This is a popular phrase being used currently among people in spiritual communities, new-agers, and those who think of themselves as philosophically open-minded and driven.
Personally, this particular phrase gets on my nerves at times, but that’s more of a personal issue I have with it sounding pretentious and in general, being overused. I do understand its popularity. It allows someone to make a statement that they own their individual beliefs. Even so, it’s not my preferred means of expression.
There is a saying that goes along these lines. “There are three understandings of truth: your truth, my truth, and the actual truth. “
No. Not really.
Objective Truth may also be interchanged with the word Fact.
When the phrase, “my truth” is used, what is generally meant is “what is true to me or true for me based on my own experience and understanding.” – That’s a subjective truth. It is valid and meaningful, but only exists for that person or for people who share that experience or belief.
Subjective Truth is saying that something is true based on experience or opinion. It has been substantiated, but is not necessarily true in all situations. For example, a statement of subjective truth is, “Apples are delicious.” That may be completely true for someone like me, who greatly enjoys apples. Based on my own experiences, I love them. I use them in cooking, I eat them raw, peeled, chipped and dehydrated, covered in candy and caramel and peanuts, etc. To me, apples are truly delicious. However, that is not a true statement to someone who detests them or might be unfortunately allergic. That truth is based on my own experience and while many may agree with my statement and find it true for themselves as well, it is not what could be considered a universal or objective truth.
Objective Truth is something that is true regardless of personal experience or opinion. “Apples may be red, green, or yellow.” Or “apples are a fruit”, are both objectively true statements. They have nothing to do with whether someone loves or hates eating apples. This is a truth that exists regardless of personal experience or opinion. When explaining something, it’s important to clarify how words are used so that everyone involved understands the meaning of the vocabulary.
Religious truth is subjective, not objective. Fundamentalism happens when this distinction isn’t understood. The mistake of thinking that because something is subjectively true for one religious person or group must make it objectively true and applicable to all people is a big problem. (Which I’ll expand on in another blog at some point).
I’ve given definitions for subjective truth, objective truth, and how those relate to words like my truth and fact. Now I’m going to define religion, belief, faith, and practice so that it can be explained what those phrases mean in context and relation to spirituality and philosophy. A religion is a structured set of beliefs and/or practices used to help people who share a similar understanding of deity in making a connection with that deity and each other.
Religion is a man-made creation. It is like a ‘divine language’. I heard a beautiful and eloquent explanation of this while listening to a lecture given by author and historian Reza Aslan. I am paraphrasing here, but essentially what he said was in regard to explaining how he went from being culturally Muslim to being a practicing Christian to being a practicing Muslim. In speaking to his audience, he said:
I’m a Muslim because the symbols and structure used in Islam resonate with me as a way to connect with God. Islam is the ‘language’ I use because it rings true and has special significance for me. It allows me to make a connection with others who have the same experiences and beliefs. If I said to this audience right now, “I’ve been washed in the blood of the lamb”, raise your hands if you understand what that phrase means. [Many, but not all hands are raised in the audience]. Look around. All of you who understand what the symbolism and meaning in that statement actually says have made a connection with me and with each other. You know what my meaning is when I say that. I’ve just shared a profound spiritual experience with you that was expressed through metaphor and symbolism. To others, it doesn’t mean anything because they don’t understand that language. I might as well be speaking in Mandarin Chinese.
That’s religion – a chosen ‘language’ for expressing that connection to deity and others within that community. My religion is Pagan Witchcraft/Wicca because that set of practices and that community helps me to have a connection with like-minded people as well as being connected to the Divine. I could say and I have said, “I’ve heard the call of the Horned Piper and danced to his music.” Would everyone who might hear that know what it means? No, probably not. But to those who do understand what that means, it expresses a profound spiritual experience.
Belief is often confused and interchanged with Faith, so I’ll do my best to explain how they’re different and how they can overlap. Belief is when you think something is a certain way and is often based more on experience than not. I believe that the sun will rise in the morning tomorrow. Based on the current time of the year that I’m writing this, it will rise a bit earlier and a little bit farther to the north east than it did this morning. I believe this because it’s done so every single day for the past thirty-eight years I’ve been alive. I have no reason to believe it won’t rise again tomorrow morning. You could also say that I have faith that the sun will rise in the morning. However, if I’m being completely honest, it might not. Some weird freak event of nature could cause it to explode or collapse or something. Some sort of cosmic event could cause our planet to stop spinning, which is necessary to have a sunrise. If there is some kind of supremely powerful galactic race out there that wants to destroy us, they could transport themselves to our solar system and blast the sun to bits with a huge weapon. Anything could happen and my belief would be proven wrong because the sun did not rise.
Faith is when you think something is a certain way, potentially backed up by experience, but kind of exists in its own little bubble where experience might not truly change it. I often say that I’m a Witch, a Pagan, because to me these practices and philosophies fit with and explain how I see myself, the universe, and the Divine. If I ever found meaning in another religion that did the same thing, that fulfilled the same need, I might convert, but as that has not happened, I have not done so. I suppose I’m open to the possibility, but I don’t think such is likely to ever occur. My faith is best expressed through these things. I have faith that this is the path I’m meant to be on. I have faith that the oaths I took to the gods I follow are valid and resonate with me, and I’ve experienced them keeping up their ends of things, so my faith remains, and I remain a Witch.
I could say that I’m a Witch because that’s my truth, but those words tend to ring empty and pretentious to me. I prefer to say that based on my experiences, my personal understanding of the universe and my connection with it, my own internal philosophy and beliefs, my spirit’s joy at doing what I do and being what I am is why this is right for me. My ecstasy found in drumming and trance, my experiences of feeling magical power flow to or from me, that I am compelled to do this, to be this. For some people, “my truth” is enough. For me, it’s not. Not when so much more can be expressed and shared outside of those tiny, pithy, overused-to-the-point-of-being-meaningless words.
The truth is I just enjoy words and talk too much.
And that’s both subjectively and objectively true.