On The Distinction Between True and False Theism (1)

“Siddhi Valagam” or “Abode of Attainment of Adepthood”, Metukuppam, near Vadalur, Tamilnadu, South India, with the horizontally bicolored (Yellow and White) flag of Suddha Sanmargam hoisted in front of the house. Ramalingam disappeared mysteriously from a room which was locked from the outside, in accordance with his instructions, in this small house in Jan – Feb 1874. He was residing in this house when he raised the horizontally bicolored flag of Suddha Sanmargam on October 21, 1873, signalling both his own “Siddhi” or attainment of adepthood and the dawn of the epoch of Suddha Sanmargam marked by, among other things, the global attenuation and eventual dissolution of divisions based on caste, tribe, race, nationality, class, gender, and religion.

The earth encircled by religions!

The subtitle of this blog is “The Way of Pure and True Theism”. This implies a distinction between pure and true theism, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, impure and false theism.

What is this distinction?

This distinction is based on the fact that although the true notion that an entity, X , exists could be shared by two or more views, these views can differ from each other in their conceptions of X, or in their claims about the nature or attributes of X. And, of course, some of these conceptions or claims may be true and others false.

Hence, the fact that two or more views share a true belief in the existence of X does not imply that they must all have equally true conceptions or beliefs pertaining to the nature or attributes of X.

Thus, for example, the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all share the true notion that God exists is perfectly consistent with the possibility that they have different and conflicting conceptions of the nature of God. Indeed, all this is no mere possibility, but an actuality.

Since these religions have some mutually conflicting conceptions of the nature or attributes of God, it follows, by virtue of the logic of contradiction, that all these conflicting conceptions cannot be equally true of God. It further follows from this truth that some of these conceptions of God must be false.

Now, each of these “world religions”, namely, Judaism, or Christianity, or Islam, considered individually as a system of beliefs and practices, also contains conflicting conceptions or claims on the nature of God or ultimate reality.  And, obviously, these conflicting conceptions or claims within a single religion cannot all be equally true. Some of them must be false.

The logic of conjunction has an interesting implication for systems of beliefs or claims constituted by the conjunction of true and false statements.

It is a logical truth that the conjunction of a false and true statement is false!

For example, if it is indeed raining, but not snowing, then the conjunction “It is raining and it is snowing” is false since one of the conjoined statements is false.

A conjunction of statements is true if and only if all of the conjoined statements are true.

One belief or claim does not a religion make! To adhere to a religion is to embrace, at least, a system of beliefs, or a conjunction of statements, or claims, central to and constitutive of that religion’s conception of ultimate reality.

It follows from the logic of conjunction that even if one of the conjoined beliefs, statements, or claims is false, the whole system or conjunction of beliefs, statements, or claims is false.

Hence, even if one belief, statement, or claim in the conjunction of beliefs, statements, or claims, on the nature of God or ultimate reality, which constitutes Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, or any other religion, is false, the whole system or conjunction of statements must, logically, be considered false.

Of course, this does not imply that there are no true statements in the system or conjunction of statements, but that as long as there is even one false statement in it, the conjunction of statements is false.

Thus, false theism is any form of theism such that the conjunction of its constitutive claims about the nature or attributes of God is false because one or more of the conjoined statements is false. 

False theism is also impure theism, i.e., a corrupt form of theism which contains false claims on the nature or attributes of God. This is not undermined by the fact, if it is a fact, that an instance of this form of theism contains some or many true claims on the nature or attributes of God.

True theism, by contrast, consists only of true claims on the nature or attributes of God. Since there is no admixture in it of true and false claims on the nature or attributes of God, true theism is also pure theism.

All this sheds light on an important verse in Ramalingam’s magnum opus ARUTPERUMJOTHI AGAVAL or “Verses On The Immense Light Of Compassion”:

சாதியு மதமுஞ் சமயமும் பொய்யென
ஆதியி லுணர்த்திய வருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி (VERSES 211 – 212)

ARUTPERUMJOTHI made me perceive early in my life that சாதி (caste), சமயம் (religion), and மதம் (the extant theistic or atheistic philosophical, metaphysical, or theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Lokayata or materialism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc) were பொய் or false.”

What does he mean by the claim that caste, religion, and the extant theological, or metaphysical, or philosophical systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, etc., are false?

In light of the analysis of “false theism” offered earlier, this radical declaration by Ramalingam (he composed these verses in 1872 – 73 in an obscure hamlet in Tamilnadu, South India!) could only mean the following:

A. Casteism or purported justifications of caste divisions, religions, and the extant theistic or atheistic metaphysical, philosophical, or theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Lokayata (materialism), Buddhism, Jainism, etc., contain central claims which are false.

And, therefore, by virtue of the logic of conjunction:

B. The systems or conjunctions of claims constituting casteism, religions, and the extant theistic or atheistic metaphysical or theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Lokayata or materialism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc., are false.

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