Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Truths

I was reading a comment in my local newspaper the other day, where this right-winger started talking about "truths" regarding gay marriage. And I suddenly realized how often I hear that word from the religious right.

...But it seems to mean something different to them than to the rest of us. Have you ever noticed that? To the religious right, "truths" seem to have no connection to reality. "Truths" don't have to be backed up by evidence. "Truths" don't even need to be true - indeed, they usually aren't.

It's a weird use of language, don't you think? Now, as a skeptic, I care what's true and what isn't. I want my beliefs to line up with reality, as closely as possible. So I want to make sure I have evidence backing them up. But none of that has any connection to "truths" as the religious right uses that word.

"Truths," as they use it, is just a synonym for "beliefs." And since you can believe anything you want, for any reason you want, they think that "truth" is whatever you want it to be. They don't bother to supply evidence, or even reasons backing up their beliefs, because they don't seem to connect "truth" with "true" - or with reality at all.

This is so common that I've heard at least one atheist say he's stopped using the words "true" and "truth" entirely. Instead, he emphasizes "reality." He simply wants his beliefs to match up with reality. Well, so do I, but I'm not willing to abandon "true."

"Truths," on the other hand,... I can do without, I think. Inevitably, when I hear the word "truths" (sometimes "truth," but usually plural), I'm guaranteed to hear something we have no reason to believe is actually true. Indeed, the vast majority of the time, we have abundant evidence that it's false.

So, my honest advice to the religious right is to give it up, too. Stop using "truths." It just makes the rest of us doubt what you say, before we even hear what it is. Use the word "beliefs." It's a fine word, and it's what you really mean, anyway.

2 comments:

jeff725 said...

That's why I always like to paraphrase Emperor Palpatine in "Revenge Of The Sith:" "Truth is only a point of view."

Remember what Obi-Wan said in "Return Of The Jedi?" ("Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.")

From "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade: "Archaeology is the search for FACT, not TRUTH. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is just down the hall."

George Lucas couldn't type a script worth a damn, but I get the message he was trying to get across.

WCG said...

Perhaps, Jeff, but I'm not ready to give up on "true," or even "truth," just yet. What's true and what isn't really matters. At least, it matters to me, and it should matter to everyone.

What's true isn't just a matter of opinion. Beliefs are a matter of opinion, but the truth isn't.