Monopoly & Genocide

Those who claim a monopoly on religious truth know that, if all error-mongers are dead, their own claim would be factually correct.

I have no problem with religious people — or political people for that matter — who claim a monopoly on truth as an over-enthusiastic commitment to their faith.

Or as a hyperbolic assertion of dedication to its content.

But when monopoly-on-truth is taken literally it always contains within itself a lethal germ of murder at best or even genocide at worst. And it usually moves from the ideological, through the rhetorical, to the physical level.

First, such people may say, with utter sincerity, that error has no right to exist and that wherever it appears, it must be destroyed one way or another.

Second, when such people achieve power, they often act against those who promote error in order to remove, silence, marginalize, or even execute them.

Finally, those who claim a monopoly on religious truth know that, if all error-mongers are dead, their own claim would be factually correct.

  • linda marie

    That may be the scariest thing I have read in a long time, Father.linda marie

  • Thinking Out Loud

    Thanks for explaining:

  • abominable snowbeast

    >But when monopoly-on-truth is taken literally it always contains within itself a lethal germ of murder at best or even genocide at worst.That’s not true. Certainty in our ideas does not necessarily entail a desire to kill over them. For example, I am absolutely certain that I have ten fingers. You might even say I claim a monopoly on truth over that. But my certainty gives me no desire to kill people. It’s not certainty that led to the Inquisition, the Holocaust, etc. — it’s the contents of the perpetrators’ beliefs that led to them. This error, mistaking certainty as the culprit instead of the ideas themselves, has led to truly ridiculous philosophical positions, like universal skepticism (no one really knows anything) and cultural relativism.

  • Thinking Out Loud

    abominable snowbeast: The context is religious truth, not a fact about your hand or any other random fact.And it seems certain that every time there has been a group that had “religious truth” and “power”, they used it to their advantage to squash the disenters. They tried to do it to the first century christians and it’s been practiced up to our day. Call it certainty, truth, belief, whatever. Play whatever semantic games you want.

  • abominable snowbeast

    Thinking:These aren’t semantic games. I do realize what the context is, but it’s important to say precisely what you mean. There really are people out there who think that certainty itself is something to be avoided, including a lot of people on this forum. Sometimes certainty is warranted.

  • Thinking Out Loud

    abominable snowbeast: I can agree that certainty on a topic, does not automatically result in a push to dominate. I can’t imagine using the Pythagorean theorum as a tool to dominate anything except a math test. But I don’t understand your comment:Are you saying that certainty is provable truth and everything else is a belief?

  • Christine

    I’m afraid that history does indeed bear out Prof. Crossan’s remarks that the concept of having a monopoly on truth bears the germ (which may be counteracted by other beliefs) of violence with it. I think this is a good time to stress that Christians over the ages have professed belief in “common revelation” – that is revelation given by nature and human wisdom to all people, as versus the special revelation of the prophets and the Christ – so that we ideally should believe that non-Christians can have valid beliefs derived from this common revelation, even if we don’t feel they are as complete as the revelation we cherish. This should give our discussions with others a more temperate cast. Ideally.

  • EMM

    I’m constantly reminding myself and others of something the British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you don’t altogether believe it”. And like Russell, I see skepticism, especially as regards ourselves and the groups to which we belong, as healthy. Put in my own words, “Wisdom is comfortable with ambiguity” And by ambiguity I do not mean to suggest that there is no “truth” or “reality”. Rather it is to suggest that no person or group of persons has a monopoly on “the truth”. What we all have are perspectives on truth and reality. However, when our or our group’s unique perspective is taken as the only legitimate perspective, the darker impulses of human nature usually lead to unspeakable acts.As to “cultural relativism”, it is hard to imagine an area where relativism could be more apt than when applied to cultures. Any suggestion that a particular culture, especially one’s own, has anything but a relative perspective on the truth is surely a “ridiculous philosophical position”.

  • Tonio

    Thinking Out Loud,I don’t understand your point about “The context (being) religious truth, not a fact about your hand or any other random fact.” In fact, I don’t understand what definition you are using for “religious truth.” From my standpoint, people who claim a monopoly on truth seem to treat their truths as facts. They talk as if the existence of God was just as much a fact as their own existence. I’m not saying they’re wrong for believing in God. I’m saying that their definition of fact negates the idea of the individual having a personal religious revelation that conflicts with doctrine.

  • Concerned

    Certain truths/observations are needed to establish the background before discussing religious monopolies. Professor James Somerville has IMHO has such a review of these needed truths/observations posted at: A few excerpts: “The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when.””There is no religion in Heaven. Religion is only the vehicle to get there. It is left at the Gate.”