The truth, Religion

0 18

The quest for truth is the very goal of philosophy. The Truth constitutes for Plato, with the Beautiful and the Good, an absolute value. But what is truth and how can we access it since it cannot be confused with reality? We come up against a problem of definition and method. In general, one defines truth either as a judgment in conformity with its object (one speaks then of truth-correspondence), or as a non-contradictory judgment (one speaks then of truth-coherence or of formal truth). Its universal character distinguishes it from opinion, which is always particular. From a theoretical point of view, it is opposed to error and illusion (which differs from error in that it persists even when it is explained). Truth also has a practical meaning: truthfulness means speaking the truth which, in this case, is opposed to lying. Reaching the truth presupposes criteria to separate it from what is not it. When the truth recognizes itself, that criterion is the obvious. But often the truth is hidden. Therefore, if it is not revealed as in religion, it must be demonstrated. Skepticism considers it inaccessible.


The paradox of Epimenides the Cretan

Are there any propositions that are neither true nor false? Epimenides the Cretan suggests this when he says that "all Cretans are liars" . Indeed, either he is telling the truth, then he is lying (since he is a Cretan), therefore his statement is false (since all Cretans lie). Or, on the contrary, he is lying while saying this, then his statement is true. The logician Philatos committed suicide, it is said, because he could not resolve this paradox and find the truth

Religion is a belief system which is based on two links: "vertical" - with one or more gods - and "horizontal" - with a community of men of faith. If you are a believer, religion will depend on a revelation for you, otherwise it would merge with superstition or magic. While the sorcerer invokes the spirits, the religious man says he is summoned by his God. Also, although membership or not to a religion usually depends on a family tradition, it is in principle the result of a conversion. Religion is therefore addressed to the freedom of the individual it claims to respect - it is therefore not a sect. Philosophy, which tries to assess what is the role of reason in this choice, then distinguishes natural religion, which concerns all men in their capacity to question the divine, and revealed religion, which is addressed to a particular community of faith. As for the "horizontal" link, it is of more interest to sociology: up to what point does the religious institution produce social links?


The sacrifice of Isaac

In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), God promises Abraham long descendants. But Sarah, his wife, is sterile. However, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to Isaac. God later asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son. This commandment seems absurd: it contradicts the promise of descent. However Abraham obeyed: he would immolate Isaac, his own son, if an angel did not hold back his murderous arm. Kierkegaard, in Fear and Trembling, deduces from this story that Abraham is the model of the man of faith because he believes in spite of his reason or rather: he believes "in virtue of the absurd".

Subject terms analysis


Doctrine founded on the belief in one or more deities, guardian institution of this doctrine, set of rites relating to a sacred reality.


Affirmation considered indisputable imposed by a religious authority to which the faithful must adhere.


Logically conceivable, that is to say: not contradictory, but also legitimate. 

Land clearing

First intuitions

As the guardian and interpreter of a revealed truth, religion hardly seems able to do without dispensing with dogmas. For example, for the Christian religion, that of the Trinity is supposed to allow the faithful to better understand the claim of Christ to present himself as the son of God.

Yet religious experience does not necessarily depend on adherence to what churches officially say. Thus the mystics claim to enter directly into a relationship with God, and the deists believe that they can rely on their own reason to reach it. Dogma would then be understood as an obstacle to faith, as a pledge of obscurantism.

However, the multiplicity of possible interpretations of a sacred text risks dissolving the religion which perpetuates its memory. Dogmas could then allow a religion not to fragment into sects and to deepen the study of its holy sources at the risk of considering as heretics those who do not follow its directives.

What is the problem ?

History shows that every religion has a founder and that his message, to be transmitted after his death, had to be both fixed in a sacred text and interpreted by his successors. If we define dogma as an indisputable truth to which the believer must adhere to belong to a religion, it is difficult to see how a religion could do without it. For example, all those who profess the creed established by the Church in 325 at the Council of Nicaea-Constantinople are considered Christians. But history also testifies that the disagreements of believers in the interpretation of the initial message are frequent to the point sometimes of dividing a religion into opposing currents, as was the case for Christianity with the orthodox schism in 1054 or the schism. Protestant in the 16th century century. Does this mean that dogma can paradoxically weaken a religion? And if this is the case, does this imply that a religion, in order to last, must do without dogma? But then is it not for it to run the risk that it will dissolve into a multitude of currents, sects, each interpreting the sacred text as it sees fit? How could a religion do without dogma while uniting in the same faith those who claim it? 

A good plan

1 / Dogma, a necessity for religion.

The message delivered by a founder of religion is not always directly accessible. For example, the proverbs of Solomon, the parables of Jesus or the often very poetic style of the Koran have legitimately aroused many interpretations, sometimes divergent. To ensure the community of faith of believers, it therefore seems legitimate that each religion fixes and summarizes the content of what to believe. Islam sticks to a single formula (the Chahada ) as a dogma.

Distinguishing between "dynamic religion", carried by the mystics, and "static religion", embodied by religious institutions, Bergson recognizes the need for dogma which "strengthens and disciplines" society to ensure its unity, even if it supports by elsewhere than dogma does not constitute the essence of religion.


But why is dogma not enough? Could it be that, far from making religion more accessible, it is an obstacle to faith?

2 / Faith without dogmas.

The sad religious wars that divided Christendom XVI th and XVII th  centuries have been precisely because the criticism by Protestants against the dogmatic excesses of the Catholic Church, Luther recalling that "only Scripture saves" et non la tradition. De ce conflit fratricide naîtra l’idée de tolérance et, au XVIIIe siècle, la recherche d’une nouvelle communauté de foi fondée sur la seule raison : le déisme.

For Voltaire , Catholic, just as for Rousseau, Protestant, what matters is not the exterior religion, which, for political interest, abuses its power, but interior religion. In Émile, Rousseau recognizes only the "cult of the heart" and rejects the "speculative dogmas" instituted by men. Faith can do without dogma, and natural religion which rationalizes belief can suffice to guide men.


But can we still speak of religion when all dogma disappears? Is not rationalized faith what dethrones traditional religions, as evidenced by the institution by Robespierre of the cult of the Supreme Being to sanctify the nascent Republic?

3 / Religion between faith and reason.

All religion refers to revealed truth and not to demonstrated truth. In order not to fall into obscurantism, religious authorities therefore have an obligation to find a fair balance between what faith demands and what reason demands.

This is why, in Spinoza's eyes, religion should not confiscate the work of interpreting the Scriptures, but guide it by offering a method of reading that allows, for example, to understand that Moses could not write Deuteronomy. (the fifth book of the Bible), since it describes his own death and the mourning of the Jewish people. Thus, only badly constructed dogmas, erected out of political interest and added artificially to the sacred text, stand in the way of true piety.


Imposed by religious authorities, dogmas seem to prohibit believers from speculating on what drives their faith. It is therefore tempting, in the name of freedom of interpretation, to want to do without it. Yet it is they who very often allow members of a religious community to recognize themselves and exist. A religion cannot therefore do without dogma, but, in order to hope to last, it must justify them rationally.

$ 0.00