Reading fiction and non-fiction in parallel did this to me! And the question made a constant machine like humming noise as I watched Ship of Theseus a few days back. What is reality? And why such visible difference in perception of reality by people across different cultures, religion and societies. That reality could be seen from a secular and non-secular lens is an easy and convenient starting point, but little beyond that. And I use secular and non-secular distinction only because I can think of nothing else.
A key distinction between the secular and non-secular perspectives of reality, apart form the role of religion (or one’s faith) is that secular comprises of all the endevaours, ideas and behavioural forms that are guided (or generated) by ‘human self’ alone. Human agency is an important theme. For instance, “thou shalt not kill” does not originate from the human self or one does not follow it because one thinks it is right but primarily because it comes from the scriptures or it is deemed as the ‘word of god’. In contrast to this “be kind to others” is a thought that originates from a human mind which ‘reasons’ that murder or killing is not moral and one should not do this. The agency is entirely human in this case.
Another way of observing is to say that reality is perceived and related with, in different ways by secular and non-secular folks. One’s view of life and death can serve as a useful example. Those inclined to the secular thought are likely to believe in the scientific reasons for living a healthy life for such a certain number of years and that one dies after that life span die to wasting, ageing and other reasons which science can conveniently explain. Whereas, non-secular view of a Hindu (for instance) who is firm of his faith is likely to view this as a subject of destiny and perhaps his fate to die at a certain age and of a certain cause. And that this is all determined by his ‘karma’ (or the deeds done in one’s life). View on birth could involve invoking the idea of ‘moksha’ (or salvation) that is attained when after a series of birth in different living forms the soul is set free finally.
I’d like to believe that these two perspectives (and likely many more) have a profound bearing on the way all of us as individuals live our lives.