Analogies and metaphors are lies. Yet they tell the truth by telling a lie.
I can't help but think about this thoughts relevance to religion. Religion, in my most un-humble opinion, is a lie, and yet, it can be such a helpful lie.
A quote from an email about this from a dear friend:
"A mother told me that her little girl asked if Santa was real, and the mom explained that even though he wasn't real, everyone pretended he was because it was fun and part of the ceremony of Christmas. So the little girl fell asleep by the tree waiting for Santa that Christmas eve, just like she always had. That's faith like a child to me: accepting truths, asking questions, and understanding truths deeper instead of rejecting them...I want truth, beauty and illumination like I always did, so even if Santa never comes I'll fall asleep with christmas lights on my face."--Nick Culp
Futhering the idea: Think of light. We speak of light being a wave, but we also speak of light being a wave. It's really neither. And both. Using those terms is lying, but it's helpful lying. It serves a purpose giving us a platform to think of it. These teaching tools abound in science--from the nature and function of electron shells, to multidimensional universes, to string theory and maybe even the nature of time itself.
This may sound weird, but kinda like a holodeck in Star Trek. Nothing in it is real, but its simulations can be very helpful in learning about the real world and how to operate in it. Religious truth can have a similar function. It doesn't have to be real to give us a way of thinking about our own identity, the nature of reality and our function in it and that is valuable.
One more example of a more practical nature--hurricanes. Ever wonder why we name hurricanes? It personifies the threat. It gives it a personality. People understand agency. They don't understand pressure zones, wind patterns, storm surges, storm cells, etc. Putting a name rather than a string of numbers literally saves lives. Using a metaphor gives people a mental tool to address the threat and without hyperbole keeps them from turning into a casualty. Lying saves lives!!
Here's a fascinating talk from TED about this way of thinking. The summation is that this writer uses the idea of "muse" or "daemon" or "genius" to embody her creativity to separate and protect herself from the pressure, ridicule and fear that can accompany making your living off of being creative. She doesn't think they're real, and yet the mental exercise improves her ability to produce great works of litterature. Think about how this way of thinking might influence our perception of religion's function.