Apr 092008
Authors: Jeff Lemke

On April 1, Mary Ackerson wrote an article praising the benefits of the Islam Awareness Dinner, and how it made her realize the commonalities all religions have.

It’s true that all religions have goals and moral standards which can overlap with one another to a substantial degree, but if you really delve into different religions deeply enough, you’ll eventually discover not only differences, but also things in each of them which actually contradict the others.

This is important, yet is something many nonreligious people overlook because they only see the outer surfaces of various religions.

The deeper truth is that all religions do not and cannot lead you to the same place in the end.

But for Ackerson, the introduction to Islam apparently not only contributed to her growing belief that all truth is relative, but also that what really matters is how passionately you live out your beliefs.

“One’s actions, rather than one’s beliefs, reveal the validity of their truth,” Ackerson said.

If I live the best life I can live, and I firmly believe that by doing so, I will grow six inches taller within 20 years, does my sincere, good-hearted lifestyle and faithful adherence to living out this belief reveal its validity?

No. Faithful adherence to a lie doesn’t make the lie true.

Ackerson stated that theology in the postmodern era has come to discredit the idea of truth, because for it to be truth, it would have to be universal.

She seems to be describing the philosophy of relativism more than the theology of any religion.

The implications of relativism seem attractive at first — you belong to no one, you make your own rules, and for the most part, you don’t have to deal with accountability or your own conscience in the finer details of life, because “truth” is whatever you make it. But eventually, what may also become apparent is that it offers no real answers, no advice or guidelines, no dependable moral compass, and no solid hope for anything lasting.

Interestingly, the writer added that the alleged failure to create a universal truth does not negate the existence of truth, but that it revealed that religious truth can not be known objectively, although it can still exist and be found on a relative and subjective level.

Not only was it unexplained why we cannot objectively find universal truth even though it theoretically exists, it is also ironic that relativists state these beliefs as objective, absolute truths.

Who decided with such apparent clarity and finality that universal truth cannot be known?

If God wanted us to know him and how he wanted us to live, isn’t it possible for him to have communicated to us through earthly means, such as through prophets, evangelists, his Son’s own incarnation, and ultimately a book for succeeding generations to read?

If you’ve grown up in a Christian household, there’s no reason to believe that just because you were raised that way, those beliefs should now be considered wrong and should be discarded in this “globalized” world.

Don’t make baseless assumptions about what can and cannot be known.

Study your religious heritage for yourself (perhaps using a study Bible with explanatory and historical footnotes), talk with clergy, ask questions and truly discover the full extent of the faith you were raised in before you make a decision to throw it all overboard.

And don’t mistakenly think you need to give up what you know to be true before you can truly understand someone else.

Jeff Lemke is a research assistant for the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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