Truth and Plurality

When we survey the dazzling gamut of religious traditions and apply the metric of veracity, three distinct possibilities emerge:

  1. One religion is true and the rest are false.
  2. All religions are false.
  3. All religions are true.

Let’s consider each in turn.

Perhaps one religion exclusively enjoys the felicity of divine sanction. Which then is this One True Faith? No orthodoxy is slow to press its claim. And every institution constructs its truth on the rubble of its rivals’ error. If my creed is God-sent, yours must be the work of a bedeviled impostor. Whence proceeds a procession of oppositions: Hindu vs. mlench, Jew vs. gentile, Christian vs. pagan, Muslim vs. infidel. And the rivers of blood, shed for God, engorge the earth.

Perhaps all are false. Perhaps, as Nietzsche wrote, “Pure spirit is pure lie.” If nothing is sacred the rules of the game change completely. In a ‘disenchanted’ world there is nothing to aspire to, no Immortal Beloved, no higher calling than unimaginative self-gratification. Cosmology forsaken, nature becomes a commodity, no more. Machines are the new measure of man.

Or, just maybe, all are true. Can this be? Can what is different be the same? Paradox! But perhaps such is life. Look into the cells of a living organism. In each and every nucleus is a complete genome—every part contains, in code, the whole! Yet each cell is different, physiology is complex. DNA is transcribed into RNA and translated into proteins. Thus the one is customized in the many. And conversely, cells cohere as tissues, tissues as organs, organs as systems, and systems as a single body. Might it be, then, that every religion holds in its inner core the whole of the Truth, and expresses that Truth in a particular form that contributes organically to the one body that is the sacred experience of all humanity?

Which possibility speaks to you?

Pir Zia Inayat Khan

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