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.