"Where was God?"
Before we can address this question we will need to determine first if God even exists. Is there any truth or evidence? After all, why waste the time seeking an answer to the question if there is no God.
When it comes to truth, we surely live in an age where the idea, and even the definition of "truth," has been re-invented, twisted or re-defined as an individualized concept.
How do you define truth? Do you believe that there are truth's that are absolute? That can be verified?
Truth helps us to distinguish the difference between believing in what we think we know to be true and knowing what we believe IS true. You see, for most of us what we believe or understand to be true influences how we think, our behavior, the morals we seek to embrace, the faith we look to follow and the means by which we conduct our lives. It shapes the decisions we make and the actions that we take. It ultimately shapes our worldview; yours, mine, and yes, it even shaped Cho's.
There is "truth" that is objective, and there is "truth" that is subjective.
Truth, is literally defined as "what is real and genuine, that corresponds with reality, facts and in actuality; that which is correct, and that which is or is characterized by being in accord with what is, has been or must be."
There are the extremes of man's philosophical musings on "truth" and "reality". Such things as considering life, death, pain and the physical world as an "illusion". Sickness and disease being nothing more than a mental mirage. Eastern religions are especially noted for this. I have met people that hold to such nonsense.
Years ago I had inquired about an old brick building in the community we were living in at the time that had been boarded up. It had a mountain of wide steps leading up to the large front wooden double doors. I was told that it was once a meeting hall for a group who followed the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, as found in Christian Science. The "mind over matter" theology they adhered to may have sounded good while they were young, but as this group got much older they found they could no longer navigate the steps to meet. Bad hips and knees, walkers and canes were no match, and apparently neither were the teachings that they followed. Theology met reality and ideological truth met real world truth. Mind power could not overcome the fact that their health was not an illusion, nor was it what it used to be. Consequently, they moved and found another place to meet, one that was handicap accessible.
They are not alone. There is the "positive thinking," or "positive confession" movements that follow the same "truth" concepts. Others promote their ability to show you how to shape your own reality, for a fee of course. It is one thing to have hope, build confidence, change your attitude, or the way you think or understand things by learning and growing, but it is something altogether different when purposefully leaving the sunglasses on at night and acting as though the sun is out, if you get my drift.
College campuses are notorious for encouraging rebellion toward most established conventional thought, concepts and societal views. The subjects of reality and truth are no exception. However, in the end most come to their senses to realize some things are black and white, right or wrong, good or bad, true or false. Some just refuse to wake up from their ideological world.
Aristotle noted that there are two things that are self-evident. First is existence. The second is reason. He noted that to think and to be aware of oneself proved existence. The "I think therefore I am" demonstrated existence, even if someone were to say the contrary about you. And because you are able to think about yourself, such as existing, demonstrated the ability to reason. Aristotle pointed to these two things as necessary components for any rational thought and logic.
In pointing this out Aristotle listed several laws. The first being the "Law of Non-Contradiction". This being that opposite truth claims cannot both be correct. As an example, if an atheist believes God does not exist and yet a theist does, it would be impossible for both to be right. One truth is not also another truth. The second being the "Law of Excluded Middle". This states that either one claim is true or the other is, but both cannot be equally true.
As individuals, we can convince ourselves of a lot of things, but given time we will eventually find ourselves confronted with having to test it in the "real world".
We base truth on evidence, eye witness accounts, knowledge, what is verifiable and so forth. For something to be true then it must conform to what we know to be legitimate and real (i.e. I am my father's son. That is a truth), to what is right and to a standard of rule (i.e. answers to math problems. They are always exactly the same, following the same pattern or rule found in mathematics). It must be proven to be constant, consistent and regular (i.e. nighttime always comes after daytime). Truth must harmonize with what was, what is, or must be.
As a human race, we have the unique ability at an early age to understand what is true and what is false. It is elementary of course, but nonetheless a distinction worth noting. The "True or False" tests we have taken in school demonstrates the ability to differentiate the two long before we have thought of seeking an understanding of what is truth. The True/False answer on the grade school test asking, "Does 2+2=4?" is always (Y) yes. Why? Because it conforms with what is known to be correct, and by conforming to the rules of addition that verifies the answer will never be anything other than four. No matter which two pairs of fingers or toes someone uses for this math problem. The answer will turn out the same each time, for each person, no matter where they are, no matter when. This is a reality.
When we challenge the laws of gravity we find that it remains consistently the same... what goes up must come down. It is a reality that is genuine and an undisputed fact. This law has been verified over and over again to exist with the same outcome. I have experienced this phenomenon firsthand and so know that it is true.
"Truth Statements" such as these are objective and impartial in nature due to the type of truth being utilized.
"The truth is like clean, cool water - it is only of benefit to the thirsty."
from the “Quo Vadis”
Objective truth, or "impartial truth" refers to the fact that it is neutral, fair , unbiased, factual, verifiable and undeniable. It is the intellectual, relational and universal aspect of reality that we can discern in a limited but useful manner. True propositions requiring a true or false answer have one thing in common.... they are always true. Some simple examples would be:
1. A dog always reproduces a dog
2. The moon is closer to the Earth than Pluto
3. A person needs to eat to stay alive.
All three of these questions require an answer of "Yes, this is true," or "No, this is not true". And since these are true propositions, the answer to all three examples will always be "Yes, this is true".
Therefore, objective, impartial truth is something that is always true for all people, in all places, at all times.
In other words, truth ... objective, impartial truth, is something that is for all people, everywhere at any time, found to be the same. The answer will be the same, the result will be the same, the consequence will be the same, the reality will be the same. A dog will always reproduce a dog, no matter where in the world, no matter when. It is true always, everywhere for everyone. An external reality apart from ourselves that all share and can agree upon. It is therefore a real, tangible and undeniable truth.
Now, on the other hand we have subjective truth. Subjective truth is something that is an inwardly created, self-styled reality that conforms to one's personal views (likes and dislikes). It is here that we begin to move into the realm of moral and ethical relativism, commonly found in the social and philosophical arena. We all exercise this to some degree.
This type of "truth" has become so pervasive in our society, and in the world, that increasing numbers of people are becoming more convinced that few things are black and white with regard to what is real, but specifically what is "right". This helps explain the spreading effect of individualized reality upon the current changes in our laws, policies, decisions and the like. Subjective truth is especially popular among those in philosophy, as well as those that consider themselves intellectuals. We find many of our college professors steeped in the use of subjective truth. This preferred view moves one from "facts" to "values". Factual judgments, those that are objective and external, give way to value judgments which are the internal and personally expressed attitudes. This removes truth from having to be validated and consequently removed also from any challenges.
If, by example, I said I believed opera music was a waste of time and void of any value, not only am I making a personal statement of my own feelings and expressed taste, but also what I believe to be true for me concerning opera. There is no objective truth to the foundation of my statement. Should you consider opera not wasting one's time and state that you consider opera of great worth, you are doing likewise.
And because these are subjective truths, both of our statements would be equally valid. My truth about opera is not your truth but who am I to say your truth is wrong? Your truth is equally valued by you as my truth is by me. We see here two different truths of equal value. Valued judgments that cannot be challenged by any common criteria.
These truths are not of a factual kind but of a personal inclination.
1. Exhibits a peculiar temperament, personal bias, emotional background etc.
2. Is introspective
3. Springs from a belief that individual feeling or apprehension is the ultimate criterion of determining the good and the right.
4. As belonging to reality as is perceived or known by the individual, as opposed to reality that is independent of the mind. In other words, reality as inwardly perceived rather than reality as it is.
5. Experience, feelings and conscious states are supreme determinants of truth for the individual.
6. Tends to deal more on the philosophical realm.
7. Does not hold to having to be verified, right, or supported by any evidence.
Subjective truth then is shaped by an individual's personal proclivities, bias, emotions and knowledge. Or, more accurately, the often lack of knowledge. It may be influenced by personal trauma and experiences that color and distort facts. Sometimes one's subjective truth is caused by an honest lack of knowing any different. Other times it is a preferred, chosen means of a worldview.
It is also here where statements such as "What is true for me may not be true for you" comes from. Because the foundations of one's subjective truth is established more on internal "ingredients" than external facts, these "truths" are subject to change during a person's lifetime. It can change just because a person feels different about life, love, himself or herself. It can change because world reality meets one's personal "in a perfect world" philosophy. It can change just because of that individual waking up one morning with a personal epiphany. In fact, it can take almost anything to make a switch in one's subjective truth.
Problems arise when we confuse what is personal with what is universal, what we feel with what we know, what is true with what is preferred and what is right verses what is by choice.
An example of this clash came to Oprah Winfrey's doorstep. Over the years Oprah has, like many, developed her own brand of "New Age" spirituality and subjective worldview. A hodgepodge of various things she has found appealing to her "sensibilities" and "self-help" philosophy. Her wildly successful book club was often a place where she promoted books that aligned with this "worldview". One such book entitled, "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey, initially promoted as fiction, was re-tooled as a graphic memoir of an addict's road to freedom. It was described as touching, moving, compelling and sometimes almost unbelievable. Just the right "touchy," "feely" stuff and "how you can do it too" cheerleading for the readers of Oprah's book club. Yet there were those who questioned the authenticity and truthfulness of some events found within its pages. Word spread that Frey was not forthcoming with the facts, had overly embellished his experiences or created whole fictitious events.
Oprah was caught in the firestorm for continuing to support a book that was increasingly being shown as more fiction than truth. The author continued to defend his life's story. On one occasion, while being interviewed on Larry King's show, he stated that the "emotional truth" was there. Oprah even phoned in to lend her support for the book. Her comments were that the flap over the book's details were "much ado about nothing." She continued on Larry King's show by saying that:
"What is relevant is that he was a drug addict who spent years in turmoil from the time he was 10 years old drinking and tormenting himself and his parents and stepped out of that history to be the man that he is today and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves.... the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me, and I know it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book..... if you're an addict whose life has been moved by this story and you feel that what James went through was able to-to help you hold on a little longer, and you connected with that, that is real. That is real. And it's --it's irrelevant discussing, you know, what -- what happened or did not happen to the police."
Her statement revealed what she considered of greater import than the lies that were being uncovered, the inaccuracies found in the facts, and in seeing relevance in objective truth. Emotional connections and resonating feelings that hopefully stir a person internally toward self-help and self-salvation were the expressed important components. The end justified the means, demonstrating that subjectivity is really what seems to be at her core.
Oprah learned quickly that facts still mattered to everyday people, such as her faithful viewers, no matter how much the book was meant to "resonate," or move people to embrace the "emotional truth" of James Frey's story. Her audience, and people at large, did not consider the facts as "irrelevant", and "much ado about nothing." How can anyone with addictions be inspired by, and have "real" hope, in a true life story that in fact was not actually true?
To her credit, Oprah went on the air and apologized to her viewers for seeming to not value "truth" and the facts. Some critics said she was only protecting her "brand" and empire when it seemed the fallout could be damaging. Whatever the real reason, what appears to me is that Oprah is conflicted on the subject of "truth". She has expressed the importance of telling the truth, but as she has said since then on her show, you should live "your own truth". How does that play out? Well, there does seem to be guidelines in what I call "selective subjectivity". It is not too much different than what people of faith practice with "selective theology". Bottom line is it is just as much of a belief system. For Oprah, it must not be okay, selectively speaking, when you believe you are telling the truth as you remember or understand it, but "living out your own truth" is. James Frey's "personal truth" approach didn't help him on his second appearance on Oprah's show when she grilled him for "lying" and making her feel like an idiot. However, that is something she brought upon herself. Reality collided with her subjectivity, something that must not happen often enough for her to see the weakness in her position. She was conned, got stung and had to face that "fact". She recognized, at least here, that obvious external truths cannot be trivialized. However, at the same time she holds internal subjective truth as just as real and important. That is of course the final outcome of subjective truth when carried out to its furthest boundaries. You end up with your own "reality".
Another painful example of subjective truth would be the fallout that transpired with a famous TV news anchor who was let go, many believe, over a story he was doing on a sitting President. It was a story based on certain aspects of President Bush's military service that was predicated on information that was later found, upon scrutiny, to be fabricated. There were no "facts to the matter". In an interview after his departure from the station that he served for many years, Dan Rather still defended his decision to go on the air with the story, even though knowing there were no facts to it. He did so because he personally felt and believed it all to be true, as he put it, he just couldn't prove it. His hopes were that in the end his "truth" would be validated and the facts would catch up to his breaking story. In the end it did not matter what his convictions were. His personal bias blinded his ability to objectively report the facts. This is another prime example of an individual's internal truth colliding with the real world.
We all have had a "gut feeling", or had "hunches" that were sometimes right, sometimes wrong. Most times when they are right, it is because there was some other external input involved beyond just our feelings that added greater credence. Dan should have waited to get the proof he needed to line up with that "gut feeling" before his rush to judgment. But then again, most of us have been guilty of this too. Ah, life lessons learned.
The major force in our world, our societies, our communities and in our personal lives is driven more by what we consider, accept, understand, acknowledge or embrace to be truths in an ethical, moral sense. These moral truths will be based on which "truth" application is used. These truths shape what we consider to be fair and just among men. What is defined as right and wrong, good and bad. It will be reflected in the laws of the land, the conduct of the people, in shaping the culture and our worldview. It is one thing to acknowledge that for everyone 2+2=4, it is another thing to suggest that there is a moral truth that is universal. Much of the personal and world conflict we have comes from these clashing, morally held worldviews.
What are these moral truths based upon? Is there moral, objective truth that holds all people at all times in all places to the same code of ethics and morality? Moral truth that is not subjective? And if there is, where is it derived from? How can that be verified, validated or supported? Is there one source, or many, from which to derive these truths? Is it truth that is based on facts and reality? That is not biased? And, by what authority? Of God? Of man?
Those at the Nuremberg trials had to wrestle with such questions as Nazi officers were on trial for "war crimes against humanity". In what manner could the "rightness" or "wrongness" of what Germany did be judged? The trials were groundbreaking with regard to international consensus on the issue. Germany adopted several "truths" that shaped their identity, ideology, policies and actions. Adolf Hitler embraced Nietzsche's view of "truth" from statements Nietzsche made, such as:
"Since there is no God to will what is good, we must will our own good..."
For Germany, the "good" they came up with was to weed out the "sub-human" and "inferior" races, with gypsies, Jews and Blacks being at the bottom of the ladder. They were considered "life unworthy of life". Germany considered themselves the "stronger people", and the rest of the world the weaker. This being based on adapting Darwin's principle of the "survival of the fittest". Hitler wrote:
"The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all... If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one..." (from Mein Kampf)
Added to this mix of social Darwinism, scientific racism, pan-Germanism and evolutionism theories was the insertion of mysticism and the idea of an "Aryan race". Hitler and his followers shaped their own social and moral truths, which in turn was propagated onto the German people. It permeated every aspect of the German culture. Since they were led to believe that there was no "higher" authority, the atrocities of World War II were seen merely as part of the process of naturalism and evolution. There was no "wrong" that was being committed. This is why at the Nuremburg trials those German officers claimed innocence since they were simply following orders. Orders based upon Germany's law and moral code meant to guide their people in what was best and right for Germany in its ascension. Who was to say what they did was "wrong"? By what authority? There was no guilt in their minds because there was no higher moral authority. Their "truth" was their "truth".
What was the outcome? It was determined that there was a "higher authority" for which man should obey if the laws of man became so immoral. Just because a government authorizes, approves and passes laws that condone "murder", as an example, does not make it right. Yet, is there truth to the fact that there is a "higher authority"? And if so, based on what?
These questions lead us to the next phase and chapter of our journey.