- “Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you’re doing. You only know what you’re doing if you have access to the truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.” Yale professor Sean Illing
- “Truth will make you free” Jesus (John 8:32)
- “There is a new barbarism. This barbarism has embraced a new pagan mentality . . . not simply rejecting the legacy of the West, but embracing a new pagan mentality where there is no fixed truth.” Carl F. H. Henry, in his book Twilight of a Great Civilization
Some people don’t think that truth is that important. Relativism, emotions and following what feels good controls the decisions of many. But the science of epigenetics is showing that in almost every choice in life, truth matters, not just for you and your future, but for the next 3-4 generations or more. Sometimes our choices have minor consequences, sometimes our choices determine success and failure in various areas of life. Sometimes they can be a matter of life and death.
Dan Osman is one of a handful of athletes who lived at the edge of the most extreme sports, including free solo rock climbing and rope free-flying in which you free fall for hundreds of feet and then are caught by a safety rope. Dan invented an intricate network of ropes, pulleys, and anchors of ropes to keep him alive. In Yosemite, he set the world record, over 1000 feet. Dan said,
“It’s not a death wish. It’s a life wish.” and “Soloing is just a game…It’s a serious one, but it’s a game. The price of messing up is your life, so you better know what you’re doing.” Dan Osman His girlfriend says, “For him, risking his life, was life.”
Extreme sports gave him a thrill that made him feel most alive. But he was ordered to take down the whole system by Yosemite (and spent 2 weeks in jail for unpaid traffic tickets and driving on a suspended license which was anguish to a free spirit like him). Soon after that he went back to his creative system of ropes, but decided to try a new launch angle and added more rope than he ever had before. But he didn’t realize the truth that changing his jump angle would ultimately place an unbearable load on one of the knots that connected the ropes of his jump line.
One of his friends, Perleman, told him…’You’ve gone far enough, pushed it probably farther than it should be pushed. “And Dan agreed. He said, ‘You know, you’re right. My guardian angels need a break anyway. They’ve been working overtime for me.’” But then he decided to do just one more jump. Perleman was really skeptical of the new setup and kept saying, ‘I don’t think so, Dano, I don’t like this.'”
But without careful testing as he had done before, Dan went for a record jump of nearly 1,300 feet, eager to set a new record. Tragically, his miscalculation caused the main rope to cross itself, it came apart at a knot, severed on his way down and he fell to his death.
Dan’s misunderstanding about the truth of rope safety in this case meant his life. While you may not be a rock climber or hurling yourself off cliffs, truth is a life and death matter for you in many areas as well, and also influences all kinds of areas of your life and how well you will do. In essence, how much you achieve, how much success you have, how much happiness you experience and how much pain you avoid, how much good you do and how much suffering you can stop, are all decided by how much truth you learn and follow.
SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE SAY TRUTH IS MOST IMPORTANT IN LIFE
This is why Jesus said,
“Truth will set you free.” John 8:32.
Whether you believe in Jesus or not, many wise thinkers from many cultures and all levels of society have said that truth is crucial for freedom and almost everything else good in life. If you are not a Christian, you don’t have to think of the references in this article as inspired. Just consider that they might have some wisdom in them, especially when corroborated by other sources, since in the Bible, academia and news, when several independent sources say the same thing, that’s very good evidence it is true. Many wise thinkers from many cultures and all levels of society have agreed that truth is extremely important. In ancient times, Plato said:
“Truth is the beginning of every good thing, both to Gods and men; and he who would be blessed and happy, should be from the first a partaker of the truth,..he is not to be trusted who loves voluntary falsehood, and he who loves involuntary falsehood is a fool….the excessive love of self is in reality the source to each man of all offences.”Laws by Plato, Book V classics.mit.edu/Plato/laws.5.v.html
On the other side of the world, Confucius said:
“The object of the superior man is truth.” Confucius (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.) and
“The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty come upon him.” Confucius (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)
In modern times, many of our best minds have also said that truth is crucial. One of the most eloquent quotes (and my favorite) is by Yale professor Sean Illing who said,
“Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you’re doing. You only know what you’re doing if you have access to the truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.”
A famous agnostic scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson says,
“The less connected you are to what is objectively true, the less likely [it is that] you will be able to make decisions that will benefit your life, the life of your family and even civilization itself.”
Julian Assange, a journalist who started wikileaks, a site where government whistleblowers can send information about corruption and crimes of governments and corporations, in order to try to reduce/stop them, says:
“You have to start with truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision making that is based on lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.” Julian Assange
You may not be Christian, but everyone who loves rational thought has to love the quotes above and this quote by Christian evangelist Ravi Zaccharias, a former Hindu and atheist, who says,
“The single most important question any human being can ask is the question, ‘What is truth?’. Truth is the most valuable thing in the world.”
Many of the wisest and people who have made some of the most important contributions in history say that truth is the most importance knowledge on earth.
DEFINITION OF TRUTH
The Christian professor Dr. Paul Copan has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Marquette University, is chair of philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University and has written a book on truth called “True for You but Not for Me”. He says:
“Truth is a match up with reality…Reality makes something true. To say the earth is flat or the moon is made of green cheese is false. Why? Because it doesn’t match up with reality.”https://www.prageru.com/video/true-for-you-but-not-for-me/
Similarly, dictionaries define truth like this:
“That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality”
Jesus didn’t speak like a dictionary, but time after time, God directly or through prophets and apostles reasoned to find truth based on facts of reality. Just 2 of a myriad of examples are:
- “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Psalm 34:8
- “If you see me doing the beautiful works of God upon the earth, then you should at least believe the evidence of the miracles, even if you don’t believe my words!” John 10:38 (TPT)
Jesus was saying that truth lines up with reality. Many other wise people from numerous cultures have said the same thing.
- “Truth is exact correspondence with reality.” Paramahansa Yogananda, Indian Guru
- Truth is “what corresponds in the mind to what is outside it.” Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Islamic scientist/philosopher
- “To speak the truth is to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not.” Aristotle
- “Truth is synonymous with reality.” Dr. Kim Lee Suk (pioneering cochlear surgeon on Korea) and Bryan Bissell
I define truth simply this way: Truth is reality or any accurate description of reality, visible or invisible, positive or negative, comfortable or uncomfortable, natural or supernatural, cultural or emotional, contradictory or non-contradictory and more.
If truth is not defined as accurate descriptions of reality, considering every person’s senses and experiences as 1 piece of evidence, there are serious consequences:
A) “TRUTH” IS DETACHED FROM REALITY, BECOMES TRIVIAL OR EVEN HARMFUL
If truth is not accurate descriptions of reality, then truth is trivial useless knowledge at best, but at worst it can be very harmful. If our senses are not accurate descriptions of reality, we won’t be able to even have confidence that we can drive to work safely, to avoid danger or do hardly anything else in life. We use this definition of truth constantly to stay alive every day.
B) HOW DO YOU CHANGE ANYONE’S MIND TO FOLLOW TRUTH?
If truth has no connection to reality, then what principles and methods will you use to change anyone’s mind to follow any kind of truth, including what you think is most important? How will you show that truth is important? People basically revert to either just following emotions, traditions, what current society says, trying to “think really hard” and then it must be right as some ancient Greeks did, or similar things.
If there is no connection between reality and truth, then most people drift into one of these ways to persuade others:
1) EMOTIONAL PERSUASION: Many fall into trying to persuade others by just following feelings and flattering others to get them to do what they want.
2) USE FALLACIES: attack/insult the messenger (instead of dealing with the evidence that should move them to another position),
3) USE PROPAGANDA: Many will start using manipulative propaganda. People will use media, and other methods of manipulation to control the thoughts of others.
4) USE ABUSE: People will make accusations of lying (sometimes true), use various kinds of physical, mental, verbal abuse, silent treatment, etc.
5) FORCE: In extreme cases, people will use financial exploitation and economic warfare, violence, crime, gangsters, terrorism and war to make others change their views.
C) NO NEED TO CHANGE ANY WORLDVIEWS, HABITS OR DECISIONS
If truth is not connected to reality, then why should anyone change their lives or habits to follow any idea of truth? If “truths” are not connected to reality, they are worthless, just something for pointy head, ivory tower nerds to philosophize about as a type of mental gymnastics.
But if truth is accurate descriptions of reality, then the pragmatic truth is one of the ultimate ways to determine truth precisely because it has so much of an impact on real lives.
WHY TRUTH IS SO CRUCIAL
Why is knowing truth so important specifically? Here are a few examples to illustrate why many wise people have said that truth is the most valuable thing to know in life.
1) HEALTH/ENVIRONMENT: Emperor Qin Shi Huang dreamed of living for ever (as well as ultimate power to rule the universe). So he dispatched a minister overseas to find the elixir of eternal life, but the minister never returned.
He had heard of ancient kings and sages living 10,000 years or more by ingesting cinnabar (mercury sulfide). So because his doctors thought this was the true way to everlasting life…or at least a far longer one, he started drinking wine sweetened with honey and laced with mercury. But the consequence of this was that he not only did not achieve eternal life or a long life, he died decades younger than he could otherwise have lived.
Why did he die so early? He had had very wrong beliefs about reality. His views were not based on and did not align with truth, he made very wrong decisions and it cost him his life. This illustrates something crucial. Truth matters, a lot. Making mistakes with or ignoring truth can be lethal at all levels of society.
But lest you think this was just some problem in Asia, when Lewis and Clark were traveling around America making their map, one of the most renowned doctors in America was Benjamin Rush (he had also been a US surgeon general for the government). He gave them the best medical instructions and pills he knew about for illnesses they would encounter on their journey. What medical advice did this brilliant doctor give?
“Chief among these instructions [of Dr. Benjamin Rush] was the technique of bloodletting, which…was the favorite medical treatment for numerous ailments. Lewis also purchased a large supply of Rush’s Pills, which consisted of a powerful combination of mercury, chlorine, calomel, and jalap” [up to 50% of these pills was mercury]
Medicine has progressed much since then. Scientists say it adds about 7 years to people’s lives. But still, more people die from medications and prescriptions from doctors in America than die from cocaine and other drugs every year. Johns Hopkins patient safety experts studied an 8 year period and found that medical errors are the third leading cause of death:
“Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S… translates to 9.5 percent of all deaths each year in the U.S.” 
If a virus threatens a nation, should its leader and medical establishment inform the public and shut down businesses and schools to keep people safe, let people continue living as usual, tell people there is no serious problem to avoid panicking or what? Should they follow principles from biblical science on combatting sicknesses, materialistic science, Koranic science or a combination?
Then there’s the environment. Should we let businesses chase profit without any concern for keeping the environment clean or place restrictions on them? At present, science says that pollution kills ~13 million people per year, the 3rd biggest killer on earth (the top killer is bad health habits which kill ~41 million people per year). And what about recycling, our diet and many other individual choices and their effects on the environment?
Making choices based on truth vs falsehoods in the health and environment areas literally mean life and death for tens of millions of people every year.
2) SAFETY IN DANGER: When a hurricane, tornado, or pandemic, threatens us, should we stay home, run to a shelter or flee? If a criminal threatens our lives or tries to abuse us, what is the best way to react? Knowing the truth in these situations can mean the difference between life and death. Many have died due to wrong decisions at these times.
3) EDUCATION: Is education supposed to be about getting skills for the best career, learning to distinguish between truth and deceptions clearly, learning about God and eternal life or claims of materialism, memorizing dry facts or learning by doing, learning subjects in isolation or integrating cross-curricular subjects, learning how to establish a good family, learning about capitalism and/or communism and how money works, learning to control and manipulate people, materialist ideas, supernatural ideas or what combination of these?
Do you agree or disagree with these thinkers? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:
“To save man from the morass of propaganda…is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically…We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda…A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically.”
Catherine Liu, a professor at the University of California, speaks fairly bluntly about public education.
“The very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.”
Check out these documentaries for a very insightful and thought provoking ideas on education:
Media on the Brain Mini Seminar by Scott Ritsema (Belt of Truth Ministries):
Schooling the World (discusses how materialistic education is fracturing communities and damaging/ruining traditional societies, and how city life exploits many people.)
4) ECONOMICS: Will people live better if governments protect or ignore land rights, if they charge high or low taxes, if they give much money to the rich for no work done or to the poor (see 1 Kings 4:25, Ez. 47:21-3, Neh. 5, Prov. 22:16)? Is being wealthy the source of most happiness in life and marriage as some have believed, or is spending time making family relationships strong a better way to happiness AND financial security? Are you really free if you are in debt? If you have more money than you need, should you donate it to people who are poor, to religious aid organizations, to the government, to secular aid organizations, to education or what proportion of these?
Greed and economic injustice are factors in at least 18 million deaths every year. So truth matters and means the difference between life and death for millions in this topic as well.
5) JUSTICE: Are crime, racism, rape, abuse and slavery widespread problems that we should focus many resources on stopping or just minor incidentals that don’t do much harm?
How should courts decide custody rights when parents are in conflict? Should one parent who gives testimony and evidence of abuse and child endangerment by another parent be judged as just trying to alienate the other parent from the child and lose custody cases as has happened in some cases (https://stopabusecampaign.org/2019/12/24/what-judges-dont-know-hurts-children/)?
When riots happen, should we blame the rioters or blame the cruelties, crimes, and sometimes murders that motivated the riots or both? Was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. right when he said,
“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. [America] has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met…large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity…Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” https://time.com/3838515/baltimore-riots-language-unheard-quote/
When something is broken or destroyed or work is done badly, or someone is hurt or a crime is done, who should be blamed, whether it’s children or at work or school or in churches or in governments or court? When my brother managed a house, he found some damage in it. Should he blame the renter or the painting crew? Blaming the wrong person or factor will be unfair, can damage relationships and can also enable many more problems or injustices in the future.
So getting the truth right is crucial for integrity and justice and thriving communities where people believe that life is basically fair, and thus they have a reason to work diligently.
6) WAR AND PEACE: Those who have started or promoted most wars have said that they were engaging in them for freedom, or at times to make their country great. But were those wars always fought for freedom, or was greed and desires for more power the real factors or bigger factors? Is a person or country really great when they can control others, or is being peaceful and pacifist a better way to greatness? And what is the best way to achieve peace long term? Is violence the best way, or pacifism, or some combination of those?
Truth matters a lot and involves life and death for hundreds of thousands of people and stability or damage to many more lives in this topic.
7) LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONAL TRUTH: What is the best way to have a happy marriage and raise successful, stable children that contribute to a thriving society? Are there emotional truths? Can intuition help us find truth? Truth matters enormously here as in all other fields.
How do you choose the right person to date or marry? A LOT of people make serious mistakes in this area. One pastor named Carl Byrd said it this way:
“You thought that car was good, but it turned out to be a lemon.
You thought it was a marriage made in heaven, but it turned into nightmare on elm street.
You thought he was tall, dark and handsome, but he turned into humpty dumpty.
You thought she looked good with hourglass figure, but she was selfish.”
Gary Chapman has written extensively about the discovery of ~5 major love languages (and many dialects within those languages). Most people have 2-3 love languages and don’t feel loved unless we speak in their specific language. So to have a happy marriage, we need to discover the truth about what love language makes them feel loved and emotionally satisfied.
What about intuition? Can emotions/intuition help us find certain truths? Do they involve logic at all? Harvard reports:
“In recent years, psychologists and behavioral economists have shown that our emotional decisions are neither irrational nor irresponsible. In fact, we now understand that our unconscious decisions follow a logic of their own. They are based on a deeply empirical mental processing system that is capable of effortlessly processing millions of bits of data without getting overwhelmed. Our conscious mind, on the other hand, has a strict bottleneck, because it can only process three or four new pieces of information at a time due to the limitations of our working memory.”
Something that people don’t always recognize as truth is our emotions. But they can be extremely important aspects of truth. Just ask a child or a spouse who has been abused.
Another emotional truth is that narcissism is a very severe kind of emotional abuse that does a lot of damage. Some psychologists say it is the most damaging form of abuse, because narcissists have no genuine concern for those they abuse. They only seek to use them as tools. This is one reason why the Bible and wise people throughout history have said controlling our emotions is really important. Emotions can be positive and inspire much good. But they can also be mistaken and do much harm. We have to test each one to see if it does good (1 Thess. 5:21).
8) KNOWING TRUTH HELPS YOU IDENTIFY WHERE YOU ARE IGNORANT.
Some researchers have identified something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. This refers to people who think they are smart in some area, but they are actually ignorant. The researchers found that:
“People measurably poor at logical reasoning, grammar, financial knowledge, math, emotional intelligence, running medical lab tests, and chess all tend to rate their expertise almost as favorably as actual experts do.” https://www.ted.com/talks/david_dunning_why_incompetent_people_think_they_re_amazing/
Many people ranging from atheists to theists, conservatives to liberals, communists to capitalists often think they are much smarter than they are in various fields. And the consequences can be quite destructive or deadly on this earth as well as for eternity.
If you think you are very smart in an area where you actually aren’t, you will almost certainly not be willing to listen to others who are actually highly trained in that area. You will not grow closer to truth and will be much easier to exploit or enslave in various ways.
Thinking you are wise in some area when you are actually ignorant, can be extremely harmful in many ways. For example, there are many cases where untrained people think they are wise enough to do medical surgeries. This happens especially in the tragic abuse of female genital mutilation, but also in other areas. And there are tragic consequences including deaths.
9) MANY OTHER TOPICS: Truth matters in a myriad of questions and topics, pretty much everything, including these.
Why do people die? Is it because of problems with the 4 humors or too much blood that needs to be purged as the Greeks thought or because of not following health habits of the Bible or genetics? Why do we get various diseases? Is it nature or nurture or some of both? How much of a role are our daily habits? Can we do anything about it?
What is freedom and how many types are there? Is the best freedom following wise principles to reach our highest potential and experience the most success and happiness in life (scholars call this positive freedom) or is it just doing what we feel like (scholars call this negative freedom)?
depression/suicidal feelings: because of mental problems, lack of healthy community, using drugs, toxic chemicals in your environment, genetics/ethnic background or what?
When we look at worldviews, political systems, economic systems, should we judge their value based on those who follow their principles, or those who betray them for greed, pride, tradition, popular ideas in society, etc.?
Is terrorism caused by Islam as most western media says, by
invasions of western nations’ armies as many Middle Eastern nations say, by greed/corporations
embezzling resources as many say or a combination of those? Will drone strikes
increase or reduce terrorism?
When we see injustice, how should we stop it? Should we be passive, use aggressive peaceful protests, pray and meditate, use violence or go to war or doing nothing?
Are our buying choices just innocuous or can they sometimes support the poisoning of the environment, slavery, violence or wars?
How do we judge risks? Some researchers say we often do it
wrongly, not based on truth.
“When you encounter a potential risk, your brain does a quick search for past experiences with it. If it can easily pull up multiple alarming memories, then your brain concludes the danger is high. But it often fails to assess whether those memories are truly representative….The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality,” Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote in a 2011 book. “Our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.” In extreme cases, this can lead to a “crowding-out effect,” Dr. Bostrom said, as our emotional impulses overwhelm our cognitive faculties.
What is the correct process to get visas and passports to visit, study or live in other countries?
What health habits will help our brains function best for high grades, best creativity, etc.?
What kind of actions are abuse? When a mother claims that a father is abusing and endangering a child, is she speaking the truth or just trying to alienate the child from the father (many judges have considered claims of harm from mothers to be just efforts to alienate the child and father, and have sent children back to abusive fathers..and in some cases the children have died)
When you are working on construction or remodeling, how important is it to bring and use the right tools for the job?
Should we back up our work on the computer in other locations or not? When you are syncing files between a computer and phone, how do you avoid erasing new information that you just entered?
Are critics always right? Should we test their claims as we test those of others?
Is your nations war over? One Japanese soldier kept fighting after WW2 was over for ~30 years.
How often should we get health and dental checks? If we delay, diseases can get much worse and might cause loss or even death.
10) ETERNAL LIFE: Is eternal life something we can really experience and will it really be a life of ultimate happiness, thrills and exploring the universe, or is this just a made up story? Does belief in eternal life have importance for how we live here on earth?
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:26
What other areas does knowing truth matter? I’m sure you can think of many more.
Whether it’s raising a child or growing a garden, the best strategies to win a computer game or sports game, resolving conflicts in relationships or among nations, decisions about giving government money to the rich or the poor and which will bring the best lives for many, wiring a house properly, how to act most effectively against injustice, truth is incredibly important. In a few cases it of smaller importance, as in which flavor of ice cream will taste best. In many cases it has long range effects on individual success. Many choices affect the rise and fall of nations, and they can also have live and death consequences for large numbers of people.
Many wise sources tell us that our choices every day matter a great deal, especially depending on whether they are based on truth or not. The Bible tells us that the choices we make have significant and sometimes critical effects on our own future as well as that of at least the next 3-4 generations and sometimes more, but that they can be reversed if we or others make different choices (Exodus 20:5; 34:6,7, Numbers 14:18, Ezekiel 18:20, Leviticus 26:40-42, 1 Chron. 7:14). Scientists studying epigenetics tells us that “everything we do—everything we eat or smoke—can affect our gene expression and that of future generations…Epigenetics tells us that little things in life can have an effect of great magnitude.”  A respected Christian writer, Ellen White tells us similarly “Every act of life, however small, has its bearing for good or for evil.” (Patriarchs and Prophets p. 158).
The most important kind of truth is wisdom, truths that have significant effects on lives at all levels, from individual to national to worldwide. This is why the Bible and most religions say things like this:
“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” Proverbs 23:23
In part 2, we’ll look at some objective foundational principles to start our search for truth.
 Illing. Sean. “How fascism works.” Dec 15, 2018.
 Zacharias, Ravi. “Is Correspondence & Coherence Reality Necessary Ravi.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CUOCVmkv2g.
 **Encyclopedia of the Lewis and Clark Expedition p. 233, https://books.google.com/books?id=8vYA0zDFy_IC.
 **“Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the
 King, Martin Luther, Jr. “The Purpose of Education.” Maroon Tiger. 1947. www.drmartinlutherkingjr.com/thepurposeofeducation.htm.