Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#61  Postby chairman bill » Feb 24, 2012 4:53 pm

rainbow wrote:
The_Metatron wrote:
rainbow wrote:
chairman bill wrote:I'm with Skolomowski -
There are absolute truths, we just don't necessarily know what they are

How do you know this?

Here's one.

You are unable to eat your own head.

I didn't ask for an example, I asked how one could know.


Well, an example of an absolute truth is pretty solid indication of the existence of absolute truths. The statement that they exist is thus supported. The second part of the statement, that we don't necessarily know what they are, is an acceptance of the limits of knowledge, so a question such as "how would you know?" is pretty fucking stupid. But I expect little more from you. I suspect I'm not alone in that matter.
“There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.” Terry Pratchett
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#62  Postby Agrippina » Feb 24, 2012 5:12 pm

Bookmarking I want to see where this is going.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#63  Postby Matthew Shute » Feb 24, 2012 5:21 pm

Again, I would advise anyone interested in the supposed controversy over relativism to read or re-read this debate along with some of the supplementary discussion threads - if only because all of the objections to relativism I've seen raised so far in this thread were raised and dealt with over there. It was an interesting discussion, and somewhat exhaustive in showing that relativism is not self-refuting, and that making the case for absolute truth is a non-starter without some absolute basis, such as a metaphysical scheme, or God.

As for why do we criticize religion, we do so for various reasons, none of which have anything to do with any absolute truth. Many of the empirical claims of religions are simply incorrect, empirically, factually incorrect: young earth creationism is the classic example. Creationism does not match with the empirical facts. One can also attack any religion which attempts to intrude into secular politics because religion's influence on politics is typically corrosive. One can criticize unpleasant or stultifying dogmas of religions, as practiced today. The aesthetic or ethical values which are at the root of any opposition to religion are indeed human values. As humans, human values are all we have access to. How many times have we heard the old canard that, without God and a system of absolute morality/meaning, there are no values or any meaning at all?
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#64  Postby DrWho » Feb 24, 2012 5:50 pm

Matthew Shute wrote:
As for why do we criticize religion, we do so for various reasons, none of which have anything to do with any absolute truth. Many of the empirical claims of religions are simply incorrect


A relativist does not rergard any claim as simply correct or incorrect. That's absolutist talk.

For a relativst, claims are only correct or incorrect given some non-absolute assumptions.
The skeptical writers are a set whose business it is to prick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty; and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and solid than it was before. - Thomas Reid
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#65  Postby Chrisw » Feb 24, 2012 11:11 pm

logical bob wrote:The existence of God, good and evil, intrinsic meaning to life or things held to be true through logical necessity are nothing at all like the existence of cats. If we can agree that the closest things to absolute truths are facts about physical objects then that's fine with me.

Why only close to absolute truth? What are we missing?

If the world is a certain way then it is true that the world is a certain way. You seem to agree with this but object that it would still not be absolutely true. At this point I just don't know what you mean by "absolute truth". All I mean by it (or at least all I would mean by it if cornered and forced to use the term) is "truth". I don't think truth comes in different varieties or grades. And all I mean by calling a proposition true is that it expresses a fact. Saying that there are facts is the same as saying that there are truths, absolute truths if you like. Do you really think there are no facts?

The OP in this thread seems to suggest that we could only criticise religion if we had an alternative absolute truth. My view is that we'll only really escape religion when we escape absolute truth.

The OP suggests that we can't argue against religion with any confidence because "truth is relative" meaning that we can each have our own truth and therefore the theist's truth and the atheist's truth are no more than different subjective viewpoints. But this is just to confuse facts with beliefs. We may each have our own beliefs but to say that we have our own truths (meaning facts) is an error even at a purely linguistic level.

As ever, posting the SEP article on the subject under discussion is no form of argument and I wish you'd stop doing it. I think by now we're all aware that the SEP exists if we want it. It even has a search function.

Personally I thought the Searle quote that Teuton posted was very good and pertinent.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#66  Postby DrWho » Feb 24, 2012 11:52 pm

Well said Chirsw!

I argee about Tueton. Personally, I find his wealth of philisophical resources often quite helpful.
The skeptical writers are a set whose business it is to prick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty; and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and solid than it was before. - Thomas Reid
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#67  Postby Agrippina » Feb 25, 2012 7:02 am

I don't pretend to be a philosopher and therefore don't often post in this forum, but I have something to say on this topic from a non-philosophical point of view, which I felt was pertinent to the question "truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?" I do not have a philosophical reason for doing this.

I accept that truth is relative, as a lay person, not philosophical, it makes complete sense. If I'm looking at someone across from me and we are standing in my garden, it will be completely true that one of us can truthfully say that they are looking at the Indian Ocean and the other, a field of growing sugar cane.

As to why I criticize religion: it is my opinion that teaching religion to children and believing in religion merely encourages the abandonment of responsibility for your actions. Even if you don't believe in the great creator in the sky and simply belong to a religion because you want to ask for favours from a "superior power" or to confess your sins because you're afraid of burning in hell for them, you are not taking responsibility for the things you do, on yourself. Living without religion makes you responsible. That's a huge cross to bear (pardon the pun) for anyone who gives up religion to have to deal with. When you realise that you are completely accountable for everything you do and that you can't merely visit a priest to assuage your feelings of guilt, you also take on the moral responsibility to see to it that you do no harm. For someone who is weak and irresponsible, that is quite a heavy burden.

For example, parents who spank their children cite "spare the rod and ruin the child" or some such nonsense. When you point out to them that beating children is not proper discipline, they claim that God authorized that children should be beaten into submission and that they do not have the responsibility for the abuse, and thereby assuage any feelings of guilt. When you're not religious, those feelings of guilt may haunt you to the point where you have to actually apologize to the child for having spanked them and if the spankings were severe enough, pay a psychologist to help you deal with it. The feelings of guilt never leave you, unless you turn to religion and then merely lay it all "before God," thereby excusing your actions and relieving the feelings of guilt.

For me, I want everyone to be held accountable for everything they do. So I criticize religion simply because it's based on flawed history, incorrect science and some outright lies and plagiarized mythology being presented as truth on the one hand, and on the other to make people admit that they were wrong, or are wrong and to be mature and adult enough to admit that they are wrong, then deal with the consequences.

Does that make sense?
A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation. - Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE - 43 BCE)
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#68  Postby logical bob » Feb 25, 2012 7:24 am

Chrisw wrote:If the world is a certain way then it is true that the world is a certain way. You seem to agree with this but object that it would still not be absolutely true. At this point I just don't know what you mean by "absolute truth". All I mean by it (or at least all I would mean by it if cornered and forced to use the term) is "truth". I don't think truth comes in different varieties or grades. And all I mean by calling a proposition true is that it expresses a fact. Saying that there are facts is the same as saying that there are truths, absolute truths if you like. Do you really think there are no facts?

Chris, you're a contributor I respect a lot but in this case you've completely missed the point of the post you were replying to. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough.

Of course I don't think there are no facts. I'm objecting to all the various attempts to establish God or other metaphysical systems which go far beyond what you or I would be willing to consider facts - objective moral values, logically necessary existence and so forth. Why so many intelligent people seem to think you can't separate that stuff from ordinary facts without entering a total epistemological free for all puzzles me.

As I've said repeatedly, for any proposition P you get exactly the same information about the world by saying P, P is true, P is absolutely true or P is absolutely super duper true with a cherry on it. Beyond this the word true has various linguistic functions that entail no metaphysics at all. Pointing this out doesn't in any way say that it cannot be the case that P.

I share your apparent distaste for the term absolute truth and it seems on some level that we agree that it doesn't usefully refer to anything.

Personally I thought the Searle quote that Teuton posted was very good and pertinent.

I agree. You'll note that it was the SEP link I was talking about.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#69  Postby Matthew Shute » Feb 25, 2012 10:25 am

DrWho wrote:
Matthew Shute wrote:
As for why do we criticize religion, we do so for various reasons, none of which have anything to do with any absolute truth. Many of the empirical claims of religions are simply incorrect


A relativist does not rergard any claim as simply correct or incorrect. That's absolutist talk.

For a relativst, claims are only correct or incorrect given some non-absolute assumptions.


They're "simply" incorrect given the minimal assumptions of science. Creationism does not agree with the facts. I'm not using the word "simply" in any philosophically-loaded way. I just mean that it's a "simple" matter to show that creationism is incorrect, given said assumptions.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#70  Postby stalidon » Feb 25, 2012 12:57 pm

"There are no absolute truths.":

To construe the term 'absolute' as a superlative is simply naive. I can't eat my own head. In what way is this 'absolute', other than saying it's really really really really true? Well yes, facts are really really really really true. Hallucinations are also really really really really true. But are they also absolutely true?

Certainty is an emotion. Propositions, axioms, aphorisms, truth, literary style aren't something we find out there, outside language.

'2 + 2 = 4' isn't something we find out there, unless you assign those numbers to facts. '24 + 2' is either 26 or 2 whether you assign those numbers to apples or hours in the day.

The Word of God is absolutely true, 'because' of a supreme disembodied bearer of authority. In literature, 'little did he know' is called the third-person omniscient. When you pretend to possess absolute truths you're pretending to be in that place. It's a special little place in language where you're over and above everything else anyone can say.

Is science a bearer of absolute truths? In which century?
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#71  Postby chairman bill » Feb 25, 2012 12:59 pm

stalidon wrote:There are no absolute truths.


Absolutely true. Er :think:
“There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.” Terry Pratchett
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#72  Postby stalidon » Feb 25, 2012 1:04 pm

logical bob wrote:The OP in this thread seems to suggest that we could only criticise religion if we had an alternative absolute truth. My view is that we'll only really escape religion when we escape absolute truth.


The OP was asking, not suggesting, why do we criticize religion, since I found myself in the need to reformulate my reasons for doing so. ;)

I don't think we need absolute truths to criticize religion. Neither do I think (as I'm sure you'll agree) that we need absolute truths to know the world as is, and acquire reasonable certainty about what we know.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#73  Postby stalidon » Feb 25, 2012 1:06 pm

chairman bill wrote:
stalidon wrote:There are no absolute truths.


Absolutely true. Er :think:


http://www.rationalskepticism.org/philo ... l#p1108897

Cito di Pense wrote:
The following summary is relevant:

http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtop ... 0#p1769314
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#74  Postby hackenslash » Feb 25, 2012 1:09 pm

I'd suggest that the LNC is an absolute truth. Unless, of course, there is some humpty-dumptyism at play with regard to the word 'absolute'.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#75  Postby Nicko » Feb 25, 2012 1:16 pm

hackenslash wrote:I'd suggest that the LNC is an absolute truth. Unless, of course, there is some humpty-dumptyism at play with regard to the word 'absolute'.


It is possible to argue that it is not, but only by arguing that reality is completely random, incomprehensible and incoherent.

I would certainly say that anyone who does not take this view of reality must accept the Law of Non-Contradiction.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#76  Postby Nicko » Feb 25, 2012 1:20 pm

Matthew Shute wrote:
DrWho wrote:
Matthew Shute wrote:
As for why do we criticize religion, we do so for various reasons, none of which have anything to do with any absolute truth. Many of the empirical claims of religions are simply incorrect


A relativist does not rergard any claim as simply correct or incorrect. That's absolutist talk.

For a relativst, claims are only correct or incorrect given some non-absolute assumptions.


They're "simply" incorrect given the minimal assumptions of science. Creationism does not agree with the facts. I'm not using the word "simply" in any philosophically-loaded way. I just mean that it's a "simple" matter to show that creationism is incorrect, given said assumptions.


I would also point out that naturalism makes fewer assumptions than its philosophical competitors. If one is going to criticise naturalism for being based upon unprovable assumptions consistently, then one would have to reserve much harsher criticism for competing theories that are based upon a greater number of unprovable assumptions.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#77  Postby stalidon » Feb 25, 2012 1:24 pm

Nicko wrote:It is possible to argue that it is not, but only by arguing that reality is completely random, incomprehensible and incoherent.


Or that it was, or that it might be again, or that this isn't the only set of possible physical laws.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#78  Postby John P. M. » Feb 25, 2012 1:29 pm

I can't help but feel we're talking past each other, while still actually agreeing at bottom. I just can't put my finger on it, or rather, express it in an eloquent and helpful manner.

But I think one of Teuton's posts/quotes touched on the distinction though, here.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#79  Postby stalidon » Feb 25, 2012 1:40 pm

Sadly, I think this thread is doomed by its own title, which I didn't think through before writing it. The title should read: "IF we accept that there are no absolute truths, how do we justify our criticizing of religion?"

The point, as far as I recollect, was in acknowledging that we all start from assumptions, and the best we can say about these assumptions is that they are reasonable, logical, and seem to agree with the world as we perceive it. What *I* can't say, is that these assumptions are absolutely true, that they are grounded in a metaphysical indubitable source.
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Re: Truth is relative: why do we criticize religion?

#80  Postby Nicko » Feb 25, 2012 1:46 pm

One problem with people who make relativistic assertions is that it is often not a consistent position that they actually hold, but a rhetorical weapon that the philosopher Stephen Law calls "Going Nuclear".

I'm certainly not suggesting that is necessarily what is happening in this thread, but it is important to distinguish between those who genuinely hold a consistent and coherent relativist position and those who use it as a "get out of jail free card" when they find themselves on the losing side of a rational argument.
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