That famous statement of Soren Kierkegaard’s is often misinterpreted. He’s not saying that truth is relative. He’s saying that the kinds of truths that are worth living and dying for are truths that can only be apprehended by the person, not objectively, by the disinterested intellect. The passage below, from a fascinating account by a woman who gave up atheism for Catholicism, illustrates SK’s point. The woman was unable to understand Catholic Christianity until she undertook an experiment to live as if she believed it was true. And then things began to be revealed to her. Let me be clear: my point in bringing this up is not to argue for Christianity or for Roman Catholicism, but to show what “truth is subjectivity” means, and why it’s usually futile to try to approach faith through reason alone. Excerpt:
My feelings of frustration and resentment towards God reached a head. And then, just at the right time, I happened to come across a quote from C.S. Lewis in which he pointed out:
[God] shows much more of Himself to some people than to others — not because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one.
Of course. I’d been walking around talking trash, watching TV shows that portrayed all types of nastiness, indulging in selfish behavior…and yet wondering why I couldn’t feel the presence of the source of all goodness. I realized that, if I were serious about figuring out if God exists or not, it could not be an entirely intellectual exercise. I had to be willing to change.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready to sign up for that for the long haul, but I decided to give it a shot: I committed to go a month living according to the Catholic moral code. I bought a copy of the Catholic Catechism, a summary of the Church’s teachings, and studied it carefully, living my life according to what it taught, even in the cases where I wasn’t sure the Church was right.
My goal with the experiment had been to discover the presence of God; instead, I discovered myself — the real me. I had thought that cynicism, judgmentalness, and irritability were just parts of who I was, but I realized that there was a purer, better version of myself buried underneath all that filth — what the Church would call sins — that I had never before encountered.
I found that the rules of the Church, that I had once perceived to be a set of confining laws, were rules of love; the defined the boundaries between what is love and what is not. It had changed me, my life, and my marriage for the better. I may not have experienced God, but, by following the teachings of the Church that was supposedly founded by him, I had experienced real love.