Pamphlet 40: ‘Quaker Understandings of Truth’, Tony Philpott, Alan York, Hugh Rock, Stephen Cox, 2018

This pamphlet contains four of the five talks given at the 2018 QUG annual conference (see Pamphlet No. 41 for the fifth). The conference explored Quaker understandings of truth in religion, for the individual Quaker, and in the media.

Tony Philpott tackles the difficult question of how we determine or discern the truth. Truth itself is problematic because we use the term to refer to many different types of truth; this is further complicated by ‘a filter, or fog, between the truth and the person seeking it’ that results from the biasing effects of our socio-cultural environment and the inbuilt distortions of our human thinking and perception.

Alan York looks at the apparent clash between scientific and religious ‘truths’, arguing that it is inappropriate to use scientific language and logic when talking about spiritual experiences because the physical world of science is essentially different from the spiritual world of religion/mysticism. He goes on to consider what a language of spirituality might look like.

Hugh Rock uses the example of how the notion of universalism has been suppressed within the Christian Church, over the centuries, to show how truth in religion can be distorted and manipulated to fit into the preconceived ideas and purposes of powerful groups of people.

Stephen Cox, who has held senior posts in communications for a number of national organisations, writes about truth in the media and the use of mistruths to mislead and manipulate us. He says “If you are not worried about truth in politics and the media, you are not paying attention” and he goes on to illustrate very persuasively why we need to be concerned and vigilant when we use the media.

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