Continuing the discussion from Biblical science arguments versus worldly scientific argument:
Hi @maylana, thank you for raising some great questions. I have picked your question on religion as it is a question I have wondered about in my own journey from Hinduism to Christianity. Infact, I posed this same question a few months ago to discuss in this community. People at ancient and modern times may have had different approaches to religions. But God has a way of reaching our hearts, whether it’s through spiritual, psychological, circumstantial or intellectual means. The full discussion is linked here. In this post I wanted to share some more thoughts on the rational approach.
The claim of Jesus that he is the way, the truth and the life is an inconvenient truth to live by but is not all that shocking if we believe that the story of the world began with one God. Most of my family and friends hold other views on religion such as - God is one but known by different names in different religions; religious truth is unlike other ordinary truths, and one cannot really know which religion is true; it doesn’t matter what religion we choose or whether we follow a religion if we live moral lives. These views sound far more inclusive, but we must assess the validity of these views with careful consideration. It is wonderful that even at a young age you are putting effort into understanding the faith you choose to live by.
If we accept that all religious paths lead to the same God, we must figure out how to deal with the conflicting truth claims in the various paths about nature of God, human condition, afterlife, etc. If all religions are in contact with the same ultimate reality, why are there distinctions in the revelation of that ultimate reality? It is difficult to be truly inclusive of all religions without ignoring the foundational truths in the different religions. While living a moral life is a worthy pursuit, defining the value of religion only in terms of morality ignores issues such as internal motivations and the big life questions on suffering, meaning, justice and hope.
When it comes to evaluating religions objectively rather than subjectively, there are certain criteria that can be used and applying these principles is highly complex. In Dissonant Voices, Religious pluralism and the question of truth, Harold Netland lists some criteria as seen in the following excerpts:
- Basic logical principles: The three basic principles of classical logic are the principles of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle… This suggests the following principles in evaluating worldviews- If a defining belief of a religion is self-contradictory then the belief is false; If two or more beliefs are mutually contradictory, then at least one of them is false.
- Self-refutation: Some statements cannot be true because they provide grounds for their own refutation. For instance: ‘All truth is relative to a particular cultural context’ cannot be regarded as universal truth. For if true, the, there would be at least one truth not relative to cultural contexts-namely the truth of the thesis of cultural relativism… Thus, we might formulate another principle- If a defining belief is self-defeating, it cannot reasonably be accepted as true.
- Coherence of worldview: For a given worldview to be accepted as true, it is not sufficient merely that its defining beliefs all be internally consistent. The defining beliefs must also be properly related to each other….For a worldview to be coherent in this sense, the defining beliefs must combine to form a system in which some significant phenomenon concerning human existence are explained, or some fundamental problem is solved, or a unified view of the world is presented.
- Adequacy of explanation within reference range: We might think of the reference range of a theory as the range of data, given its nature, the theory should be able to account for or explain. A theory about morality should be able to account for all the relevant data concerning morality. So, any religious worldview which is unable to account for fundamental phenomenon associated with religious orientation or which cannot provide adequate answers to central questions in religion should not be accepted as true.
- Consistency with knowledge in other fields: Since ultimately there is unity and consistency to truth, we would expect that what is true in religion is consistent with what is true in other domains such as science, history, and archaeology. So, if a defining belief of a religion contradicts well established conclusions in other domains and if religion cannot justify doing so, then the belief should be rejected as false. And, if a defining belief of religion depends upon a belief in another domain which there is good reason to reject as false, then there is good reason to reject the belief as false.
- Moral assessment: If we are justified in accepting the objectivity of basic moral values and principles and in believing that we can know at least some of these values and principles, then we can formulate two general moral principles by which to evaluate religious worldviews: If one or more defining beliefs of a religion are incompatible with widely accepted and well established moral values or if religion includes among its essential practices or rites activities which are incompatible with basic moral values and practices, then there is good reason for rejecting religion as false. Secondly, If the defining beliefs of a religion entail the denial of the objectivity of basic moral values and principles, or of they entail the denial of the objective distinction between right and wrong, then there is good reason for rejecting religion as false. Finally, if a religion is unable to provide adequate answers to basic questions about the phenomenon of moral awareness, this provides good reason for rejecting religion as false.
I have shared some principles from the book to just point out that an objective evaluation of religions is possible, though it is not easy. While knowing objective reasons might help, we can get lost in intellectual pursuits. Faith involves two aspects, faith in the truths of the religion and our commitment to God in response. It is worth remembering what Apostle Paul shares in 1 Cor 2:2.