Preface/Disclaimer: I have written various versions of this post at least four different times. It doesn’t say exactly what I hoped it would as well as I hoped it would, but it is at least a start. I’m pretty sure that, if I were to rewrite it again in a week, I would say some things differently, but hopefully you can understand my main point.
I’ve seen this posted on Facebook a few times:
I understand the point. I get it. I know what you are saying—it is impossible to KNOW that your religious beliefs are correct. After all, we have no proof of what happens after death. We are physically incapable of observing the supernatural. We cannot begin to experience the past or the future. You’re saying that some things are unknowable.
I’d like to think that all of us who were raised in religious families or espouse ourselves to a particular belief system have thought through that particular conundrum. I don’t put any stock in someone’s faith who hasn’t questioned its validity at some point. Unless you have experienced some form of internal faith conflict, your opinions are probably not held deeply or defensibly. We have all realized that most religions are mutually exclusive and passed down from generation to generation and most of us have questioned these teachings.
In my mind there are only five possible conclusions to this inner struggle:
1. My religion is right- So, now affirmed in your faith, you continue on in your belief…until your next moment of doubt when you repeat this process.
2. Another religion is right- So you espouse this new (or at least different) belief system…until your next moment of doubt when you repeat this process.
3. All religions are equally valid- So you go on practicing, or not practicing, whatever religious system fancies you for the moment trusting that the god that is somehow represented by all of them knows your true heart and intent…until your next moment of doubt when you repeat this process.
I’m going to interject a little commentary on this one- This is the worst of all the solutions because, in an attempt to examine the facts logically, logic is somehow completely dismissed from the process. The idea that all religious systems can please a single god is contradictory in itself as many religions are mutually exclusive and their key tenets state specifically that the others are wrong. In fact, it is the primary, stated objective of most religions to convert unbelievers and proselytize other believers.
4. There is no god- Convinced that there is no supernatural being who cares or interferes in the affairs of humanity, you choose to base your life on pragmatism and the scientific method (rough description of humanism)…until your next moment of doubt when you repeat this process.
5. The answer is unknowable- You decide that it is impossible to know which answer is correct. If you come to this conclusion, you will need to choose to live according to the basic principles of one of the four previous conclusions. While you are not entirely certain that it is correct, you must at least have some sort of ethical and moral code…until your next moment of doubt when you repeat this process.
After examining the options, I feel that the people who made this meme are right. In a world demanding tangible evidence, the complete truth about the supernatural is unprovable at best. At worst, you could say it is completely unknowable. All of us, at various levels, live according to option #5. It is as impossible to prove that there is a god as it is to prove there is not a god. We have not been able to prove what we believe so we live according to a specific belief system that we feel is most likely to be correct.
I have no problem with this way of living—the honest seeker. My problem is with the cynic. The one who knows what is right (or at least what is most likely to be truth) and still chooses to live differently on a chance that it may be false. This person chooses comfort over conviction. This person seeks to undermine other belief systems without claiming to have an answer. This person posts religious memes meant to enrage others on social media sites.
I’m not enraged. I’m saying you’re right. And I hope you’ll become more right as you continue to search for truth.