The Path to Truth
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

The Path to Truth

All, or nearly all, of us crave answers to the great existential questions of life: Where did I come from? What am I supposed to do with my life? What happens to me when I die? All religions offer answers to these questions, and, perhaps because the evidence in support of those answers is far from conclusive, people often resist questions or criticism that might undermine their religionís answers. Indeed, it seems that people often declare the greatest certainty about those beliefs for which they have the least evidence. Interestingly, those beliefs about which they express certainty almost always have implications that are in their own best interests, such as validation of their lifestyles, claims that their ethnic groups are superior, or guarantees of eternal happiness.
Sometimes people appeal to texts that their religions regard as sacred, but it is difficult if not impossible to discern which texts are truly inspired by God. In nearly all cultures, people believe what they been taught by the people they love and trust. They generally accept as true their cultureís stories, which are sometimes transmitted orally and sometimes transmitted as written texts. Yet these stories are not mutually compatible and canít all be completely true.
Often people appeal to personal experiences, such as dreams or a sense that God is speaking to them. A difficulty is that we know that this approach also yields divergent and incompatible views. People often believe what they want to believe, and since we canít feel ourselves coming to believe certain things it can be tempting to attribute our beliefs to external sources of truth and wisdom. Therefore, while experiences might give people a sense that God is transmitting absolutely true knowledge, that sense of certainty is a psychological phenomenon and not necessary related to the truth.
How, then, can we arrive at truth? I suggest that, if we are dedicated to truth, we might need to accept that there is uncertainty about the great existential questions. Perhaps we need to acknowledge our limitations with humility, which can make us more open to new knowledge and less quick to denounce those with whom we disagree.
How should we live, if there is uncertainty? Interestingly, nearly every religion has some formulation of the Golden Rule. Next week, I will reflect on different ways that we might express and apply the Golden Rule, and I will provide reasons for including nonhuman beings among the ďothersĒ to whom we as faithful Christians should give consideration.

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