Truth and perception

What is truth?

Two articles in The Friend, just before meeting, wound me up. One attacked a postmodern view of history: history is what happened, and not a view someone wants to put over. Its purpose was to criticise David Boulton’s argument that non-theism was in the Society of Friends from the beginning. One said that truth is indivisible: “my truth” and “your truth” is meaningless.

I went into meeting churning with these ideas. Also there was Arkenaten‘s dispute with Chi-Alpha girl: can I show that religion has value as more than a way of producing hypotheses about how the world works?

I had definite ideas about what having “heart and mind prepared” looks like: being calm, and able to listen; and if I say it could also mean being churned up, and seeking Answers that may be a rationalisation because otherwise I was Doing it Wrong this morning. Doing it Right matters.

A rationalist view of the world certainly has value. Proposing theories and testing their validity and predictive capacity helps us find truth. It can even make useful statements about how human beings observe and interact with reality, and how this affects our search for truth. Treating the Bible as such a hypothesis, as a fundamentalist would- the Earth is <10,000 years old, it is the centre of the Universe– gets in the way of this search for truth. Yet my spiritual searchings help me to relate to other human beings, and understand myself and my motivations, even if I cannot articulate how.

It is possible to be wrong, deliberately or carelessly, but “my truth” and “your truth” can still differ even if both of us are attempting to be as truthful as possible. The way we see, and the way we think about things, can lead to us talking past each other, and liking different kinds of history: finding how much the Darien adventure cost, and what proportion of Scotland’s capital it destroyed; or seeking to empathise with the feelings of those involved.

I went into meeting distressed about these conflicts, and wanting them smoothed over. (This is an important part of my self-image now, as a conciliator.) And after three quarters of the Meeting, I thought, this is how it is, these different views, different people striving for Good in their own way. And that may be a religious experience, a Vision of the Goodness of the Universe, or a simplistic rationalisation, or giving up in the face of overwhelming difficulty: but right now it feels good.

29 thoughts on “Truth and perception

  1. What value religion might have has to be balanced by the price paid – still being paid -in blood.
    Is there anything that religion offers that is truly beneficial to humankind that simple honest respect and love for one another cannot offer?

    The answer has to be a resounding no.


    • The price paid in blood is from identifying with a group, and seeing outsiders as enemies. If religion were not the identifying marker for such a group, other markers would be found. However, in the admittedly contradictory Bible, Jesus said “Whoever is not against you is for you”, which directly goes against this formation of in-groups and out-groups.

      The greater value is in religious practice. Meditation, spiritual exercises, communal activities like hymn-singing: all good stuff.


      • Meditation is fine – I meditate.
        What possible benefits can religion/religious practice offer that one couldn’t get from joining the local community centre or some such?

        The greater value is in religious practice.

        How about circumcision, teaching kids about Creationism, praying, lent,kow-towing to the Pope,
        or were these nit quite the religious practices you had in mind?
        Cherry picking is such a wonderful thing is it not? Surprising God did not institute it himself.

        Hymn singing…lol…are you serious?
        Go sing along at a rock concert or a Karaoke evening.


          • Meditation is not a ”religious thing”, what ever gave you the idea that it is?

            I have used meditation and visualisation for years.
            And I do not “hate religion”
            Hate is an emotion for fools.


            • Tis, tisn’t. Meditation is a religious practice.

              And- are you quite sure you do not hate religion? Emotions are motivating. Mere disagreement would not motivate all you write on the subject.


            • med·i·ta·tion
              the action or practice of meditating.
              “a life of meditation”
              synonyms: contemplation, thought, thinking, musing, pondering, consideration, reflection, deliberation, rumination, brooding, reverie, brown study, concentration; More
              a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject.
              plural noun: meditations
              “his later letters are intense meditations on man’s exploitation of his fellows”

              Middle English: from Old French, from Latin meditatio(n-) , from meditari (see meditate).
              Translate meditation to
              Use over time for: meditation

              Happy now? Or would you prefer to ‘duke’ it out in the carpark?

              My motivation for writing is: I enjoy writing.
              I hate nothing…well, maybe Manchester United.

              What you choose to interpret from my comments is entirely your choice.

              I have nothing against adults who freely choose religion uncoerced providing they keep it to themselves or at least among other consenting adults.

              We are all entitled to our own beliefs,and to live our lives the way we want to, providing we do not corrupt others. We only have one life after all?

              I have nothing but contempt for adults who teach religious crap to children, proclaiming it is truth.

              I hope I have made myself understood?
              If not, just tell me what you don’t understand and I’ll try for better clarification.


            • Oh, I understand perfectly.

              Meditation is a religious practice, and you cannot admit it.

              And- if you did not hate religion, why write about it so much?

              Oddly enough, those Anglican ministers I have spoken to about school RE have definitely said that they should not proclaim doctrine in RE classes as Truth. But parents are entitled to tell their children what they believe.


            • Meditation is a religious practice, and you cannot admit it.

              Smile….Now I am pretty sure you are an intelligent person so I will assume you are merely playing silly buggers simply to prolong a dialogue a la Violetwisp, bless her, which is fine by me.

              Religious practitioners practice meditation.
              Non religious practice meditation.

              Please don’t make me type this out in crayon, okay?

              And- if you did not hate religion, why write about it so much?

              Because it is fascinating. Just because I write about something must not automatically mean that I “hate’ it?
              What a strange assumption.

              And I reiterate, I do not hate anything- or I haven’t come across anything worth hating yet..


            • Oh come on. 82 posts on religion, 57 on Christianity, nine on Creationism- I am not sure whether these overlap. You publish a ridiculous caricature of Christianity here, conflating it with young earth creationism, yet pretend “interest” in it? Obsession and hatred.

              Then you deny meditation is a religious practice, of religious origin and religious development, with a spiritual purpose, because you cannot bear for anything good to come from religion.

              Er, actually, I rather dislike my current top commenter, who made a flurry of comments nearly 1000 comments ago, so I do want to encourage comments to alter the stats page which only I can see- Oh! ridiculous, joyless frivolity of my aims!- but I am not sure I want him replaced by you. Sacred Struggler’s cry from the heart on finding common ground is apropos.


            • You counted my posts? I am flattered. But I still think you are playing silly buggers.

              because you cannot bear for anything good to come from religion.

              No, dear it is simply that nothing good can come from something built upon a foundation of lies deceit and blood, and only idiots will continue to delude themselves.

              And before I feel the need to move a tad to the right of this semi humorous banter, Claire, I shall leave you to your delusion.


            • I hovered over the buttons on your sidebar, and the numbers appeared. Far too boring and repetitive to count them all. I did not have to go too far, having clicked a button, to find something offensive which belies your claim to being “fascinated” by religion: you show a deep ignorance of it.


            • You don’t get the last word on this blog, and any further comment of a similar level of ignorance will be deleted.

              Sigh. How to get through to you?

              It is not quite that.

              What you see is people believing what you know to be false- whether the Creator did his work six thousand years ago, or 13.8 billion, there is no more need to hypothesise him than a teapot orbiting beyond Jupiter.

              Two billion people, or whatever it is, are merely ridiculous to you. Any value of Christianity to them can be written off as wish-fulfilment, following the herd, or psychopathology. Open your eyes! That is all I can say to you. I don’t think you will. You are so satisfied with your last comment that you only want to reiterate it. 57 posts on Christianity, 57 varieties on the same ignorance and prejudice, thinking about a human phenomenon in a useless way.


            • You don’t get the last word on this blog, and any further comment of a similar level of ignorance will be deleted.

              Smile…and your comment is a clear demonstration of the level of intellect any non-believer has to deal with when confronted by a ”pissy” christian.

     make me laugh. 🙂


            • This is not a public conversation. Very few will look at this post, from now on, and fewer still read the comment thread. I don’t want to trash too many of your comments, or Akismet will be taking note of you again.

              Yes, ignorance. Oddly enough, the post I have just written for Monday is about how I saw something beautiful, and saw nothing in it, because I could not see. Thank God I can now.

              I am not pissy. I am weary of you, and your intense desire to win a completely trivial battle with someone two continents away. You have no perception of what you don’t understand. You really think your caricatures are portraits. I imagine you coughing out, bitterly, Ha! Ha! Ha! so you can write that last line, the opposite of beautiful human laughter bringing people together.

              And- how to win! The comment that I trashed is far better than the one I let through, to show you up- if anyone does read this.


  2. I think when one talks about “objective truth” versus “my truth/your truth,” one is talking about two completely different things; just because the English language doesn’t have specific terms for each concept, that doesn’t mean they are the same thing. Playing on this, I think that both of these concepts exist independently, and it’s getting them mixed up that causes trouble with religious interpretations and such. If you can distinguish between these two completely different things we call “truth,” you realize that adopting your personal truth isn’t a shortcut, “the easy way out,” or even a contradiction of objective truth. I think what a lot of people forget when thinking about religion is that these two can work perfectly together.

    Side note: I applaud you for your ability to draw out topics that really get me thinking. You seem to have a knack for bringing up some really amusing subjects, and I look forward to seeing your new posts because of this. Keep it up. 🙂


    • Thank you. I will do my best.

      Welcome, Hamnishe, it is lovely to have you comment here. I like your light touch: your blog reads like a very articulate chat with friends.

      Truth. Be True to yourself. Tell the Truth as far as you are able. And then there is that objective Truth which is too complex to know. I think the concepts are related. Sometimes, though, people fix on different things which appear important to them, facets of truth, so it is better to hear others’ facets as well as my own.


  3. What is The Friend? Also, to me truth, whoever’s “truth it is”, seems to have a heart of purity about it. I don’t know how else to describe it. You just know it’s true when it is.


  4. It astounds me the lengths that people will go to humiliate and insult someone to prove a logical point, and then turn and say you are a “pissy” Christian when you refuse to be a doormat. Wahaha. No dialogue, just pride and refusal to find any common ground or recognize a person as human. On top of that, it always amuses me that people say inflammatory things and it’s not bigotry when it’s atheist or any other group that considers themselves a minority saying them. We are oppressors Clare!


    • The trouble is that without a blush I can use arguments to say that we are. I say the Christian who “loves” the gay man whom she tells gay sex is sinful that she is an oppressor, because she encourages the personally homophobic Christians; and here am I taking the label Christian where we both know that others sharing that label are indeed oppressors. We encourage them, and attempt to discourage their atheist former victims. Different ways of seeing things.

      Yes, he is more pissy than I am, whatever that means, but that is OK because he is a victim.


      • In several ways majority Christians are. However there are those who aren’t and get lumped in with them in these kinds of conversations. Like us. But the problem is we give away some the flaws and instead of them conceding some of their own, they take the upper hand and beat us down with it.

        Don’t they say pissy in the UK? It basically means that you’re bitching about nothing.


        • I don’t tend to prolong conversations, but-

          thank you for the explanation of “pissy”. We say “pissed off” rather than “pissed” for irked or peeved, and just because I am unfamiliar with the word does not mean all the UK is. Possibly, everyone in Liverpool, or the over-seventies in social classes A and B, use it all the time.

          I wonder if they don’t see their flaws. There was that graphic: “Never play chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are, he will knock all the pieces over, shit on the board and still crow that he won.” Well, I just flap my wings, and glide away.


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