The Map is not the Religion

I’m always trying to find new ways to look at what God is. I know that the various forms in which God shows herself to me don’t even begin to scratch the surface, let alone represent the surface. The notion held by so many that God is a man hanging out in Heaven and twiddling the knobs and dials of the universe is just a metaphor, a way for us to relate some small part of God to our everyday existence, in order to make her somewhat comprehensible. Or put more simply, any representation we make of God is a lie.

That’s why Muslims don’t want people drawing pictures of God, they don’t want people to lie about her.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

What I want to talk about is the idea, or process, or whatever it is, of dealing with things metaphorically, because, when it comes down to it, there’s an awful lot in the universe that the human mind is really not very good at comprehending, most especially God as she truly is. So we deal with things through metaphor. God is in many ways just a metaphoric way for us to look at the universe. The important thing, is to remember to not take our metaphors too seriously. As Alfred Korzybski famously said, “The map is not the territory.” The gist of that is that we need to remember to use metaphors to illuminate subjects, not to define them. They’re a way of communicating aspects of things, not of explaining them completely.

So how does this apply to religion? Well the important lesson is pretty simple, just remember that people who take their religion literally probably have other mental deficiencies as well, and they should be engaged with that in mind.

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