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Cee Lo, Truth, and Consequences

I cannot fathom, therefore, how a religion that suggests that there is only one deity and that deity's name is Allah, another religion that suggests there is only one deity who is one god in three persons (one of whom was incarnate and died), another religion that suggests the people of Israel are the chosen people of one particular god, and another religion that suggests (if and when asked, which it often never is) that all comes from the kami and shares in the kami's energy and substance, can all "really be one" and all equally be true. Some of these theological formulations are more palatable to me than others; but some of the further implications that some of these have as a feature of their religious outlook is not at all appealing to me. The diversity of Christian religious expression, for example, demonstrates that from the same basic history (up to a point) and authoritative spiritual texts, very different practices have arises, that range from—on one issue alone, and one that is important to the present column—full inclusion in both clergy and in lay married life being possible for queer people, to a complete condemnation and damnation of them. How can both of these notions of the religion be "true" in any real sense, outside of a monistic understanding that has no provable basis? Though there are many further arguments and examples that could be enumerated, I must briefly conclude that not all religions—or, perhaps more accurately, not all expressions of particular religions—are "equally true."

I do think, however, that many (though perhaps not all) religions have some truth in them. Ironically, though, the thing on which most religions are undeniably true is in their stated ethical ideals, which is the area that they've most often lapsed in upholding on a historical basis. The "Golden Rule" of Christianity has similarities in many other religions throughout time, but in the cases of many of these, it is the "Silver Rule" rather than the "Golden Rule," which is to say, "Don't do unto others as you would not have done unto you" rather than "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." My own preference is for the Silver Rule versions, for one very simple reason: I am not someone else, and therefore I don't know what they need, much less that their needs are the same as mine, apart from some very basic shared needs that we all have—to breathe, to eat and drink, to have warmth and shelter, and to be loved and to feel like we belong. But, beyond that, it's all up for grabs.

I do know, however, that I don't like being preached at on street corners, so I won't preach at someone else on a street corner. I don't like being told that my way of life is wrong or sinful or damnable, so I certainly won't tell anyone else that unless they're attempting to do me or someone else very direct and immediate harm. And, I certainly don't like being stolen from, or beaten up, or verbally abused, or raped, so I refrain from those activities as well (which is actually quite easy to do!). I've had the experience a number of times where someone has done something to me without any consideration for my actual needs or desires apart from the passing thought that "I thought you'd like that," when in reality the person in question had no basis for thinking that at all about me personally, and they did their actions based on me being a certain perceived gender, or religion, or sexual orientation, or race, or disability status, or subcultural community. They did not bother to treat me as a human subject, but instead as an object of some kind to be acted upon, whether they did so for motives of perceived "good" toward me or not.

So, these basic ethical notions that are part of many religions—though they get ignored more often than not by those same religion's authority figures and institutions on a perennial basis—are, I think, very true and useful and correct, to the point of being potential universal truths.

I stated above that I think all religions are equal; but, their equality does not lie in the various bits of truth that they each contain, it lies in the lack of truth that they all contain. As I mentioned above, the most true parts of most religions tend to be ethical ideals, which is the part of religion that is failed most consistently by many religious institutions and individuals. The parts of religion that are the most untrue, I suspect, and rather ironically so, are the ones that are the specialties of religion: namely, the theologies that they hold, their metaphysics, and their beliefs about the nature of the universe and divine realities and beings. No objective evidence for any of the claims of any religion—including my own viewpoint in polytheism!—has yet come to light; and while it may still be out there, it cannot be categorically stated that any religion, at this point, has the provable and viable "answers" to the questions of ultimate reality, outside of completely subjective realms (where many religions—including my own polytheism—reign entirely true for the subjective individuals concerned). Many of the religions, however, insist that they do know the undeniable truth of all reality, often on the basis of some relatively shaky historical claims about their founders that cannot be justified other than by circular arguments.

1/13/2012 5:00:00 AM
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
About P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.