Monday, April 3, 2017

How real is reality?

Our perception constitutes most of our realities.  That’s why one man’s food is another’s anathema.  What is divine for me may be profane for you and vice versa. 

In Dan Brown’s most controversial novel, The Da Vinci Code, Langdon tells Sophie, “[E]very faith in the world is based on fabrications.  That is the definition of faith – acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove.” [Italics in the original]

We take a lot of things on faith.  When it comes to religion, faith is all that matters.  And faith necessarily transmogrifies reality.  Faith can make an animal more sacred than your neighbour whom you may kill in order to safeguard the sacredness of the animal. 

The sacred animal, like anything else in religion, is a metaphor.  “Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school,” explains Langdon.  “Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible.”

We need metaphors to deal with life.  To make life less unbearable and more meaningful.  God makes it much easier to accept our pains.  We endure it for his sake.  We believe God has a specific plan while giving us the pains.  We believe God will reward us somewhere some time for our endurance of the pains. 

Thus religions with their gods serve very practical purposes in life. Metaphors, untrue as they are, enable millions of people to cope with life and be better people.  Should historians and scientists take away the people’s consolations by revealing the falsehood of their beliefs?  Langdon asks Sophie. 

Should we then encourage people to embrace their falsehoods as realities?  Sophie asks.  Their reality is no more false than “that of a mathematical cryptographer who believes in the imaginary number ‘i’ because it helps her break codes,” teases Langdon.  Sophie is a cryptographer.

How real is the mathematical ‘i’ though it helps in a lot of mathematical calculations and the fabrication of real technology?  Religious allegory is an integral part of most people’s reality though the allegory itself is as false as the virgin birth of gods or other such myths.

The problem, however, is when we insist on others accepting our metaphors and allegories as their truths too.  This creates strife.  Other people have their own metaphors and allegories which may be totally opposed to our own.  Our metaphors won’t work for them just as theirs won’t work for us in dealing with life’s pains.  That is why not all cows are holy. 


  1. In mathematics one could take any x, y, a,, M, etc. It has no fixed value.They are just assumptions. So is religious assumptions. They appear as different for different persons. In our culture there is a belief of blind obedience which made the situation worst. Fathers insisted that however old his son he must blindly obey. It doesn't matter if he is 50 or 15. The same situation is being created by religious leaders. No belief is true. So why do they insist on certain belief or else they must have them proved

    1. One of the very practical uses of religion is subordination of people. But as we grow older and more mature as well as knowledgeable, it is our duty to see how much subordination is advisable. There are beasts among men whom religions seem to tame. But there are more beasts whose bestiality is supported by religions too, I agree.

  2. Iota is as real as a simple periodicity in sine curve, as allegorical as a circle with no sense of direction and as absurd as the concept of faith in an intangible figure. Some cows will never be holy as long as it pays significant moolah of votes to some rakshaks.

    1. Reality and allegory make up the complexity of human life. Ultimately the motives of important actors matter. Right now there are too many vicious motives governing the country's politics.


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