I was disturbed by the letter of R.H. van Fossen Jr. ’63 (Feb. 11), with its implied claims to universal Truth. I should, in the interest of full disclosure, state that I am a secular humanist concerned with maintaining religious values but without supernatural claims.
As distinct from scientific truth, religious ideas are validated by faith, which has been described by Karen Armstrong (A History of God) as “a leap in the dark toward a reality that had to be taken on trust.” Faith is not dependent on the light of reason, but on the trust of the faithful person that what he perceives and feels is true and represents reality. The act of validation by faith is an individual thing, separate and different from person to person. The truth of a religious idea resides within the individual; it has no force or meaning to others whose faith leads them elsewhere.
Thus no one can support a claim of universal religious Truth. His truth is Truth to him and to those adherents whom he has convinced, but not to the adherent of another faith. All religions are not necessarily equally true, but we humans do not have the means to distinguish the True from all the rest.
For these reasons we have in this country a separation of church and state, and guarantees of freedom of conscience in our Constitution. And, for me and for these reasons, a policy at Princeton of encouraging religious diversity seems a wise one. Students need to be exposed to a variety of religious ideas and faiths. And also for these reasons, responding to the letter of John Brittain ’59 in the same issue, the policy of using the Chapel for multicultural or multifaith events, rather than limiting it strictly to Christian celebrations, seems also wise to me.