Stephen spoke to a full tent of 250 people at the Greenbelt Festival…
“Some of us believe that every point-of-view is valid and we should live and let live. Some of us believe there are concrete truths on which everyone should base their world-view, whether that’s in science, atheism or religion. Both extremes are dangerous and most of us are somewhere in between. How do we decide where to sit on that continuum and what are the consequences of our choice?”
Stephen also wrote an article about truth…
Truth is what you believe, so believe what is true
Who decides what is true? It’s difficult to know who to trust and traditionally we looked to the educators, the politicians and the clergy, but they’ve become crowd pleasers rather than crowd leaders.
As a layman in relation to theology, philosophy and science, I’ve been thinking about the nature of truth. There are plenty of facts we all agree on, but the hypotheses that emerge from these facts can vary and that’s when it becomes difficult to agree, or even discuss, what is true. It can be hard to believe in something and hold it lightly enough to genuinely welcome the other point of view or even change your mind.
We’re all different – at the extremes there are those who insist everyone agrees with their absolute truths (the Absolutists) and there are those who believe we all have our own version of the truth and we should live and let live (the Liberalists). Seeing the world differently is part of what makes us human. However, some things are so important we should try and work them out together.
Absolutists insist you see the world their way and leave no room for discussion. Not many of us would label ourselves as Absolutist but take a closer look, isn’t that exactly how families and peer groups work? If you don’t adopt their norms you’re out, or at the very least you’re weird.
Is Liberalism the answer then? There are certainly those that insist it is and that individualism should be highly valued but it becomes too easy to avoid healthy disagreement. We need to understand each other’s perspective, but without the courage of our convictions there’s no traction between us or our ideas.
However, when we discuss our differences with an open mind we face a dilemma; most of us believe it’s wrong to force our ideas on others so how do we balance the ability to hold a truth and still engage constructively with those that disagree?
So where has this led me? I think there are absolute truths but we don’t know what they are, we all have valid but different perspectives that sit within those bigger truths and we need to engage with each other and explore them to develop as the human race.
In fact, if I had a manifesto tag-line it would be: rejoice that humans have the capability to question and believe the same thing at the same time.