If you believe it's real, then it's real

A modified version was published in the August 2010 issue of Faithlink, the magazine of Faith Methodist Church

Recently, there were questions on the authenticity of the Buddha tooth relic housed in a temple along South Bridge Road in Singapore.

When asked about the tooth, Venerable Shi Fazhao (the abbot of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple) said: 'To me, it has always been real and I have never questioned its authenticity.' As for the dental experts' assessment (that it could not have come from a human), he said: 'They can say all they want, I don't care what they say. If you believe it's real, then it's real.'

This article does not seek to question the authencity of the tooth but examines the statement 'If you believe it's real, then it's real.'

  1. If the statement is true then the object in question would have contradictory properties. It is real for the believer and false for the unbeliever. Is this possible? Can one (and same) object have contradictory properties ... depending on what one believes? Real for some; false for others?

    What is the colour of the text on this page? Black? What if I say, "It's white"? Can both of us be correct? No, since we are talking of the one and same object (i.e., the colour of the text on this page). Can both of us be wrong? Possible, if both of us are colour-blind! But note that while both of us can be wrong, the object has only one property (whatever that colour may be).


  2. If the above statement is true then belief determines reality. In other words, belief can change reality!

    Our belief does not change reality or truth. You may sincerely believe something to be true but you may be sincerely wrong.
    Alan S.L. Wong
    Suppose you were going for a holiday and as you approached the plane, you noticed that fuel was leaking from its body; the rudder at the tail is missing; and there was a deep crack on its left wing. The flight attendant smiled and said, "Welcome aboard". When you hesitated, she said, "Oh, don't worry; nothing can possibly go wrong. Just believe and we'll reach our destination."

    Would your belief change the reality that the plane is in need of repairs? Would it make a difference if you sincerely believe? You may sincerely believe but you are also sincerely wrong! No matter you hard or sincere you believe, your faith cannot change reality. It would be foolish to put your trust in it and climb aboard.

    Our belief should rest on a trustworthy object. Note that I did not say that our belief should rest on a real object. If the object is real then belief is not needed; belief would be redundant. We cannot prove absolutely matters of faith. Nevertheless, we should exercise due diligence to validate the reliability of the object (of our faith). Belief should be rational; a conviction that is grounded in evidence. We should not believe what we suspect to be untrue. Belief in something not justified by reason or evidence is superstition.


  3. Perhaps some may modify the original statement to: "If you believe it's real for you then it's real for you." But this statement also has a problem. If something is true then it should be true for everyone regardless of what they believe. If this modified statement is true then we cannot claim anything to be true in any absolute sense, for it could only be true for some people, and not for others, depending upon what they believe.

    Moreover, following this reasoning, then no one is ever mistaken or wrong! There would be no point in correcting anyone because he would, in his own eyes, already be right. One sad consequence is that one would never learn anything. We would not talk of learning anything because learning is the movement from falsehood to truth or the discovery of new truths which we do not already know.
Our belief does not change reality or truth. You may sincerely believe something to be true but you may be sincerely wrong. As mentioned above, we cannot prove absolutely matters of faith. Nevertheless, we should exercise due diligence to validate their reliability so as to find the one that gives us the most confidence.




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