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Chegue Vara
 
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Why can't religions converge on the truth?

15 January 2014, 07:39
There are some basic differences between religion and science, of which the following are relevant for this discussion:
Religion: Religions are based on dogma (a fixed set of foundational beliefs that may not be questioned). The dogma cannot change, and cannot incorporate new facts or evidence that emerge - i.e. you start with a set of beliefs, and then try and fit the evidence to suit the beliefs. Any evidence that does not fit, is discarded, ignored or cast under suspicion. (Note that interpretations do change out of necessity, however - see later in the discussion.)
Science: Science focuses on developing models and a better understanding of the universe and things in it, and is based on hypotheses that are tested experimentally. If the evidence does not fit the hypothesis / model, it is modified or rejected. New models are peer-reviewed, are tested & verified independently, and evolve over time to better fit reality.
Although there are sometimes major disputes in specific fields of science, things tend to converge over the long term to a common understanding of a specific phenomenon. This does not mean that this common understanding is "the ultimate truth" - only the best model or description of the evidence as at that point in time. New evidence or understanding (or better models) could (and usually do) emerge that would then change what is accepted as the current best model or understanding of the phenomenon. The main point here is that convergence on a best approximation of the truth happens in most aspects of science over time. (For example, although it was once heavily disputed, everyone now agrees that the earth is a sphere, and that it rotates around the sun. We now understand that there is a periodic table of elements, and that everything is not made of 'earth, fire, air and water'. The germ theory of disease helped birth the spectacular success of modern medicine and helped loosen the shackles of many superstitions on society.)
Conversely, religions seem to diverge, and there is no convergence over time. If any of the many religions were really true, one would have expected a convergence of opinion and belief over time, as the 'real truth' became more evident to people. Instead, what we see is maintenance of division, and parties not being able to move at all. We see the death of religions, and the birth of new religions. We see that the overwhelming majority of people stick to the religion that they were brought up in (or probably more accurately, 'indoctrinated' in) as a child, which is not what you would have expected if there was actually one 'true' religion.
That is because the foundation of their belief is built on something that is not true, and thus there is no way of moving - the belief foundations or dogma have to remain 'frozen' in time - i.e. they have to believe in a specific set of documents that cannot be changed, because that is the main 'proof' for their religion. If they acknowledge that there are mistakes, untruths, etc. in their foundational documents, the whole edifice of their belief system starts to crumble. Since there is no way for new morality, societal or human insights, knowledge or learning, etc. to be incorporated in the documents (lest the 'truth' of the original documents be put in question), the dogmas do not and cannot evolve.
However, as a survival mechanism, most churches have to evolve their interpretation of their 'sacred' texts over time, in order to remain relevant and attractive to society (and to retain or grow their paying membership). Churches (and the Christian bible) had no problem with e.g. the compatibility of slavery with their religion for centuries, but once it fell out of favour, churches had to evolve as well and now universally renounce it as wrong. Similarly in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed church strongly supported apartheid, which was the societal norm at the time, and only changed its stance after apartheid came to an end - it certainly did not 'lead the struggle' or provide the moral insight to end apartheid... 
Other examples include gay and lesbian rights, or the right of women to perform various functions in the church - certainly the various churches seem to be the last to recognise women's rights: long after most societies recognised that women should have equal rights, most churches were (and many still are) stuck in their (archaic) patriarchal paradigms, and have big debates and mental struggles over a concept that is blatantly evident for the rest of the societies in which they are located - see e.g. http://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-05-the-slow-and-steady-death-of-dutch-reformed-church.
So what we see is seemingly unmovable and unresolvable differences (divergence) between different religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Scientology and Christianity - think e.g. Israel-Palestine, or the Christian-Muslim violence in Nigeria) and also many divisions within faiths (Catholic/Protestant, Sunni & Shiite muslims, etc.). Many wars and most terrorism currently are happening on the basis of religious dogmas and differences.
And the real reason for religions not being able to converge, is that none of them is based on the 'truth'.
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