Does Truth Always Matter?

How important is truth? Richard Dawkins tells us, “What matters is what’s true!”

Yet I would argue what matters is what’s true….as long as there is a God.

If God exists, then we exist in a reality that exists because of Him. He brought it into existence and sustains its existence. We exist because of Him. My meaning, my purpose for existence, is tied to these truths. Truth matters very much.
But what if there is no God? There universe exists for no reason. My existence is a fleeting, contingent fluke. I am the one who gives my life the meaning I want, all in the context of being the one who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong. It’s hard to see how truth always matters in this reality. It this reality, it would seem, truth can often take the back seat.

Let’s use an example from a classic movie to illustrate this point – The Matrix.

05-clip_image008In the movie, Cipher must make a choice. Shall he choose Truth, which involves a seemingly futile fight against the machines as a hardworking, unnoticed grunt whose big thrill of the day is to eat gruel? Or, shall he choose to live a Fantasy, where he gets plugged back into the Matrix to enjoy a life of immense sensory stimulation, existing as a man with great power and wealth, adored by all? And all the time, he would believe it was all true.

If you take the theistic view, you choose Truth. Yes, my life might suck as a grunt. But if that is my purpose, my reason for being, I’ll be the best damn grunt I can be and do my best to defeat the Machines. If it’s all futile and I die, then so be it, I will have fought the good fight and dealt with things as they are. And it will all matter in the end because it all happened according to God’s will.

But if we take the atheistic view, the choice is greatly clouded.
Why should I live my life as a grunt in a big metal Hovercraft instead of living as a rich, powerful man in a little metal hibernation tube? How is brain stimulation from the atoms of the world more important than brain stimulation from the atoms of machines? My existence is fleeting in either case and it is all I have. So why choose pain, suffering, monotony, and futility just because it is part of reality? If I have the ability to escape reality in order to live a life of happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment, does it make sense to stick with reality?

As Cypher says, ” I know what you’re thinking, ’cause right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually, I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill? …… I’m tired, Trinity. Tired of this war, tired of fighting… I’m tired of the ship, being cold, eating the same goddamn goop everyday… You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? [Takes a bite of steak] Ignorance is bliss…..”

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22 Responses to Does Truth Always Matter?

  1. TFBW says:

    Looking at it the other way, the fact that truth matters is evidence that God exists. Dawkins can sit there and pontificate, “what matters is what’s true”, but he offers no reality-based foundation for the concept of “what matters”. On materialism, there’s no such thing as “what matters”, only “what happens”. He can offer us “what matters” as a beautiful delusion — a mental state which is the accidental side-effect of selfish genes — but not a reality. If truth really matters, then materialism is false, because materialism offers no basis for such a concept. If truth matters, as Dawkins insists, then that may not prove theism as such, but it fires a large broadside into the foundations of his own atheism, since it basically disqualifies materialism.

    Don’t expect him to notice the inconsistency, though.

  2. SteveK says:

    At the end of the day, if atheism is true the question “so what?” remains objectively unanswerable. It comes down to doing whatever a person wants to do for whatever reason they want to do it. Things will happen, but “so what?”.

  3. What is particularly interesting about this topic (and in connection with what TFBW said) is that an argument for God’s existence, namely the ‘Argument from Truth’–an argument which mirrors the Moral Argument–can be mounted against the atheist in this case. And what is also noteworthy is that this argument forces a serious dilemma on the atheist.
    .
    So what is this ‘Argument from Truth’?
    .
    Well, it would go something like this:
    .
    1) If men have an objective duty/purpose to pursue and believe the truth above other considerations, then God exists (for God is the best explanation of such an objective duty to seek the truth).
    .
    2) Men do have an objective duty/purpose to pursue and belief the truth above other considerations.
    .
    3) Therefore, God exists.
    .
    Now even atheists will admit that if atheism (or atheistic-naturalism) is true, then there are no objective duties or purposes that exist, and certainly no objective duty or purpose to pursue/believe that which is true (at most, on atheistic-naturalism, we might have an objective purpose to spread our selfish genes). So, with that in mind, the key premise of this argument is the second one.
    .
    Now, in light of that, note that the dilemma for the atheist–or the Catch-22, if you will–is that if the atheist admits the second premise, then the argument goes through and atheism is rendered irrational. However, if the atheist denies the second premise, then he can never chastise the Christian for being a Christian even if Christianity is false, for the Christian has no objective duty to believe that which is true. Indeed, the atheist can never–at least not in an objective way–condemn anyone for not pursuing or believing the truth, and so a great deal of atheistic indignation is rendered moot. So either way, the atheist is placed between a rock and a hard place in this case.

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  5. SteveK says:

    Anon,
    Your comment is a great one. I used a similar approach with someone not too long ago. I started by asking them if any objective obligations existed? They said no because they saw where this would lead.

    I then said it would be pointless to discuss/debate anything with them because they just told me that they are not obligated to seek the truth. They just told me they are not obligated to reason correctly.

    Their response: While I’m not objectively obligated to seek the truth or reason correctly, I choose to do this.

    I held firm and walked away. Before I left I explained that they choose to do it now, but it’s optional. If for whatever reason they decide to do the opposite – for ANY reason – there’s no objection that I could raise that would require them to do otherwise. In fact, there’s no objection THEY could raise in response to anything I said or did either (you pointed this out).

    So, by their own words they were telling me that the conversation was pointless.

  6. dognillo says:

    I don’t understand why you think that we should have an objective duty to pursue and believe the truth. Isn’t that it’s in our best interest to do so enough of a reason for us to want to pursue and believe the truth?

  7. TFBW says:

    @dognillo: What makes you think that there’s such a tight relationship between truth and self-interest? When people lie, they typically do so for self-interested reasons, after all.

  8. dognillo says:

    Yes, some people lie, but how would having an objective duty to pursue the truth change that? Some people would still lie. People lie in court, even though they have sworn to tell the truth, under penalty of perjury.

  9. dognillo says:

    And, besides, TFBW, it’s still in the liar’s interest to know the truth. He just doesn’t want other people to know the truth, because them believing his lies will supposedly benefit him. For example, is someone is participating in a group of criminals, then it’s in their interest to know what everyone else in the group is doing, but it may also be in their interest for their partners to not know what they are doing.

  10. TFBW says:

    Having a duty to do something doesn’t force you to do it. It’s normative — an expression of what you ought to do. On materialism, there is no such “ought”. There may, coincidentally, be pragmatic or self-interested reasons for acting the same way, as you suggest. One is truth for truth’s sake; the other is truth for personal advantage’s sake.

    Dawkins seems to be a truth for truth’s sake kind of guy: the whole thrust of the short video is that he values truth over psychological advantages like comfort and peace of mind — things which would certainly qualify as pragmatic or self-interested reasons for embracing falsehoods. He’s targeting religious beliefs which he asserts are false, saying that we should, for example, acknowledge our own ultimate annihilation at death because it’s true, not deny it because it’s comforting to do so.

    What he doesn’t realise, as Michael has pointed out, is that his position is at odds with materialism: there is no objective basis for truth as a fundamental norm on materialism. He wants to have his cake and eat it too: he wants “delusion” to be an intrinsically bad thing, while embracing a materialist philosophy which can treat the pursuit of truth (or not) as nothing more than a personal lifestyle choice.

  11. dognillo says:

    I’m not a materialist. I’ll believe that materialism is true when science proves it true. And I’m not holding my breath for that. My argument would be that Dawkins doesn’t know that materialism is true, and he doesn’t know that we face annihilation at death, so, as Anon said above, he shouldn’t chastise Christians for being Christians, even though he thinks that they are wrong.

  12. John says:

    Actually,there might be a way a materialist could answer:

    Humans are inquisitive and curious beings.We have evolved that way to simply want to know,which made us smarter and better then other animals and made us also survive better.

    The reason we humans feel like we have something like an objective duty to seek truth is because we evolved as inquisitive creatures and we are curious by nature.There is no need to say a God did it just because we like to know things about the world.

    We may not have an objective duty to seek truth,but we behave like this because we are inquisitive and curious by nature,and this curiosity can be explained naturally.

    Now another interesting this about such a response is that this is an answer some atheists give to the meaning of life.

    The meaning of life according to some atheists isn’t just to reproduce and survive,but simply to know more about the universe and the world we live in and get more new experiences to experience because they make life more beautiful in a subjective way.

  13. SteveK says:

    dognillo,
    “Isn’t that it’s in our best interest to do so enough of a reason for us to want to pursue and believe the truth?”

    Without an obligation to do this, it’s still optional. The situation remains unchanged – there’s no objection that I could raise that would require them to do otherwise.

    Furthermore your question assumes that “best” is something a person can know about themselves. What does a “best” behavior look like? In order to answer this objectively, the term “best” must be objective.

    If it’s not, no REASON can be given that would sufficiently explain/prove that a person is/isn’t actually doing what is best.

  14. SteveK says:

    John,
    That is a fairly typical response. When a person tells me they live “as if” they have obligations and do things “as if” they are good so that it’s “as if” their life has meaning, my response is this: It’s ‘as if’ you and I are talking about the same reality. We’re not.

  15. TFBW says:

    John, what was that supposed to be an answer to, exactly?

  16. John says:

    TFBW:”John, what was that supposed to be an answer to, exactly?”

    This was to answer the argument and the problem of truth.

    The answer states that truth is not an objective obligation at all,but we evolved as curious creatures and that is why we act or are predisposed to treat truth as an obligation,but we are justified eitherway.

    In other words,when atheists tell Christians that what they believe is not true and insist they should believe the truth,they think truth is an objective duty because their curiosity compels them to and because they evolved to be predisposed to find things out.

    That is basically a way to dodge any behaviour that seems to imply truth is objective,while at the same time to justify treating truth in such a way because we are biologically predisposed to it.

    So truth is not an objective duty,but you may treat it like that due to the fact you are biologically predisposed to it.

  17. TFBW says:

    The trouble with that answer is that it makes the pursuit of truth an entirely optional, desire-driven thing. Dawkins is telling us we must value truth because it is truth, even when falsehoods might be comforting or otherwise desirable, and your response simply does not support his case. In that sense, it’s not so much an answer as an admission that the key point of this post stands, unchallenged.

  18. 22056 says:

    John,

    You said:

    The answer states that truth is not an objective obligation at all, but we evolved as curious creatures and that is why we act or are predisposed to treat truth as an obligation, but we are justified either way.

    In other words, when atheists tell Christians that what they believe is not true and insist they should believe the truth, they think truth is an objective duty because their curiosity compels them to and because they evolved to be predisposed to find things out.

    So basically, you are saying that atheists are suffering from a delusion (a ‘Truth Delusion’, if you will). Interesting…

    22056
    http://www.investigativeapologetics.wordpress.com

  19. stcordova says:

    Michael,

    Let me highlight something an atheist Amazon reviewer wrote regarding Peter Boghossian’s crusade against Christianity that I think is relevant to your OP:

    I’m an atheist who recently heard Peter Boghossian speak and read from his book, Manual for Creating Atheists. I was underwhelmed. Here’s the idea. Divisive dogma stems from irrational faith – the “virus” of belief. Therefore, the atheist is obliged to save the world by pounding reason into Swiss-cheese-for-brains believers. Sample conversations in the book purport to teach us how to convert our victims with irrefutable rationality. It’s a gospel of evangelical atheism.

    So, to show us how easy this is, the author invited a sweet-faced young Christian woman to the podium so he could demonstrate how his barrage of annoying questions will plant seeds of doubt. Here’s the rub. This lovely young lady beamed at him with admirable turn-the-other-cheek charity whilst he, in polite, but arrogantly self-righteous tones, hammered on her. So, while he arguably won the rational argument, who cares? The woman with the bright, loving spirit beat him hands down, like a faith-filled martyr looking calmly down the lion’s maw.

    I asked the author if it is always appropriate to challenge people of faith. He said there are no exceptions. I countered that I live among sick and dying people, and not only is it not my job to try to disabuse them, but that it would be cruel to upset their belief in a promised afterlife, just as it would be cruel to deny those in pain their end-of-life morphine. Only then did the author admit he remained mum while his mother clutched her statue of Jesus when she was dying of cancer.

    I dislike evangelism in all its forms, because evangelism is divisive. It says, “I’m right, and you’re wrong, and only I know the truth.” Evangelistic atheism is as bad as any other kind. Yet I’m glad to live in a time when we can discuss these differences without getting burned at the stake. But even in modern times, atheists must endure pitying gazes from believers who feel sorry for our lost souls, so it’s empowering when authors like Boghossian come out swinging.

    Constance Emerson Crooker

    Author of Melanoma Mama: On Life, Death, and Tent Camping
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/review/RZA9V9XVAYNEU?ref_=glimp_time_1rv_cl

  20. Larry Olson says:

    “If God exists, then we exist in a reality that exists because of Him.”

    You might want to study a bit of recursion in computing science, or learn Lisp. You seem to fail to understand, that God must exist in his reality, which must exist because of some other god that created him, recursively, or magically God just popped into existence into a reality that he created before he existed, or he has some second law violating infinite supply of energy that was just there all the time so he can infinitely do magic acts all day long…. Yeah you don’t seem to understand recursion much…. God exists because of what? because of Nothing. God is an atheist because God has no god above him. Didn’t think of that did you? Or maybe he is a believer in himself. I’m god, and I believe in God! Myself! Yeah, you need to study computing science and recursion.

  21. Larry Olson says:

    Capitalize Him, don’t ever say him lowercase. Hyhm, hhym hyhm. Violation of the 11th commandment. Always capitalize Him. Because feminists surely want it to be a Her.

  22. Kevin says:

    What?

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