You might have heard this people say that Quran/Bible is absolute truth. Such people actually have no idea what the phrase “absolute truth” actually means and just blurt out something they are told. In this article let us explore this idea of absolute truth a bit deeply so that next time if someone speaks like that in front of you, then you can argue with them effectively
Let us breakdown this phrase absolute truth. The word absolute means “not qualified or diminished in any way” or in simple words, something which is independent of anything else, or something which does not depend on anything else to be valid. Truth as we all know is something which is valid. So absolute truth is something which is valid independent of anything else. So, as an example if you shine red light on white screen then the screen will appear red to you. When I ask you the color of the screen you will say it is red, which will be true but not absolute truth, as the color of the screen is dependent on the color of light falling on it. Let’s say later if someone changes the light incident on the screen from red to green then the screen will become green. So, your statement that the screen is red is no longer true
Absolute truth therefore is something which is true independent of the time, place, environment or context. For example, no matter where you go in this universe the laws of gravity are always valid, so the law of gravity is an absolute truth. On the other hand, the statement that when you increase the production of something its price is going to go down is not an absolute truth. As it depends on many other factors, such as the demand of the product, its export etc.
With this understanding let us have a look at Quran and Bible and we can clearly see that they cannot be universal truths. Large parts of these books are instruction on how to live in this world and these instructions are provided in the context of historical events. All the aayats of Quran were revealed to Muhammad while he was trying to establish the cult of Islam in Arabia. A lot of laws in Islam are derived from the examples of the life of Muhammad. Similarly, the teachings of Bible are the instructions to Jews and Christians in the context of the events happening in and around Israel. So, these books have ideas which are only applicable in that particular context and therefore cannot be universal truths.
So, when Quran instructs you on how to treat your women if they do not obey you, those instructions would have been applicable in 7 thcentury Arabia, but in the modern time when technology and birth control has freed women, those instructions no longer apply. Calling those instructions as absolute truths is the height of insanity and yet people do not get it, which puts a lot of question on the intelligence of humanity. Same thing applies for Bible, the instructions given in bible on how to treat your slaves is no longer applicable, then how can you say that bible is absolute truth. It is like calling constitution of India as absolute truth and not allow any modification to be done to it as situations change.
To address this very problem in India our ancestors made a distinction of Shruti and Smriti texts. Where Shruti texts were considered absolute truths, while Smriti texts were considered relative truths, which could be modified as times change. Our ancestors understood that as time changes the rules of conduct also have to be changed and that is why Manusmriti is a smriti which can be changed as time changes. Unfortunately, Christians and Muslims consider such guide books to be absolute truths, which creates the dogmatism these cults are guilty of. The absolute truth is provided in our Shruti texts which are the Vedas and Upanishads. The message given in those texts are applicable at all places and at all times.
As a general rule of thumb any book that talks about people, instantly become subjective and cannot be absolute truth, as that truth becomes dependent on the situation of the people associated with that book. Think about Ramayana and look at it from Ravana’s point of view and you can make an ethical narrative from that perspective as well. In such a story Rama can be portrayed as a villain and Ravana as a hero. This is why we never claim that Ramayana is absolute truth. Similarly, in Bible and Quran what we see is the point of view of only one group of people and therefore whatever is mentioned in them is subjective and cannot be absolute truth.
Those people who make claims that Quran is absolute truth or Bible is absolute truth do not understand this very simple idea, and make vast generalization about their holy texts. This only shows how immature they are and how much more these religions have to learn before really become responsible religions.
Originally published at https://stoicsadhu.com on September 27, 2020.