三人成虎 (3 Men Becomes a Tiger) – Applying to Religion

I was reading: The Dragon In My Garage by Carl Sagan and it reminded me of a Chinese Idiom I learnt in Chinese school. Obviously The Dragon In My Garage is an atheist/agnostic argument, but it resembled so much like the Chinese idiom, which I had never thought about in a religious way. The idiom is as follows:

Chinese: (taken from 華夏經緯)

三人成虎

魏國大夫龐恭和魏國太子一起作為趙國的人質,定於某日啟程赴趙都邯鄲。臨行時,龐恭向魏王提出一個問題,他說:“如果有一個人對您說,我看見鬧市熙熙攘攘的人群中有一隻老虎,君王相信嗎?”魏王說:“我當然不信。”龐恭又問:“如果是兩個人對您這樣說呢?”魏王說:“那我也不信。”龐恭緊接著追問了一句道:“如果有三個人都說親眼看見了鬧市中的老虎,君王是否還不相信?”魏王說道:“既然這麼多人都說看見了老虎,肯定確有其事,所以我不能不信。”

龐恭聽了這話以后,深有感觸地說:“果然不出我的所料,問題就出在這裡!事實上,人虎相怕,各佔幾分。具體地說,某一次究竟是人怕虎還是虎怕人,要根據力量對比來論。眾所周知,一隻老虎是決不敢闖入鬧市之中的。如今君王不顧及情理、不深入調查,隻憑三人說虎即肯定有虎,那麼等我到了比鬧市還遠的邯鄲,您要是聽見三個或更多不喜歡我的人說我的壞話,豈不是要斷言我是壞人嗎?臨別之前,我向您說出這點疑慮,希望君王一定不要輕信人言。”

龐恭走后,一些平時對他心懷不滿的人開始在魏王面前說他的壞話。時間一長,魏王果然聽信了這些讒言。當龐恭從邯鄲回魏國時,魏王再也不願意召見他了。

看起來,謠言惑眾,流言蜚語多了,的確足以毀掉一個人。隨聲附和的人一多,白的也會被說成黑的,真是叫做“眾口鑠金,積毀銷骨”。所以我們對待任何事情都要有自己的分析,不要人雲亦雲,被假象所蒙蔽。

English translation:

3 Men Becomes a Tiger

Pang Gong, an adviser to the Wei* Emperor, and the crown prince of Wei were planning a trip to Handan, Zhao* as hostages**. Just before leaving, Pang Gong proposed a question to the Wei Emperor. He asked, “If a person says to you that he sees a tiger in the bustling streets of the capital city, will the emperor believe?” Wei Emperor responded, “I certainly will not believe.” Pang Gong then asked, “If two people say the same thing to you?” Wei Emperor said that, “I still do not believe.” Pang Gong continued and asked, “If three people all claim to have seen the tiger in the bustling streets, will my emperor still not believe?” Wei Emperor said that, “Since so many people all claim to have seen the tiger, then it must be a matter of fact, therefore I have no choice but to believe.”

After hearing this, Pang Gong said, “Just as I expected, the problem arises from this fact! Frankly, humans fear the tiger, but the tiger also fears the humans. To be more specific, to determine if the current case is the humans fearing the tiger or the tiger fearing the humans, we must examine which side is stronger. It is well known that a tiger dares not intrude in the bustling streets. Currently, the emperor does not care about the reason, nor investigates the cause, but only depends on three people to say that the tiger exists. By the time I arrive Handan, which is much father away than the bustling streets of the capital city, if you hear malicious remarks about me behind my back from three or more people who do not like me, then is it true that you have no choice but to believe I am not loyal? Before I leave, I wanted to bring up this point, hoping the emperor will not easily believe in slander.”

After Pang Gong left, those who did not get along with Pang Gong began to slander him in front of the Wei Emperor. As time passed, the Wei Emperor actually started believing in the slanderous remarks. When Pang Gong returns from Handan, Wei Emperor will no longer see him.

As rumors spreads and misleads all people, it can indeed ruin a person. When more and more people echo the same thing, you can even convince someone that white is black. As the saying goes “Many mouths can melt gold, the damage created can dissolve bones”. Therefore we must analyze all matters with our own judgment, do not blindly believe, and be fooled by lies.

* Wei and Zhao are both names of countries
** 人質 (ren zi) translates to hostages, but if I recall story correctly, they were more like messengers/ambassadors

If we apply this to religion, it has the same effect as the invisible floating fire-breathing dragon, in which the only reason we believe God exists is because others say so. Personally, I’m an agnostic person. I believe in a higher being out there, but I don’t specifically believe in a particular god. I definitely don’t agree with those who force their religions onto others. Until one or more gods can prove to me that they really exist, I have no choice but continue to use critical thinking and analysis as I try to make sense of this world.

4 thoughts on “三人成虎 (3 Men Becomes a Tiger) – Applying to Religion

  1. I think that your parable makes sense to you because you value reason over faith. There are others who are the opposite. Who is right? 🙂

  2. The purpose of the invisible floating fire-breathing dragon nor the point of my blog wasn’t to say either side is right or wrong, but to give you an idea if God was replaced by another object such as a tiger or dragon, and how absurd that may sound. God only exists (currently) because people say God exists and when more people join a particular religion, the stronger the existence of their God it appears.

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