Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


eomer's Journal
eomer's Journal
January 8, 2013

What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what

Someone recently made the claim that "broadbrushing of all believers with a single brush is present in amost every thread". I asked for examples and someone else referred me to this thread:

3 universal truths that all religions agree upon.

"We are right."
"Everyone else is wrong."
"We are better than you."

Three universal truths that all religions agree upon.


After some thought I have to agree that the cited thread is a broadbrush smear. But I would add that probably the brush is too broad only near the edges even while it is smear all the way through. So I actually will criticize it more for being smear than for being broadbrush.

I call it smear because it appears to be mostly animus - more heat than light. The question of what religions have in common with regard to what they know and how sure they are about knowing it could have been posed with civility and collegiality and such a treatment might stimulate a more thoughtful exchange of ideas. Wrapped in so much snark, it was taken (and apparently intended) more as a slap than as an invitation to work through a question together.

Regarding whether the post was broadbrush, it seems to me that most religions do believe they are right (which is why I say the brush is mostly the right width). Of course, in some sense the post could be taken as tautology - you can reword it into "they believe what they believe" (and who doesn't). But the more nuanced question is not just whether they believe what they believe but rather how sure are they and do they give much allowance for the possibility they may be wrong.

So it is on this latter question - do they give much allowance that they may be wrong - that I say a broad brush works well across most religions but a finer brush is needed at the edges. In other words, I don't think most major religions (the mainstream Christian churches, for example) give much allowance that they may be wrong. At least the ones that I've (previously) been a member of, the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic churches, in my experience convey a message of delivering the truth to those who will receive it.

At the edges we need the finer brush to paint the picture that there are other religions that do allow for the possibility that they are wrong. I'm presently a member of a UU congregation and probably the thing we all agree on is that we don't necessarily agree on anything. That we don't know is about the only dogma we have. I'm not personally too familiar with the other religions that are based more on searching for answers than delivering prepackaged ones and if anyone who is wants to elaborate on this it would be appreciated.

Having examined religions it's only fair to also paint in a part of the picture that was left out - to look at the atheist/agnostic schools of thought. Agnostics obviously don't claim to know - that's of course what the word means. Some who self-identify using the word atheist will also allow for the possibility that they are wrong - many atheists, maybe most atheists, are also agnostics at some level. And "at some level" is really the crux of the quesion for atheists and agnostics. Many atheists would say (and do say) that the possibility they are wrong (the possibility that there is a God) is the same as the possibility of a Spaghetti Monster god in the sky with all his noodly appendages or the possibility that fairies or leprechauns exist. So while they admit a possibility of being wrong, they feel pretty sure they are right. Others would lean more to the agnostic side, saying they really don't know, but it seems to me that most atheists feel strongly that the chances are slight that they are wrong. I count myself in this last group.

Is there anyone else in the Religion group interested in a civil and collegial discussion on this topic? I sincerely offer the above as the start of that - I'm not sure if I succeeded at keeping it 100% snark-free but it's meant to be so please take it in that spirit.

And let me leave you with a piece of a song that I like:

What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what
Oh I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean
Philosophy is a walk on the slippery rocks
Religion is a light in the fog
I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean
Do do ya
Shove me in the shallow water
Before I get too deep
Shove me in the shallow water
Before I get too deep
What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what

What I Am - Edie Brickell

Profile Information

Member since: Tue Nov 30, 2004, 10:38 AM
Number of posts: 3,845
Latest Discussions»eomer's Journal