REALITY = that which is true.
SANITY = thoughts and behavior based on true premises.
“Sanity” is defined: “having or showing reason, sound judgment, or good sense.” But how do you know when someone has or shows reason, sound judgment or good sense? The key is, “truth.” The definition of both “truth” and “reality” can be said to be, “that which is.” Once you understand what is true and real you can make accurate assessments of the world and base your decisions and perceptions accordingly.
So in order to be sane, you have to know the truth about what is real. If you hold perceptions or beliefs that aren’t real then you’re insane. This means that psychology alone can’t bring you to full mental health. Psychology can help you understand the motives, developmental factors and other critical aspects of the human psyche, but it doesn’t provide a tool to distinguish reality from fantasy. Therefore, any good psychological treatment will also include training and exercises in critical thinking and science.
Think about it. How do you determine the difference between reality and fantasy, that which truly is and that which truly isn’t? For example, how do you know you exist? How do you know your parents are really your parents? How do you know the universe didn’t begin the day you were born? How can you trust the version of history you’ve been told is real? What makes a fact, a fact?
The determining factor is supporting evidence. Our entire society is based on this principle. You can’t be tried for a crime without supporting evidence because it’s the supporting evidence that establishes fact. You can’t write an article in an academic journal unless your propositions are based on supporting evidence. You can’t make a claim about the nature of the physical universe without supporting evidence. You won’t be considered mentally healthy unless your perceptions and beliefs are based on supporting evidence.
When you start making exceptions and saying, “Oh, I don’t need supporting evidence for this one little thing.” or start cooking your answers to fit your preconceived beliefs or flat-out falsifying information you set off down the path of insanity because your perceptions and beliefs are no longer supported by independently and consistently verifiable evidence.
Scientific thinking = basing conclusions on evidence.
Faith-based thinking = ignoring evidence that disproves your conclusion.
This is the crux of the disconnect between science and religion. Science demands evidence and rejects taboos. It would be an understatement to say that science (as well as proper philosophy) accepts doubt. Science demands doubt, because doubt is the wedge that divides truth from fantasy.
There’s a classic story about a scientist who built his career on a scientific theory he’d come up with. Late in life, his theory was disproven by a young scientist just out of college. When the elder scientist learned he had been proven wrong he thanked the younger scientist for showing him the truth.
To a scientist, there’s no joy in the world greater than being proven wrong because there’s no joy or reward in the world greater than truth, and that’s worth giving up your pride for. You can accuse scientists of a lot of things, but you’d be wrong to deny that the underlying principle behind science is the humble search for truth.
However, physical science doesn’t answer every question there is to ask. It doesn’t answer, “Why are we here?” “Who am I?” “What is love?” or “Why shouldn’t we hurt each other?”
This is where philosophy and the social sciences come in. They acknowledge there are theoretical questions outside the realm of physical matter, and even though these questions don’t have physical supporting evidence, you can still use systematic logic to deduce, infer and extrapolate reasonable answers to these questions. Just like hard science, social science uses doubt to separate truth from fantasy.
Religion is the opposite. Religion starts from a position that isn’t backed up by physical evidence or logical deductions. Often times religion actively contradicts the evidence such as in the case of creation stories and the effectiveness of prayer. Its theoretical answers are based on the subjective cultures that produced each religion, and it reverse engineers warped, illogical explanations to support its conclusions. Often times it will even flat-out falsify information. The study of apologetics is systematic cognitive dissonance.
Religion claims it has a monopoly on truth, but all the real evidence contradicts this claim. Religion employs every tool of deception and delusion. It teaches techniques such as faith, fear, and dogma to undermine truth for its own purposes.
Religion claims to be humble but refuses to admit or even consider if/when it’s wrong. Science, on the other hand, sets the bar for humility. Thus it sets the bar for truth, and in the end, it sets the bar for sanity.