Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Paradox of Revelation

Many religious believers, including both everyday followers and famed theologians, privilege revelation over rational inquiry and analysis as a method for attaining results and insights.

Yes, revelation is a noted method indeed, producing such famous works such as the Qur’an, the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Talmud, and many others.

But nearly all religious believers do not take the sum of these works together, but rather believe in them separately. Revelation produces many fruits, but most believers only choose to consume a select few products from this tree of specialized knowledge claims.

If believers really have confidence in revelation as a method of gathering information, why don't they take all of revelations' results equally seriously?

That is, if the individual believer is going to emphasize revelation over analysis, then what makes the revelation of Paul inherently better than the revelation of Buddha or of Joseph Smith?

Believers are forced to admit that revelation in and of itself is generally a poor method for obtaining results, producing contradictory and vague insights.

There must be some additional, exterior standard applied to the products of revelation to determine whether they have any merit as the basis of a belief system.

However, revelation shouldn’t even need to be sorted out in this manner, should it? Shouldn’t it just be “self-evident” if it is divinely revealed? Revelation by definition should not necessarily appeal to any exterior standard for its confirmation.

But revelation never really is self-evident, is it? It does require some exterior standard for evaluation as the basis of a possible belief system.

Thus the thousands of religions, and even the thousands of variations within Christianity! Revelation can produce claims, but it's lacking a mechanism to sort them out, to see if they're plausible or believable.

If you are a religious believer, and you are privileging revelation over rational analysis, do you:

(One) hijack rational analysis to try and provide some kind of support for your revelatory claims, which (by definition) should not need to be supported in such a manner?

(Two) admit that you have no way to evaluate any of your religious claims on the same basis as competing claims derived from revelation, therefore rendering any religious claims you may possess indistinguishable from religious claims you do not possess?


sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?

Anonymous said...

I think all 'spiritual' revelations should be private and personal, and I don't need to validate it with any one.
I do have a problem with your term' religious believers'. What are you implying by this term? I don't think any one is a believer in religion, but in the God as they determine that God to be within a religious frame work, That is if that religion has a god.If they don't then they believe in the principles or teachings within a particular religious framework.I don't think anyone sets off on their path of enlightenment believing in a religion but on or in their God or principles and or teachings. just like the religion of non believers who are just as religious but I would doubt they would be considered non religious believers, but then I think that is a better fit and term, than Religious believers is for those you are implying are. for what it is worth