Friday, September 24, 2010

An epistemic reason for religious tolerance

Yesterday evening just before I left campus I received a phone call from the local LDS representative assigned to myself by the church. My father always forwards my address when I move because he cares about my eternal salvation. It makes sense when you consider his perspective, and usually I don't really mind the occasional visit from those who love God because I find the conversations fun. However, last night was not the best night for myself. I tried to intimate that, but he offered tonight, so I was all "Yeah, sure, come over, whatever" Being somewhat on edge due to a busy schedule, and not really feeling like putting up with the fellow, I decided to pour myself a double before he came over. Unlike other times when he'd come over to share the word, where I would attempt to politely but firmly point out my objections, I was not quite so polite this time around. There's a sense in which I feel bad about this, 'cause the guy's an old retired man, and really, of all the times in a person's life this might be the worst time to start edging in on their religion, God, and all that. They lived the life, they might as well receive some sort of comfort compensation when coming near the end of it. So, hey, I can't say I'm proud of it. But I did come up with an interesting insight from the conversation none-the-less (This is probably the least inflammatory comment, which just goes to show me that polemics are better comedy than philosophy).

Of those religions that I am familiar with, and seem to be wildly popular (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), all of them claim that God is in some way infinite. There are interesting philosophical developments in the understanding and concept of God, and some theologians come-with, but when approaching the usual basics of these religions (and I fully admit here that I'm at a loss when it comes to "Eastern" traditions), and the beliefs of what seems to be canon to these religions, God possesses infinite properties (to some, within the scopes of logic, to others, not so, and so much the worse for logic).

Additionally, from what I have seen within these religions, it seems that man's finitude, at the least as a moral being, is central to their system of understanding the world. Yet, despite this finitude, these religions will often have claims wherein this religion is the true religion amongst religions. While this is a common objection amongst non-believers (adopting, at least temporarily, intersubjective agreement as truth), what I did not realize before was the contrast between the infinitude of God, the finitude of man, and how this directly contradicts any religion's claim to the one true path to God. It is not that, granting God, we can't understand a segment of God or experience the divine. It's that many people make this claim of perfect or nearer-perfect knowledge of God, and yet the doctrine of God's infinitude and man's finitude necessarily leads one to conclude that man can't understand God, as he can't understand the infinite. As such, one ought to conclude that one's religion is but a path to the divine, something that a given individual thinks is correct, but is itself not the best, or at the very least possibly not the best, description of God and his will. To think so is to adopt a religious chauvinism that abuses God for one's religion when one is supposed to instead revere him; clearly, a contradiction. It is for this reason that we should reject faiths that proclaim themselves True.

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