Something we seldom realize or consider when we take a position on, well, pretty much everything, but especially on matters of politics, culture, and religion is that, to use an old and hackneyed phrase, ‘Perception is Reality”. And human perception depends on many things, including the culture that formed the human mind, the environment we occupy, the current state of human knowledge (that changes over time), the early training and indoctrination of the individual, the genetic code that forms the brain and determines or at least influences the mental capabilities of that brain, and the experiential history of the individual human being. All of these things and many more change sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly, and the general perceptions that guide the life and beliefs of a human being at any past point in time, including the present, is quite specific to that particular time and environment in which the individual lives.

 

For example, there was a time and place when humans observed the travel of the sun across the sky each day and noticed with apprehension that the days were getting shorter, and they were afraid that the supernatural being (s) that controlled the sun were displeased with them, and because of this the days would continue to shorten and eventually the sun would no longer return to their world. But if they appeased this deity with the sacrifice of a virginal female (or perhaps just a goat) at just the right time, then the sun would reverse its decline and the world would be safe for another year. That was their perception of reality and it was true for them because, to the detriment of the virgin or the goat, it worked every year!

 

The current perceptions of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Yazidis, Hindus, Mormons, Scientologists, and many, many more religious groups are actual reality to the “true believers”  because they perceive for whatever reasons that these beliefs are true. And the strength of their belief and the support of other believers makes these beliefs appear to work for them, and thus their perception is their truth and their reality. A great many people have a perception that there is a supernatural world separated into the realms of reward and punishment and that all people that have existed, are existing, and will exist are occupying or will someday occupy one or the other of these worlds depending on whether they have pleased or displeased the deity in charge. This belief is so strong and so embedded in their cultures that this perception of the totality of existence is their functioning reality. Some see no rationale for these beliefs and some have doubts, but for most of humanity, this is their reality.

 

Science of course, bases belief on evidence and analysis, thus what is accepted as true is subject to change as our perception of reality changes. And that flexibility gives science the power to change, for good or ill, the course of human civilization, as it has. True reality is what it is and does not change. Science, however, discerns reality with experimentation, objective observation, and analysis and our understanding of our world and ourselves increases in accuracy as our knowledge expands. By definition, the supernatural is not subject to scientific analysis, thus cannot be examined or defined by the scientific method. Its existence, if it exists, is found only in the vagaries of human perception.

 

So what is the perceived reality of our existence that most humans profess? For the most part it is the belief structure that works for the individual and allows them to be part of a human culture, and many people have and will defend those beliefs to their death and/or to the death of others that do not share their belief structure.  So unless there is a cloaked supernatural entity with a really perverse and extremely complex purpose for creating and manipulating the mass of humanity throughout history and within many varied belief structures; or conversely a plethora of supernatural entities with conflicting purposes; it should be obvious that religion is a human construct.

 

Martin Moe

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Comment by Michael Penn on November 22, 2015 at 10:44am

Wonderfully put, Martin. It took many years for me to see that religion is a human construct. The strange thing is that we all see things at different times. That's because we are not all in the same place at the same time. My religious friends do not see this. They have to have belief cut in stone and even then, they change it while pretending they have changed nothing.

An example would be putting goat or lambs blood on your doorpost so god doesn't kill your first born. Why the doorpost? Is god walking through or would he fly? Why would he have to come to your door to get into your house? These issues aside, many might say it worked if their first born did not die.

Modern believers just say that god doesn't do that any more. Exactly my point. God seems to do only that which people decided he should do. God changes as people change.

Comment by Gerald Payne on November 20, 2015 at 2:47pm

The faith part ensnares the multitude. Nobody can rationally argue against faith because of its very irrationality.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on November 20, 2015 at 10:11am

Both read the Bible day and night

But you see black where I see white

--William Blake

This has always been a painfully interesting and frightening issue. We're faced with the same dilemma in politics - the power to manipulate perception is everything and any objective reality beyond perception is increasingly irrelevant. For my money it all goes back to Robert Anton Wilson's contention that Whatever you believe imprisons you.

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