Pro-truth alliance?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #1

A recent Atlantic Monthly features this article by Kurt Anderson: “Beleive: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News, Magical Thinking. How America Went Haywire.”

While the article mainly discusses politics, it does address underlying national trends which will have much to do with how people now react to (and often deny) science or any kind of proposed objectivity about reality. Much of it will be perceived and written off as no more than an anti-Trump screed by those inclined to stay safely in their own bubble, but what I found concerning about this particular article was how much potential hope the author misses by painting and relegating away various categories of people with his broad and hasty brush strokes. Anti-evolutionism, creationism, Christianity, and indeed religion in general are casually grouped together with all other fringe conspiracy enthusiasts. The author’s piece is not about religion in general, but he brings it up often enough (usually with opprobrium), that at least some more-in depth observation should be warranted. Especially when this failure causes him to irrationally abandon what should surely be a significant ally toward what he rightly promotes.

His article gives a lot of very insightful commentary on the proposed causes of our new (and yet old) flirtations with fringe thought and fantasy and how the advent of the internet brought a match to the tinder that had already been gathered and piled through the 60s and 70s. He “confesses” (my word – not his) his own childhood with irreligious but politically conservative parents whose tribe (one would think from reading this article) must be nearly extinct by now. And he has a lot of very valid concerns that I, a white Christian male, very solidly share in common: a concern for our pursuit (or appalling lack of pursuit) of truth.

By the end of the article I wanted to shout “amen” simultaneously while also shouting at him: “don’t you want allies?” It isn’t so much that his article is an anti-religious screed (I didn’t take it that way) so much as damnation by omission. Religion just isn’t on his horizon except in its unfortunate participations in his (and our) looming enemy that perhaps we can call the “fantasy-industial complex” (his turn of words, not mine). But I like it, for how well it describes and nails something that I hate: the casual disregard of truth, especially in the service of emotional, and community-damaging, even nation-damaging ideologies.

Here is what I propose as in the title of the thread: Why can’t we (as big a “we” as possible!) who still care for truth --the real truth that we claim to pursue even if sometimes haltingly or with impure motivations, lay down our own little tribal feuds and agree with each other on this: the truth matters. And I would insist right up front that any group of people so-allied should openly consist of those who disagree with each other about what that truth is. Some will be religious; some will be irreligious – maybe even anti-religious; but they all have this in common: they actually care about truth. And they agree that truth exists and falsehood exists and will continue to be what they are regardless of popular polls, platforms, or convictions. Truth is what it is, independently of our opinions about it. Christians used to take proud ownership of this conviction, with science as a starring brain-child of their sentiment. Even were we all liars, God would still be true. (Romans 3:4) And if non-believers right now want their enthusiasms more exclusively centered around science alone, so be it. At least they and the Christian believer have (or should have) an acknowledgment of reality in common. We don’t agree on what all is the truth, but we do agree there are truths! And that seemingly trivial common ground may not be so trivial any more.

Yes, a lot of religious folks may have given themselves over to servile fear and manipulation to believe any and all lies uttered against this or that alleged political “bogey man” – all tragically true enough; but there is a significant body of us who are devoutly religious and very sanely so. Do others think we don’t exist? Our pastor today said that clergy were among those leading the counter-protests in Charleston – but apparently you wouldn’t know that from many media reports (according to my pastor --I haven’t researched this). Apparently the only religious people the irreligious world ever allows itself to see are those among the other side sunk into their own racist mire. But there are so many here that know so much better! That is why I am extra thankful for the civil atheists who interact respectfully here tolerating our unapologetically Christian foundation because even while they presently choose not to share in that, they value other things in common with us enough to set aside anti-religious ideologies in the name of advancing truth. Thank you! I guess we each have our work cut out for us trying to evangelize truth again to our own respective tribes and everyone else. May Truth-lovers increase across all tribal boundaries!

[grammatical edit]

(George Brooks) #2

From the article:

“How widespread is this promiscuous devotion to the untrue? How many Americans now inhabit alternate realities?”

“Any given survey of beliefs is only a sketch of what people in general really think. But reams of survey research from the past 20 years reveal a rough, useful census of American credulity and delusion. By my reckoning, the solidly reality-based [people] are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half.”

“Only a third of us, for instance, don’t believe that the tale of creation in Genesis is the word of God.”

I think he has the statistic reversed! I think it’s less than half who believe in 6 Days of Creation!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

I wouldn’t put too much stock in his casual use of that particular statistic, George, as it is a blunt instrument in his hands to generally highlight how many people fit into the loony bin as defined by him. He obviously is not interested in any nuance of that such as we might illuminate here. E.g. that vague statement fails to even distinguish between Evolutionary Creationists here and Anti-evolutionists who are YECs. He probably has the latter in mind given it is the popular caricature of what a creationist is, but you would not know that from his words, and there is no indication that he would even care or acknowledge the difference, which could be a notable irony given his apparent embrasure of all things true.

But that does also just highlight that our heart can really be inclined toward some high, noble, and vague pursuit of truth (as I believe his is), and that, even so, none of us has the expertise or resources to wrap our minds around all of what is now roughly accumulated in our human corpus. So you will necessarily be selective in the things you talk about, and your omissions will always be there as deficiencies. Recognition of that should always be kept close. So I shouldn’t be too hard on the author. His article is not about creationism after all, but about a broader and very related issue. But I don’t mind being a little hard on his blunt stereotyping of religion. If he had any nuance in there, I missed it. Then again, I’ve only read the article once.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

I’ve not seen nearly all of Stephen Colbert’s material (in his former alter-ego self), but Andersen attributes this catchy quote to Colbert: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Andersen acknowledges that both the left and the right have their “unhinged” components, but that the symmetry is not maintained given that the right seems to have strayed farther and pulled the center with it.

From Anderson:

Why did the grown-ups and designated drivers on the political left manage to remain basically in charge of their followers, while the reality-based right lost out to fantasy-prone true believers?

One reason, I think, is religion. The GOP is now quite explicitly Christian. The party is the American coalition of white Christians, papering over doctrinal and class differences—and now led, weirdly, by one of the least religious presidents ever.

There is your broad brush stroke. All the GOP (in his proximate view) are Christians. Maybe that’s close to correct – I won’t argue it. But is it an inconvenient truth for him that not all Christians are GOP? And even of all of them that are, they come in many different flavors themselves and are far from uniformly excited about Trump’s brand of leadership. I’m sure he would acknowledge these facts if pressed, but any nuance he might acknowledge did not readily leap out of this article to me.

He did acknowledge the irony of Trump being one of the least religious presidents ever, but he never expands or speculates on that. I think he would have been happier if Trump would have just been more solidly “Christian”. But we all know by now: real truth is almost always messy.

Edit (to add more)
Another related tidbit that came up somewhere in this article referred to Jeb Bush’s view on evolution … well here, I’ll just quote it:

In 2008, three-quarters of the major GOP presidential candidates said they believed in evolution, but in 2012 it was down to a third, and then in 2016, just one did. That one, Jeb Bush, was careful to say that evolutionary biology was only his truth, that “it does not need to be in the curriculum” of public schools, and that if it is, it could be accompanied by creationist teaching.

One can tell this topic is very much on Anderson’s mind which is why I’m still a bit sore he can’t be a bit more careful with casual truths on this particular topic. While I didn’t remember making any such observation about Bush it does sound plausible. I wonder if this little “sin” of his didn’t contribute toward his side-lining by his voting base.

(John Dalton) #5

I happened to read this article written by Senator Chris Coons on their website yesterday, maybe it was intended as a response of sorts

I’m 80% in agreement–he’d have had a fun time trying to be elected Senator as a secularist for example, which he does not seem to appreciate. Still, only a 20% quibble in this case :slight_smile:

I’m not so inclined to agree with the link in the OP that such inclinations are a new phenomenon. Things changed a lot in the 60’s, but did this change? Were we really a nation of cold realists beforehand? I’m not so sure. I wasn’t able to finish it. Maybe I will later. It caught my eye early when he said “Much more than the other billion or so people in the developed world,” Indeed. That’s not the only difference there. The rest of the world, not so much I think. The internet makes everything more obvious. I think it is also helping to teach a greater appreciation for fact, and that is being lost in the truthiness noise.

(Ray Bailey) #6

“What is Truth?”

That classic retort to Jesus is still the source of the problem in not being able to form any kind of Pro-Truth Alliance

When we Christians talk about Absolute Truth we are implying that it is a “moral” truth. One that depends upon the Scriptures as its source of authority. It is true under all times and conditions.

This is very different from Relative Truth which I believe is the source of authority Mr Anderson is speaking to.

The difference is that Absolute Truth is true for human kind under all conditions_. This must come from a category source outside humankind.

Relative Truth is conditional on what people “believe” is to be the limits of what is normally true. The example that was used in past times for an Absolute Truth is “the sun rises every morning”. That is now known as a Relative Truth that depends upon our “conditional situation”. Astronauts see the sunrise every 90 minutes in Low Earth Orbit. The sun rises once every two weeks on the moon. There is no sunrise in space. The Absolute has become Relative.

When speaking of “truths” that are not physically based, like “It is truth that one man not kill another” comes from a moral and ethical source that cannot be relative. It must have a sourcing outside the physical to be true. This is what the Genesis account is speaking to, therefore it is an Absolute Truth.

The reason “Pro-Truth” is a problem for non-Absolute Truth believer (faith based) is that all truth that is not Absolute Truth is Relative and does NOT hold to a moral source.

[Quote]Absolute Truth and Relative Truth are two separate Categories of Truth.

Relative Truth is Subordinate to Absolute Truth.[/quote]

Therefore, the mixing of the source of truths lead to fallacies in assumptions. this is why the author does not acknowledge the role of Scripture, Christians, Judeo-Christian traditions, et al, in his search for “truth”.

If Mr. Anderson really look carefully at his presuppositions and assumptions, he would find that he is also subject to the very “truths” being abandoned by the “Entertainment Truths” he speaks to. Relative Truth is the Authoritative Source of the issues he is decrying in our society.

Without belief in a higher moral source, there is nothing but Relative Truth.

How can we mix the two? The Bible clearly says “Render unto Relative Truth to the things of “seen” world, and Absolute Truth to the things of the “unseen” world” (forgive my borrowing of scripture).

Ray :sunglasses:

(Jay Johnson) #7

All fine and dandy, but it still doesn’t explain why 80%+ of evangelicals, who presumably have access to absolute moral truth in the Bible, continue to support and justify and offer excuses for an unquestionably evil man.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."

(Ray Bailey) #8

Who are you speaking of? I want to hear you say it out loud so I may respond.


Ray :sunglasses:

(Jay Johnson) #9

Sorry, but that’s as close as the mods will let us come to a political discussion.

(Ray Bailey) #10

Nuff said.
(edited for clarity)
So let me make a generic response tou your post.

The %80 of Christians have been brow-beaten by the political liberal left into accepting social changes that are an anathema to the Absolute Truths they believe in. Abortion, Rights of Religion, and the Relative Truths they hold dear, Represented Taxation, Constitutional Rights, Individual Freedoms, all which stem from the Absolute Rights as framed in the constitution.

A candidate comes along that is fighting against those very forces. He may not be what they necessarily believe is the best (by far) but willing to take the chance for change to recover the Truths that they hold dear.

Unfortunately, I believe our society is far enough down the road to never recover the “good old days” of the past.

As for this topic: Relative Truth not based on Absolute Truth is winning the day, not only in the US, but the rest of the world. Reading Prophecy and the OT on how Israel went into exile is also a lesson on how Relative Truth won out over Scripturally based Absolute Truth.

(How’s that to skirt a political post?)

Ray :sunglasses:

(Jay Johnson) #11

Yes, the sheep are being separated from the goats, while the blind follow the blind and both fall into a ditch. And my people love it that way!

A nice mash-up of Scriptures to sum up my position. Gonna have to let this topic lie for now …

(Ray Bailey) #12

Take care and Thanks!


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13


You speak of the duality of Absolute Truth and Relative Truth.

You leave out the third and Christian alternative, Relational Truth. God is Love. This is where Christians need to be salt and speak up against the radical right and left.

If the bad tree which brings forth bad fruit was not evident before this past weekend, it surely is now.

Satan is a liar and the Father of Lies. That is all those who habitually speak lies are offspring of Satan.

(Ray Bailey) #14

Roger, I am using the classical definitions here.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15


The classical definitions are no longer adequate. You cannot put a fresh wine in old wineskins.

(Benjamin Kirk) #16

Yet Christians have found all sorts of justifications to kill one another. Therefore, that can’t be absolute.

IIRC, Christ spoke primarily of our obligations to one another. What do you hear Him saying about Individual Freedoms?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #17


Nothing in this world is absolute esp. rights. My rights end where your rights begin. My right to free speech ends when I maliciously defame you. The right to self defense is the best defense against the charge of murder.

The only thing that would justify the claim of absolute morality would be if God were Absolute. That is clearly false based on the New Testament. As I said before God is Love or Relational, not legalistic or Absolute.

Islam teaches that Allah is Absolute, which is why Muslims can proclaim Jihad against their enemies. One does not bring honor and respect to Jesus Christ by copying Islam.

(Ray Bailey) #18

The fact that it is absolute, doesn’t mean that that we don’t treat it like it is Relative Truth, and even if it is a Relative Truth, we break it anyway! My comments on how we treat the decalogue is a case in point. I believe the Ten Commandments are all Absolute (including the sabbath) however (before the howling starts) we have permission to use an alternate day in response to our Lord Jesus’ Ressurection. It in no way eliminates the fact that the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ, not negated!

We are allowed to worship on Sunday if we wish. I myself, still find I honor the Lord Jesus as much as anyone else! But I find the Sabbath and use of Father YHWH’s name (as he instructed) to be compelling. There is NO compulsion for others to do likewise unless lead by Holy Spirit and the Word. (and no, I don’t believe in the dietary laws, the holy days or animal sacrifices!) The Decalogue is the key.

He didn’t have to. It is covered under “murder” in the Ten Commandments. Can you with any certainty tell me a human fetus is not human? Then why all the arguing about Genesis and the “Breath of Life” and “Moral” values in eating of the fruits of Good and Evil or Everlasting life?

Humans are human from conception. Okay, maybe not sentient or even sapient (until age of innocence is over), but the potential (DNA) is there and to abort violates that law.

Can people do it anyway? Of course they can! And will! For all kinds of reasons. Likewise Murder.

So as to not turn this into an abortion debate (please no!)

I am sticking to just saying that is why it is an Absolute Truth as apparent in the decalogue.

Oh, and before I get blasted for this talking of absolutes and so forth…we are forgiven for “all our sins” if we break Absolute or Relative Truths! Absolute Truths are what God has given to us for our own well being. It is Absolute Truth because it comes from "The Truth incarnate.

Ray :sunglasses:

(Edited for clarity and added last paragraph).

(Ray Bailey) #19

Note that I posted Individual Freedoms are under “Relative Truth’s” not Absolute. Therefore they are derivative of the preamble, “All men are created equal…” yet subject (as the constitution provides) to change as long as the changes do not infringe on the preamble statements.

As for Christ. Of course, he didn’t talk about “individual freedom” as a modern phrase. Yet what is salvation and the Trees in the Garden but the freedom of choice God allowed us to have in order to be humans and able to relate with him and each other?

Our whole constitution is wrapped around that concept in living out our moral choices in a common society.

I challenge anyone to read the entire constitution and the Bill of Rights with a Bible in your other hand.
Read the preamble and find all the scriptures that relate to the truths spoken of in the preamble. Then read the rest of the articles. Underline each and every clause that has its formative truths that do not logically descend from the preamble.

Our constitution is an exercise in stating the Absolute Truths in the preamble, and the Relative Truths descending from that, and putting it into practical governance.

Ray :sunglasses:

[minor editing for clarity]

(Benjamin Kirk) #20

[quote=“RLBailey, post:18, topic:36462”]
He didn’t have to. It is covered under “murder” in the Ten Commandments.[/quote]
That’s your extrapolation. Other Christians disagree.
Please explain this:
Resolution On Abortion, St. Louis, Missouri - 1971
…Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother

Why doesn’t life begin with breath, as described in Exodus 7?

Why does Exodus 21:22 describe causing an unwanted abortion to be punishable by a mere fine?

[quote]Humans are human from conception.
[/quote]Then why does every religion treat identical twins as separate souls?

Are you aware that conception is not a bright white line, but a well-studied series of events? Which of the many events in that series constitutes the true beginning of a human life?

Do you realize that all those upper-middle-class couples doing IVF are paying people to create and kill massive numbers of what you claim are humans, don’t you?

What? How does potential relate to DNA? I’m a biologist and I have no clue what you mean there.

[quote=“RLBailey, post:19, topic:36462”]
Note that I posted Individual Freedoms are under “Relative Truth’s” not Absolute.[/quote]
OK, but I don’t see any relevance to my question.

Yes, it says “ALL.” It doesn’t distinguish between citizens and noncitizens. So the people you seem to be trying to defend clearly aren’t motivated by that.

He didn’t even mention it as an archaic phrase, did He?

“Relate with him and each other” doesn’t promote individual freedom in any way I can see.

I simply don’t see any justification for a follower of Christ to place individual freedom above her/his duty to others. It’s right there in the Greatest Commandment.

[quote]Our whole constitution is wrapped around that concept in living out our moral choices in a common society.
[/quote]You left out the far more Christian (IMO) “provide for the common good.” Why?[quote=“RLBailey, post:19, topic:36462”]
Our constitution is an exercise in stating the Absolute Truths in the preamble, and the Relative Truths descending from that, and putting it into practical governance.
[/quote]I don’t see that the Greatest Commandment is reflected in anything you’ve chosen to cite as a Truth from the US Constitution. I do see it in “provide for the common good,” which you didn’t choose.