How do we know what’s real and what isn’t?

Wooff asks: We live in a world where everything is always constantly moving. But there are times we just sit and think about life and everything around it. I’ve recently been reading different things. And they’ve got me thinking. My question can’t really be defined in one line. The thing is, how do we know that religion is real, and that the government wasn’t just created by some people for their own benefit? Where’s the proof of anything? I am a fairly religious person and I do believe in my religion, but how can we know that religion isn’t just fake? That it wasn’t just created for reassurance? How can anything be real? What if everything we’ve come to know about it is a lie? Yes I do see God’s miracles everyday. And that should be enough. But I am allowed to ask this: Religion, God, Government. Anything. Are they real or are they man made?

Hi Wooff –

Your question is really the basis of an enormous amount of the greatest thought humans have achieved over time. From the most basic question – is anything real, and how can we know for sure – to the natures of governments and religions. Most of these questions are unanswerable. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to take a bite at them (especially as I can get away with more in my answers than a human can, since I have less brain!).

So let me start with one bit of brilliance. A great philosopher named Rene Descartes (who you probably know from school, as he invented a lot of what’s used for modern Geometry) asked that question about reality, and came up with an amazing answer – “I think, therefore

I am.” In other words, he’s saying that the fact he’s thinking means something is going on, and that he’s the one doing it, so he must, therefore, exist.

I don’t think anyone’s ever outdone that simple argument. But when you get past that to ask who you are, or what the nature of your existence is, you’re going to have to check up with a lot of other geniuses like Plato and Aristotle – and of course every religion – to see what they say and what you think of each thought.

Now as for your question about whether religion and government are man-made, I’m going to stick my nose out and say… Yes. But that that doesn’t mean they’re not God-made too.

Think about it: Religion is just the way that humans relate to what they believe in. Whatever the true nature of God (or whatever you wish to call anything bigger than our reality) is, it doesn’t have a “religion” about itself – it doesn’t have to, it just knows who or what it is! Religion itself is fully human. However you believe the words came to them, humans wrote The Bible, The Koran, The Bhagavad-Gita, and all the other great holy texts.

Today, we have so many religions, even within the general umbrellas of specific religions. A Jew can be Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, or many other possibilities. Christians have fought for years over whether Protestants or Catholics had the right concept. And today, as we see so sadly, many Muslims are fighting horrifically now over different views of Islam. It would be very hard to argue that one and only one of these beliefs was made by God, while all the others were human-made imitations. Rather, I’d argue that all religions are how humans choose to handle the enormity of what they believe.

Now when it comes to governments, I’d say it’s even clearer. Although many governments, like religions, say they’re the only true way God wants them to be, I don’t know of any that don’t admit that their structure and rules have been created by people over time (No government today is exactly like any were 3000 years ago!).

And you asked if governments were “just created by some people for their own benefit?” I’d say sure, definitely. But so were cars and houses and cellphones. Being created for the people’s own benefit doesn’t make a government bad. (Though serving itself at the expense of the people it governs is not a very healthy way for a government to act – as history has shown time and time again)

I think the important thing, here, Wooff, is to see the difference between humans saying they’re doing the will of God, to them pretending a god has done it himself. For example, the Pope and the Dalai Lama both are positions in their religions that are believed to have an intimate understanding of the will of God. But it’s those humans who do the actions.

But that then brings us to the question you don’t exactly ask, which is whether God himself/itself is a man-made concept. And that one I’m not going to go anywhere near. There are so many arguments on that, and this doggy brain isn’t strong enough to handle them.

But I will say this – and it seems you and I have this in common. I do see Miracles every day. I am in absolute awe of the magic around me. I see such beauty – and, yes horror and awfulness – in this world. And every day, when I stick my head out the door and take a big sniff of it, I am so grateful for it and the ability to experience it.

And who am I grateful to?

That question, my dear friend, I will leave to you humans!



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