How Can Any Religion Have A Monopoly On Truth?

Soak this up (emphasis original):

By the time she turned up in New York, [Justina Walford’s] faith had long since unraveled, a casualty of overseas travel that made her question how any one religious community could have a monopoly on truth. But still she grieved the loss of God. “It was like breaking up with someone that you thought was your soulmate,” Walford told me. “It’s for the better. It’s for your own good,” she remembered thinking. Even though it no longer made sense to her to believe, she felt a gaping hole where her Church—her people, her psalms, her stained-glass windows—used to be.

We can see the usefulness of using emotions to judge truth, as young Walford has done, leads to grief—and error. If what feels good is true, then truth depends on your digestion (as subjective probability does). However, everybody, except magazine writers and feminist organizations, know this, so skip it.

Concentrate instead on this: could any one religious community have a monopoly on truth?

If you find yourself saying, “Gee! I guess it can’t!” then you have committed the One True Spartacus Fallacy. Twice.

The first time is implicitly saying “I now possess the monopolistic truth that my religion, that of myself being the ultimate judge of good and evil and of the truth and falsity of religions, must be true, because no one religious community could have a monopoly on truth. Except my community of one, or of the community of like-minded people who come together to celebrate their infinite perspicacity.”

You can’t say it is true there is no truth. Unless you’re an academic—in which case you could secure tenure with idiotic statements just like that. Given this is the internet, let me be painfully clear. You can’t say all religions are false unless you can prove it, which means, for a start, proving the necessary Being is not necessary. Best o’ luck.

The second time the fallacy is used is worse. It is to say there can be no true Spartacus because all the other men stood up and said that they were the one true Spartacus. And that because so many men said it, and were wrong, therefore there could be no one true Spartacus.

It would be like a scientist saying, “Because there are all these other rival theories purporting to explain this effect, each claiming to be the one true theory, and all are wrong except for mine; therefore, there can be no one true theory explaining this effect. Therefore I must be wrong, too. There is thus no reason to search for the one true theory. Science is a farce and a fake and a fraud. I’m taking up Yoga instead.”

Not only that, he would be applauded as being wonderfully aware. He’d win the Gold Fedora for having made this brilliant deduction.

There have been lots of scientific theories of effects, each claiming to be the one true theory, or a portion of it. Just as there have been lots of religions claiming to be the one true religion, or a portion of it.

Think! If any theory or religion said it was wrong, admitted up front that it’s so much bovine spongiography, who would follow it? Who practices a theory or religion that they knew is false?

Of course, mistakes have been made. But we don’t give up on science, because science, like religion, is self-correcting. We do think we can jettison religion, though, based on arguments as dumb as the One True Spartacus Fallacy.

What galls the modern mind is a religion with the temerity to say it is the one true religion. The stakes in religion are higher than in any science, so it’s natural emotions run hotter. But what’s really happening is that people making the Fallacy have already judged the religion under discussion false, and not only that religion, but all religions, and without the benefit of arguing why. Therefore they’re only rejecting “one more God”, as the internet-atheists say.

Tough cookies. There is one true religion, and all the others are either false or only approximations to it, containing, possibly, some truths and not knowing others, while, possibly, also containing falsities.

Naturally, some reject this one true religion for reasons other than the silly “all religions but my own are false.” But if it’s because this one true religion openly calls itself the one true religion, which you “feel” is an affront, then you have made the Effeminacy Fallacy.

Which brings us back to the beginning. You have rejected a religion because it has hurt your feelings. Suck it up, buttercup.

35 Thoughts

  1. What does it mean to have a monopoly on truth? Basically, a religion is either true or false, which means that either all the religious statements that the religion make, are true statements, making it a true religion, or that there is at least one statement that is false, making it a false religion.

    But that leaves plenty of room for other religions to make true statements about their particulars.

    The only problem is that that there will be statements can can only be true for at most one religion, and that is only a problem for the other relogions.

  2. RE: “…could any one religious community have a monopoly on truth?”

    Don’t pretty all the monotheistic religions make precisely that claim — that there dogma/doctrine is correct & true, and all the others have gone astray on some detail…or major point(s) of disagreement. [rhetorical question] And their idea of religious / doctrinal truth isn’t confined to matters theological.

    Shouldn’t the real question be how a given religion claiming to have the ‘truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’ alters that truth in fundamental ways from time to time [to suit the facts that at some point can no longer be denied or ignored]?

    Seems kind of odd how, thru history, doctrines regarding what is and isn’t “truth” change.

    One of Briggs’ favorite themes, homosexuality, is, now, in many “Christian” faiths not only accept they ordain as priests, etc. — that in another day & age were persecuted. More mundane, affecting the education system, are themes like evolution and age-of-Earth/universe with some faiths accepting the science that evolution is, and, the Earth/universe are billions of years old while others deny evolution and claim an age of 6,000 or 10,000 years (and that difference is even argued between some). All that from the same source material!

    Not to mention the Flat-Earthers….

    Or, how Catholicism switched from a Earth-centered view of the universe (consistent with ancient pagan beliefs) to what most take for granted, that Earth orbits the Sun, and, neither is near the center of anything outside out solar system.

    Funny how theological doctrinal, divinely-granted/inspired, “truths” change as they have and no doubt will continue to do.

    [I’m paraphrasing up there, regarding any denomination’s claim that they’re got the facts right, all of’m with no errors slipping in, where the other denomination has erred, heretically, on some detail(s) — but that is exactly what they do, if you have any doubt just ask’m. Some will make the leap to science, arguing why DNA mutations, carbon dating, etc., etc., are seriously flawed to make their claims hold up]

  3. It is to say there can be no true Spartacus because all the other men stood up and said that they were the one true Spartacus …

    Ever been to horse race? There are plenty of people who believe horse A, and some B, etc. will win the race but no one really knows which. They will even state the winner in advance.

    Believing and claiming aren’t the same as knowing. Undoubtedly each religion believes and claims to be the One True Religion but they can’t know it. So even if it were true, there is know way to know which one is, which is effectively indistinguishable from none of them possessing the Truth.

  4. The way it is phrased is a bit confusing – no one has a “monopoly” on truth in the sense of owning or controlling it. Truth just is. A given religion or belief system recognizes or is in conformity with said truth to varying degrees. One religion may therefore contain more of it than others, and even arguably all of it.

    The unfortunate situation that some adherents to a particular belief system may spout idiocies from time to time (because human) does not invalidate its claims to adhere to the truth. Corrective mechanisms need time to work out such aberrations.

    As for an Earth centered view, a theological vs. physical differentiation is not altogether unreasonable. Washington D.C. may not be the physical center of the Earth, but politically it pretty much is (for now).

    Kind of light the old joke about federal judges: How many federal judges does it take to screw in a light bulb? One. But the world has to revolve around him.

  5. Or, how Catholicism switched from a Earth-centered view of the universe (consistent with ancient pagan beliefs) to what most take for granted, that Earth orbits the Sun, and, neither is near the center of anything outside out solar system.

    That’s what they get for relying on established, consensus science. If a prominent supporter of geomobility had not gone on to lecture on the interpretation of some scriptures, the whole thing might have stayed under the radar.

  6. No religion has a monopoly on the truth. But there is overwhelming evidence that the Christian Bible is perfectly true. That’s what makes it so remarkable. It is perfectly error-free and internally self-consistent, it provides a perfect description and explanation of reality, it makes myriad perfect predictions about the future, and it offers the only way for a person to obtain a perfectly meaningful and eternal life, through faith in Jesus Christ. Other than that, it’s about the same as any other religious book.

  7. @Ken

    Are there religions where the age of the Earth is part of doctrine? Because no one of the ones I know about (including Dutch Reformed Protestantism) make the age of the Earth part of doctrine. When you state what you believe at the time you become a member of these churches, the age of the Earth is not part of that statement.

    But I don’t know all religions, so there might be ones were the age of the Earth is part of doctrine.

    (Apart from Scientism, but that is not a proper religion)

  8. The book that takes this fallacy apart — based on “what is Truth?” — is
    Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth
    by Mortimer J. Adler

    When people say “there is no way to know” –THAT is a Truth claim — and they must have some way of knowing there is “no way to know”!

  9. Basically NOT true that a religion is either true or false since the 1000+ years during which the revelation of OT (Jewish) or NT (Christian) was Progressive Revelation, on the way to a fuller and fuller Truth.

  10. Speaking of geocentrism, in Galileo’s day, Ptolemaic astrophysics was “settled science”, and had been for a thousand years. Ptolemy was born circa 100 AD. Not only was it “settled science”, but, unlike contemporary goebbel (sp?) warming models , the predictions actually worked just fine for the purposes of the people of the era. ‘Course, Ptolemy didn’t know about all the undetectable, invisible mass and alternate universes that make the current models so plausible.

  11. Ken wants the whole truth or nothing and it appears he got his wish.
    What the Catholic Church actually teaches puts the responsibility on people like KEN and not on the Church. Genesis says ‘God made all that is” — How? It is Ken that says it gives the wrong answer because it is Ken that says it is telling us ‘How”. And I am a convert (from that very type of thinking)

  12. God is.

    God manifests in mysterious ways, beyond our ability to understand.

    Man interprets God’s manifestations in a multitude of ways.

    All of those interpretations have a kernel of truth. All of them have numerous misunderstandings, misinterpretations, distortions, fabrications, and other man-made imperfections.

    Ever taken part in an investigation involving eye-witnesses? Eye-witnesses to an event that happened less than an hour ago can vary widely in their interpretations, understanding, and details they report.

    We are imperfect humans, as God made us. We are constitutionally unable to achieve a state of perfection. Ever religion is an institution of men. Thus, all religions are fallible and a mix of truth and not-truth.

    There is only one religious truth, and one true tenet of religion:

    Truth: God is.

    True Tenet: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

    Anything additional is potential balderdash (of course, it’s potentially true, too).

  13. The only true religion that I know of is faith and unconditional trust in Christ. Hopefully, the Christian organization that we participate in promotes this. If not, Scripture is now readily accessible for anyone whether they interact with a Christian organization or not.

  14. Well, now we see it. Kent says “Every religion is an institution of men. Thus, all religions are fallible.”
    So then, Kent counts Jesus as a mere man, and not truly God as well. And since Jesus said ”and upon this rock I will build MY Church,” this same Church must be fallible.
    Thank you, Kent, for finally coming out and admitting that, despite your hijacking of Jesus’ words, you are not really a believing Christian. Which we already knew.

  15. John,

    “Every religion is an institution of men. Thus, all religions are fallible and a mix of truth and not-truth.”

    A bit sensitive, eh? No mention of man-Gods or God-men. Just pointed out that every religion is institutionalized by men, and is an institution of men.

    Thus, regardless of the truth at the core of the religion, it is conceptualized, packaged, and practiced by men.

    Which religion is NOT an institution of men?

    Christianity? Buddhism? Confucianism? Shinto? Islam? All are institutions of men, regardless of whatever is at their core.

    Great example today. A mega-church, mighty Christian pastor, a man of the Christian institution, Joshua Harris, announced that he’s renounced Christ. Hmmm…sorta sounds like a man leaving the manmade institution :

    “The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.??
    ??
    Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years—repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.??
    ??
    To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

    https://www.instagram.com/p/B0ZBrNLH2sl/

  16. All religious organizations have teachings that are both true and not true. The ones that are supposed to be true should point you to Christ because His Spirit provides our inner peace and strength. This is what moderates our excesses. The organization rituals, of themselves, can’t do it for you. Any Christian organization that does not point you to faith and unconditional trust directly in Christ is inherently flawed in its doctrine even if everything else is perfect.

  17. To Ken….”Funny how theological doctrinal, divinely-granted/inspired, “truths” change as they have and no doubt will continue to do.”

    Catholicism has not changed any dogmas, ever.

    Was just thinking the other day about how the Gentiles had no church, no buildings, no priests, no ministers, prior to Jesus setting up the Catholic Church.

    There was Cornelius, a Gentile who believed in the one, true God, to whom God sent Peter to instruct about Jesus. And as Peter was teaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were present, and Peter seeing this, said that since God gave His approval of their faith in Christ, that they definitely were to be water baptized.
    See ACTS 48: 1-10.

    God bless, C-Marie

  18. and of course the comment about ‘religion being from men’ only means that the person saying it thinks that human puniness is more powerful than God’s will to reveal.
    If God wanted to reveal through humans He can.

  19. Kent quotes Julian but rejects her thinking ultimately BECAUSE:
    Throughout her revelation Juliana submits herself to the authority of the Church: “I yield me to our mother Holy Church, as a simple child oweth.”

  20. To everybody talking about mixtures of truth and falsity :

    “In Sacred Scripture, therefore, while the truth and holiness of God always remains intact, the marvelous “condescension” of eternal wisdom is clearly shown, “that we may learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature.” For the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the word of the eternal Father, when He took to Himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men.”

    The reference here reads: St. John Chrysostom “In Genesis” 3, 8 (Homily l7, 1): PG 53, 134; “Attemperatio” in Greek synkatabasis.. which corresponds exactly in etymology to Con-Descen-sion / Syn-Kata-basis

  21. Peter, there is a little equivocation in what you say (though I don’t think it is intentional). You say :”The ones that are supposed to be true should point you to Christ” — but of course that same Jesus said “He who hears YOU hears ME” — so you can’t make a case for bypassing human authority just because you feel that you would be better going directly to Jesus.

  22. A funny comment to see: “Don’t pretty all the monotheistic religions make precisely that claim — that there dogma/doctrine is correct & true” — funny because the real complaint (unstated of course) is that this amounts to a claim to all truth. But Judaism took 1000 years to deliver its truth, a sure sign that revelation can be progressive. Algebra is correct and true but it isn’t topology or calculus. So does that make it somehow not worthy to know? A most odd comment that. Aquinas echoes Aristotle in saying “the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things”
    [ really I can’t get over that complaint !! Seems the heights of silliness ]

  23. I probably don’t see authority in the way that you do. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. We may hear the word of God from varying sources. If the preachers of the Catholic Church don’t reach you, Scripture itself may do it for you. It may come from a Protestant church. God can impart the truth to you through whoever or whatever He wants. I found a Christianity that I was able to apply to my personal life through my own reading of the Bible. With all of my Catholic upbringing, I was agnostic by the time I was 20.

  24. What proves opposites proves nothing. Faith comes from co-operation; it is not magic or irresistible. So even in a completely wrong message in a wrong place, it can come to you. There are people who have come to Faith by seeing raw evil and realizing that “original sin” is an explanation.

  25. “The truth” you need at a time , esp in the beginning, might rightly be filled by a zillion places that don’t have much more than basic truth. So, you know you are a sinner and any Church on the planet that tells you Jesus loves you and will help you — that is all the Truth you need at that point. What’s with “all Truth”? If you decide to learn math why must you wait for Harvard to accept you when the Community college down the street has Algebra courses. Complaining about no one having the whole truth might just be an excuse in the category of : I am a heavy drinker what use is quitting smoking.

  26. It s true that when one “hears” the truth that one is a sinner and that there is no salvation other than belonging to Jesus Christ Who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, and one truly repents and receives and accepts Him Who is the Truth, that that can happen anywhere, at any time.

    One of the main reasons for becoming Catholic is the receiving of and absolute knowing that Catholic Holy Communion is truly the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, just as He said at the Last Supper. He is our nourishment, and we participate in His Sacrifice when we receive Him. He gave to us who are and would be His, His Body and Blood with instructions as to what the bread and wine had become after He prayed over them.

    Also, God gave His authority by His Holy Spirit to the Catholic Church to declare
    and to uphold the truth that God has revealed. Not all persons who hold the office of authority have remained in all ways, true to the office, but no one who has held the office has ever declared any dogma, untrue.

    So, community with the Catholic Church that God our Father established by His only begotten Son through the workings of the Holy Spirit, is truth manifest.

    See John 6: 41-46…for Jesus speaking about listening and hearing the Father and thus being drawn to the Son.

    Jesus says that no one can come to Him unless they be drawn by the Father. So, those who do receive and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and God, in truth, have listened and heard the Father.

    God bless, C-Marie

  27. Yes, I like what you say about Holy Communion for one would have to be sure that it was NOT the Body and Blood in order to not be guilty of triviality. So either you can know for absolute certain or what did Jesus teach or accomplish if so important a question is an unknown.

  28. “It is the spirit that enlivens; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1John 3:24).
    We know that we need Christ’s Spirit within us in order for us to be saved. The sacraments associated with receiving the Spirit of Christ are Baptism and Confirmation. The sacraments presuppose faith (V2-Sacrosanctum Concilium 59).
    I don’t know of any place in the New Testament which says that we receive the Spirit of Christ through the Eucharist. The benefits of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross are received by us through His Spirit within us. The graces from the Father flow into us through His Son. They are the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). All of this needs to be within us before we participate in the Eucharist.

  29. Recognizing that all of humanity has been weakened by the law of sin, and that Christ came to strengthen us is the basic message of salvation (Romans 5:6 and 7:14 thru 8:2).

  30. Actually, the basic message of salvation is that we were wholly lost from God with no way of being in relationship with Him, due to Adam’s and Eve’s sin, which sin’s consequences we all suffer and that Jesus Christ by His life, suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead, opened the way to relationship with God as we receive Him, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Saviour, and God.

    “14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
    John 3: 14-15.

    “16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3: 16-18.

    Yes, as we ask for Holy Spirit help against temptation, and we are strengthened to not give into it because of our Heavenly Father’s mercy upon us through the sacrifice of His Son. We are granted helps for us in our time of need when we approach the throne of grace in Jesus’ Name.

    Remember that Jesus said the Father loves us as He loves Jesus.
    “22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
    John 17: 22-23.

    And Jesus said to Mary Magdalen to go and tell His Apostles, that He was going to “….to ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and to your God.”
    John 20: 17.

  31. Salvation can be lost.
    “4 For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 Have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, 6 And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God and making him a mockery.” Hebrews 6: 4-6.

    At the consecration, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit when the Catholic priest prays the words proscribed, that the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is not that we receive the Spirit of Christ in the Eucharist, but we do receive Jesus Himself, His Body and His Blood..

    God bless, C-Marie

  32. Let’s get some reality from believers under the worst of circumstances, The Shoah/Holocaust:
    “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
    ? Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
    AND
    “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
    ? Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    So if there is just this truth and no other (God exists, He made you and loves you) that is the core of all true religions. To speak of ‘all truth’ as if God could be plumbed or in the end Truth is im-personal — well that is what a would call an ‘alternate universe religion’ . A Church without God is a church that demeans any fool that would attend its services.

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