This was the last seminar for the Beginning the Study of Religion module, and we focused on the question of truth. We began my looking at how, after the Second World War, Britain became much more multi-cultural due to the amount of immigration when Britain needed rebuilding. However, we acknowledged that multi-cultural societies can have problems within them, seemingly caused by religion. In our group we identified problems such as homophobia, war, segregation, sexism etc. In contrast, we looked at a religious figure who was very peaceful – Gandhi. His quote ‘there are many causes I would die for. There is not a single cause I would kill for’ is a perfect way to show how religion is not always how it is represented in the media.
We then looked at how, while there are disagreements between differing religions, there are also conflicts within related religions, and sometimes within the same religion. An example of a disagreement between different religions is that Muslims believe in the existence of a God, while Buddhists do not. A prime example of conflict within religion, is the disagreement about remarriage between Catholics and Protestants. The idea of differences between related religions is things like the disagreement on whether Jesus was a prophet between Christians and Jews. These are related religions as they can both be categorised as Abrahamic.
This activity led nicely on to the question of whether disagreements like these raise problems for the justification of belief. From this, we can ask the question ‘what is truth?’. We were shown a video that tried to explain the concept of truth in a simple way (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb46sTEhcY8). This video can also help explain something called the Correspondence theory from Aristotle. His actual quote is “To say that that which is, is not, and that which is not, is, is a falsehood; therefore, to say that which is, is, and that which is not, is not, is true”. This was very hard to try and break down and find the meaning of, but it basically is saying that an opinion or statement is true when it corresponds to an appropriate fact.
After deciphering the correspondence theory, we looked at common responses to the fact of plurality: dogmatism, scepticism, inclusivism and pluralism.
Dogmatism/exclusivism: this is the belief that your religion holds the monopoly of truth and everyone else is wrong.
Scepticism: this is the belief that the fact that there is plurality proves that all religious beliefs are wrong.
Inclusivism: inclusivists agree to an extent with exclusivists that their religion holds the full truth, but they allow for the possibility that other religions contain some truth, allowing for salvation of others. For example, the Catholic Church accepts that Jews can be saved based on the Abrahamic covenant.
Pluralism: pluralists believe that every religion is a pathway to experiencing ultimate reality. They say that people of different faiths experience the same thing, but in different ways, so there is no contradiction. The way I understand this notion is by imagining that we all have goggles on. Some wear ‘Christian goggles’, some wear ‘Jewish goggles’ and so on. Each different type of goggle is tinted so that we see the world in a different light depending on which goggles we wear. Two people could experience the same thing, but view it in a different way through their ‘religion goggles’.
For me, this picture illustrates the idea of pluralism perfectly – two people from different faiths, finding a common ground.
As our last seminar, this was a lovely way to end the module by allowing us to consider our view on religious belief, and even debate the different outlooks between each other. It really got us all talking, and, more importantly, listening.