In philosophy, knowledge is often defined as true belief. Belief or faith is the conviction that something is true. However, belief is not necessarily true, even if the belief is genuine. In other words, no matter how much I want to believe that there is a square circle, my belief does not make it so.
When applied to religion, we ask: “Does genuine faith imply spiritual truth?”
Is a religious belief true because it is genuine? If so, do all religions lead to the same end?
It seems to be the case that there are people in every religion who genuinely believe that their religion is “True.” If they did not think so, there would be no reason for them to commit to the belief system. But we run into a problem here, each religion makes claims that contradict claims made in other religions. Christianity claims that God is Triune in nature. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, and everyone else denies this claim. Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus was burned at a stake, but Christians, Mormons, Jews deny this claim. Perhaps of more significance is that every religion by its very nature is exclusive. Each religion claims to be the one true religion. Even Hinduism which pulls from every religion, only pulls from other faiths the things that are in agreement with basic Hindu beliefs.
Because something cannot be true and not true at the same time, it makes sense that contradictory claims in religion cannot all be equal or true. Therefore, genuine faith does not imply spiritual truth. All religion cannot lead to the same end.
As a result, people have a decision to make. Which religion is true?
We live in a grey area where we are presented with a number of truth claims. We must then categorize each claim as true or false. Sometimes we miss-categorize a claim thinking it true when in reality it is false. Sometimes we classify something as false only to later find that it is true.
No person has all the answers. No person has only true beliefs. Everyone believes some things that are not true, even within the confines of any religion.
This is why it is important to critically evaluate the claims of every religion. Which claims are true, which are not? Which claims are in line with writings considered Holy and which are not?
When the claims of a religion cannot stand against critical evaluation, then one must choose whether or not he or she should walk away from a specific branch of the religion or from the religion altogether, or whether or not he or she will live in willed ignorance to remain a part of that faith. Willed ignorance is the choice to continue believing that something is true even though all the facts suggest otherwise. Sometimes people choose to hold onto beliefs after that are proven untenable because of familial commitments or concerns. Others because they have believed those things for so long, it would be too difficult to give them up now. Some continue holding false beliefs out of fear of persecution or rejection.
It is this authors belief that people should be able to choose which religion to follow based on critical investigation, heartfelt conviction, and genuine belief. While I believe that everyone should be free to choose what religion to follow (or even free to choose no religion), that does not make all religions equal or true.
So the question I now ask is this, “Is your religion true? Are your beliefs grounded in reality? Is your faith justified?”–How do you know?