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)
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.