If a person decided that they would make believe that they were pregnant, and make a lot of unverifiable claims, that tends to have some meanings that are different in important ways.”

    I don’t think he is comparing God’s possible existence to pregnancy. I think he is making a different point. He is noting that being pregnant is much more than what the ultrasounds and other testing, or other empirical means, can tell us. Pregnancy cannot be reduced to those aspects alone. Do those methods tell us “true” things? Of course. Do they tell us all that is true or the most significant truths about being pregnant? Of course not.


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