February 22, 2024

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Existential Truth and Factual Truth: What They Say About Religious Texts

Once you are in possession of a truth you can either tell the truth or hide it from the others. This is one kind of truth, factual truth, that makes lying possible. When a person lies to the other, he is hiding the facts from him. Factual truth therefore is a social one: there are witnesses, not just one, who can tell the truth or who can hide the truth, and therefore, lie about the situation. And there are people from whom the facts can be hidden.

On the other hand, Existential truth deals with the meaning of events whether or not these events actually occurred. Existential truth can be experienced by anyone for everyone, given a certain level of human experience, understands and have experienced some of the human conditions like compassion, hurt, suffering, love, relationships, wonder, meaning of life etc. That is why we are touched by events in our lives, news of human interest, books, and movies.

Existential truth does not require a group of witnesses other than one’s self. However, like factual truth, existential truth is a social. Existential truth can be shared with people who have undergone certain universal experiences that they can appreciate the meaning behind every human story. Unlike factual truth, Existential truth is deeply subjective. It is a revelation of a deeper meaning of life. It is not a fact like tables and chairs, or newly discovered papers or artifacts of a thousand years ago. Existential truth is the result of one’s special relationship with reality that is invisible (not in the manner by which objects are hidden) to those who are not prepared to ‘see’. It has not changed since the dawn of humankind. Existential truth, to be revealed, requires a certain level of experience. This is why children are not yet capable of ‘seeing’ for they lack human experiences to grasp the deeper meaning of living.

What of historical truth? Although there is no one today who has lived long to see Abraham Lincoln (or Jesus Christ), there would still be some ‘facts’ that have been preserved. These facts don’t tell the whole story, for it is impossible to gather every fact of a life of a human being or earth. So, it is left to the historians to make sense out of the facts and come up with a reasonable theory or interpretation about the meaning of historical events. Facts like Abraham and the holocaust of WW2 are factual truths that can be told and be lied about. But history in general are really about plausible interpretation that tries to make sense of what little facts we know about the past.

Yet, a history that is worth writing about is a story that carries within its womb a deeper meaning for everyone to learn from about themselves and their stations in life. In that regard, there can be some existential truth to be gotten. Read or, even still, watch a movie on Abraham Lincoln, and you will find situations of making hard choices that everyone can relate to.

So, we go back to religious texts. Do they consist of factual events, hence speak of factual truths? It is hard to say because the events occurred a long time ago, and for hundreds of years many interpretations have been believed to be coming straight from the lips of God. Yet, what is more significant and the reason why religious texts are relevant is because it deals mainly with Existential Truth.

There is no reason to lie; unless literal-minded individuals takeover and treat the main texts as a collection of facts. And, impose their ‘interpretation’ on everyone else.