Religion and Reality Deficit

In Featured, Reasoned Living by Dave Gaddis

I assert that there can be only one Absolute Reality or Truth. Most of humanity’s thinking regarding Absolute Reality has come through it’s religious doctrines, which purport to have a divine origin. If there is only one Truth, especially a god-given one, then why are there so many different explanations for the same aspects of existence? Consider this circle to represent Absolute Reality. It encompasses all that has, does, or will ever exists.

AR-Circle

Let’s refer to the extent of our sense experience as our Sense Horizon. We have already discussed the enormous shortfalls in our senses along with the wide variations in sense perceptions across species, which poses the first shortfall in our understanding of Absolute Reality. The second shortfall stems from the fact that no two species and no two people share the exact same experience of Absolute Reality. For the purposes of this article, though, let us assume that our sense-driven experience of Absolute Reality is a close enough approximation within our own sense limitations.

circle-sense-horizon

The third shortfall in our understanding of Absolute Reality is the enormous delta between our Sense Horizon and Absolute Reality, which I refer to as our Reality Deficit. This is where the greatest divergence among human thinking arises.

circle-reality-deficit

Religion has historically dominated humanity’s attempts to mitigate our Reality Deficit. Religions are deeply rooted in culture and include highly divergent creation myths, moral codes, and afterlife claims. Although we are a long way from consensus, a growing plurality is turning toward science and reason as the best tools for shrinking the Reality Deficit. We need two additional horizons to complete our model.

full-ar-circle

The Science Horizon represents the extent of our knowledge of Absolute Reality and includes the use of technology to enhance our senses. The Reason Horizon extends just a bit beyond the Science Horizon because reason leads to hypotheses which are then proved or disproved through scientific examination. It was years, for example, between the time Einstein published his paper on relativity and when it was experimentally observed.

While science can dispel creation myths and examine whether or not an afterlife is even possible, it plays a more limited role in morality. As science chips away at material errors in religious doctrine, religious leaders increasingly turn to the moral aspect of their respective teachings. These teachings range from killing apostates to turning the other cheek and should engender great concern among all of us. There must be a set of federated principles that underpin our morality, regardless of culture, religion, or nationality. Reason, as exercised through philosophy, is our last best hope for overcoming Bronze Age dogma and developing those principles.

In summary, there are three key takeaways from this article:
– We suffer from a Reality Deficit.
– Science and reason are the very best tools for reducing our Reality Deficit.
– Reason-based philosophy is critical to developing a common morality that enhances the individual and collective quality of our existence.

I am a deist precisely because of its reliance on reason and reason’s undeniable importance to understanding Absolute Reality and to developing an enlightened morality.