Religious Truth: An Oxymoron


religious truth, God, nature


Last week, my husband and I attended a work convention in Phoenix, Arizona, and on our free afternoon, we decided to take a road trip to Sedona. Neither of us had ever been out west, so the terrain was unfamiliar and intriguing. We’re used to green grass in every direction and forests with dense trees, so the ride from Phoenix to Sedona through the Sonoran Desert was unlike anything we’d ever seen.  There were miles and miles of sandy, rocky land with cacti sticking up out of the ground here and there. There were mountains that looked like massive dirt piles.

As we drove and took in the scenery, my husband commented that it seemed impossible the earth is only six thousand years old as our religion had taught us. Of course, we’d never been presented solid facts to back up that claim, yet it had been taught to us as truth. My husband’s comment sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole I’ve explored more than once: what else had religion presented to me as truth that was, in fact, theory?

I always believed truth to be objective – based on measurable facts. However, more and more, I’m finding truth to be subjective, especially concerning religious beliefs. For example, one person believes hell to be a literal fire of eternal torment, while another believes it is merely a state of being after choosing to reject God’s love, and still, another believes there’s no hell at all. Hell, which was presented to me as objective truth, is, in fact, subjective and based on a person’s concept of God.

Perhaps religious truth is an oxymoron; otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many different religions throughout the world. Each claims to know and believe the truth, some so vehemently that they’re willing to kill for their beliefs. (Religious crusades, anyone?)

Maybe people’s beliefs are based on their interpretations of the Bible and on their assumptions about whether God exists and/or what God is like. If so, those beliefs are not objective truth since there are varying interpretations of Scripture and varying assumptions about what those interpretations mean.

What I know and believe to be true for me is this: God is loving and gracious and merciful. I’m aware not everyone believes this to be true, so I’m not staking the claim on truth. I just know it’s true for me.

As we watched the sun set over the red rocks in Sedona, I didn’t care if the earth was 6,000 years old or 10 million. What I cared about was being present in the moment and soaking in the beauty. The objective truth in that moment was the setting sun made the rocks glow as if they were on fire. It was a breathtaking scene and the only truth that mattered was that I was alive to behold it.

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