Certain theistic stories seem to have some problems of scope. Melville, in his “Moby Dick” (ch.10) presents one of them.
“What is worship? –to do the will of God- that is worship. And what is the will of God? –to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me – that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.”
Some theistic stories seem to have this problematic principle, also known as “The Golden Rule”, according to which one should do onto others what one wants them to do upon oneself. The sheer existence of different, incompatible, theistic stories, adds another problematic element: not everyone, even among theists, share the same story. But that is not all, there’s a third problematic element: theistic stories tend to be universal in scope. They intend to be true of everything everywhere.
These three elements, golden rule, incompatible theistic stories, and universality, get theists into trouble. The latter makes it so that no other, incompatible, story can be true. This, in turn, makes it desirable (when not necessary) to evangelize the mislead believers without, of course, misleading yourself. This evangelical obligation, however, conflicts with the golden rule. It seems as if it is inherent to the evangelical purposes that believers are not created equal: some are correct and some are mistaken. How can we fix these theistic stories?
There is no (non-evangelical nor belligerent) way of getting rid of other, incompatible, theistic stories. So the options are: either to reject the golden rule, or to reject the universality of the story. Rejecting the golden rule seems inconvenient. It is, argumentatively speaking, an open door to theistic cleansing and God’s perversity. If I should not do onto others what I want them to do upon me (i.e., if we are not ‘theologically’ on the same standing) why not just impose my story upon him? If all humans do not deserve the same treatment (i.e., golden rule is off), why did God created the low-profile ones to begin with? Is she perverse? Is she weak? I she dumb? So let’s not reject the Golden Rule either.
What about the universality of the story? Suppose these theistic stories do not pretend to be true in an absolute way. Suppose they are more, say, “plural”. Perhaps they are true about just a chunk of things. Perhaps they are true about everything, but just relative to some believers (e.g., story 1 is true about everything relative to S1, story 2 is true about everything relative to S2, and so on). Would that work? This would solve Melville’s problem. There is no more need to evangelize Queequeg, since my story is not true relative to him. The golden rule still applies to everyone, within the domain of my story. I should not get rid of their stories either, because my rules don’t apply for them. This looks nice. It’s like some contemporary governmental models for multicultural societies: no one talks to each other, so they coexist happily.
There is one minor problem though: this does not look like a theistic story anymore. If the story is not universal in scope, then so is God. Her omni-powers are also relative to some believers. Even worse, her existence is relative to some believers. What kind of theistic story is that where the Creator depends on the creature for its existence?
There must be another way out for these theistic stories: the ones holding the Golden Rule and pretending to be true about everything, everywhere. Otherwise, they all turn out to be self-defeating by inviting you to stop believing them and start believing some other, incompatible, theistic story. I confess I don’t know much where one can go!