There are facts and there are opinions. Facts can be verified while opinions can be disputed. That water boils at 100 degrees Celsius under normal temperature and pressure is a fact. Water will boil at that particular temperature whether it is in Hindu India or Muslim Pakistan, Trump’s America or Kim’s Korea. No sane person will bother to question such facts.
If I say that Narendra Modi is the best Prime Minister India has had so far, that’s just an opinion which cannot be verified the way water’s boiling point can be. There are still a lot of Indians who will argue that Nehru was the best Prime Minister India has had. Which other Prime Minister of India possessed his kind of knowledge and intellectual acumen? There are those who pitch for his daughter who after all bifurcated Pakistan into two nations and sent shivers down the spines of both with the nuclear explosions in Pokhran. You can bring in a lot of facts to defend your opinion. Facts are not enough to convince people to change their opinions, however.
The Ganga is a holy river for quite many Indians. The fact is that it is one of the most polluted rivers in India. Facts don’t matter at all when it comes to beliefs. The Ganga’s sanctity is a matter of religious faith. It is not even an opinion; intellectually, religious faith is far inferior to opinions. It is more of a sentiment than anything else. Such sentiments are rooted in what Freud called “the infantile needs” of adult human beings. Religious beliefs belong to the darkest (the most undeveloped) realms of the human mind. These beliefs are supposed to throw some light in those savage realms. That’s their only useful purpose. Instead, people insist on equating beliefs with facts and thus create untold problems for themselves and others.
It is difficult to reason with people who don’t know the difference between facts, opinions and beliefs. Reason is alien to most people. People prefer opinions and beliefs. Opinions and beliefs, particularly the latter, have a dark power which holds a mysterious, supernatural sway over people.
The really dark truth is that most people don’t even have their own opinions and beliefs. As Oscar Wilde said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” People live with borrowed truths: borrowed beliefs and opinions. But they convince themselves that these borrowed things are their own. They guard these borrowed things aggressively precisely because they are borrowed. If they were their own, aggression would be redundant. What better defence is there for your beliefs and opinions than your own convictions? As it is, the only conviction is: My ignorance is better than your knowledge.
For a copy of my poems, God's Love Song, click here.