Truth Relativism and Liberal Religion

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(Jesus is astonished by your heresy!)

I lament the attitude of “There is no truth” (which is a self-refuting statement) and often hear this phrase uttered by religious laypersons. They may even go as far as “We can’t know if there is or is not a god/there’s no evidence for or against” … and then inconsistently/dishonestly say that they believe in a god. I ask why this is a case and the person usually tries to pull the ‘right to opinion card‘ or other similar nonsense. I proceed to ask, “Do you care about holding true beliefs?” and the vicious circle continues. Sometime, though, people actually admit that they don’t care about whether their religious beliefs are true, but rather claim to believe because of some sort of utility argument (I like the community, it makes me feel good, etc).

Many ‘liberal religious folk’ I have encountered have bought into the attitude of “God loves everyone no matter what, so everyone goes to Heaven no matter what people believe.” This, I think, fuels the “I don’t care about what’s true attitude” and might be responsible for so many believers knowing little to nothing (or simply not caring) about their faith. If God loves everyone and everyone will be saved, what’s the point of bothering with any religious claims or caring about what should be believed about the supernatural, they may think. Those of the “spiritual, but not religious” or “religious, but I don’t go to church” communities love this stuff.

There are several problems with this line of reasoning, when considering Christianity: it has little to no Biblical support, negates/ignores/contradicts the idea of Hell and punishment after death, makes Jesus a liar, and Jesus dying on the cross makes no/little sense. In order to buy into the “God loves everyone no matter what, so everyone goes to Heaven no matter what people believe” sentiment, one has to throw away a great deal of the Bible, theology, Church teachings, and so much more.

If God loves everyone no matter what and everyone goes to Heaven, individual believers have to do a great deal of mental gymnastics. One ought to wonder how this attitude is compatible with Jesus dying on the cross to forgive sins; if this attitude were correct, what was the point? As always, we can offer ad hoc explanations to try to excuse away contradictions such as Jesus’ death was a symbolic reminder, served additional purposes, was needed so that people can truly know God [although this runs counter to the William Lane Craig and others’ apologetics of direct intervention by God would take away free will], etc. Confession, in the Catholic Church, can similarly be excused away by saying something like “Confession is an affirmation of trust in God’s promise.”

When these mental gymnastics are used, the believer starts to sound sillier and sillier…and very similar to a conspiracy theorist. While many of my atheistic/non-theistic readers might find the entire enterprise of Christianity untenable, the person who enters into the ‘unbiblical’ territory may seem ‘even worse.’ ‘Traditionalists’ like Michael Voris and those of the Westboro Baptist Church, especially, have called this attitude for what it is: a lie inconsistent with the Bible and, in the case of Voris, a heresy against the Church’s teachings. In addition to saying “God won’t hear your prayers,” the Westboro Baptist Church is at least right on two counts.

Some believers might even say that they “believe in something [supernatural]” and all persons are simply viewing this “something” in a different way, but all views are valid. This simply can’t be justified because contradictory accounts are not compatible.

While ‘liberal Christianity’ is certainly ‘better’ than a traditionalist version, the idea of God loves everyone no matter what and everyone goes to Heaven is simply indefensible and incompatible with the Bible. While anyone is ‘free’ to invent their own versions of religion, the questions should be “Is this view even tenable?” and “Does this cohere with the book I regard as being a foundational document of my religion?”

Even if it is the case that God really does love everyone and everyone can go to Heaven [and/or we can’t possibly arrive at a truth], it should still be important to pursue knowledge and hold justified true beliefs. Philosopher Jonathan Kvanvig says the following beautiful quote (that rivals the quote from Nagel that I have at the top of my website): “[T]here is no reason whatsoever to think that believing the truth is always impossible; the best that could be claimed is that there is no guarantee in any given case that we have achieved the state of believing the truth. Perhaps it follows that we should not hope for the chimera of infallibility.”

I generally don’t like discussing Biblical themes (at least not anymore) because the discussions seem to go nowhere and the mental gymnastics believers can partake in could easily win gold medals at Olympic events. While there can be some ‘bad theology’ such as using the Bible to justify racism because of the ‘curse of Ham,’ there can be many, many, many, many theological conclusions in a very wide sea. With individual believers and sects all believing they are right and others are all wrong, how are we supposed to filter the sense from the nonsense? We obviously can’t have two ‘versions’ that are right because there would be contradictions (and potential violations of the Law of the Excluded middle). So, shall we ‘wager’ that one version of theology is correct or believe that they are all wrong [about the supernatural]. My money would go with the latter.

Non-theistic readers: Have you heard the sentiment of “God loves everyone no matter what… and everyone goes to Heaven” from believers before? How do you respond to this and what are your thoughts?

Theistic readers: Do you think God loves everyone no matter what and everyone goes to Heaven? If so, how do you defend this?

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