27. Is Seeing Believing?


How can we know that anything is ‘true’? Can we trust our senses?

Explain that some people, wisely perhaps, will not believe anything unless they see it for themselves. What happens though, when you can’t trust what you see?


Show students the optical illusion, left. What do they see: two faces or a vase?

Explain that they may have seen such illusions before, but have they realised the point?

Explain that such illusions demonstrate that what we see is interpreted by us. We look for things that we recognise and this is why we are so easy to fool. Magicians on the TV know that the hand can move quicker that the eye and are able to create illusions that seem impossible.

Ask the students to:

  • describe to the person next to them, an illusion or magic trick they have seen or heard of.
  • say how do they think the trick was done, or how the brain was fooled.

Get a few examples from the whole group, then show them this image:

What do they see first, ‘GOOD’ or ‘EVIL’?


Ask the students to respond to such questions as:

  • What do such illusions as these make you feel about the world around you?
  • Is the world better or worse than it sometimes appears?

Point out that many religions and philosophies say that everything we experience is a kind of illusion, or at least, falls short of what is ultimately ‘real’.


Show them an image of a Hindu deity such as this one:

Hopefully, they will recognise Ganesha, but ask them to reflect on the idea that, for Hindus, there is more to the image of Ganesha than meets the eye. Ask them to:

  • reflect on what this image may be symbolising;
  • share ideas with the whole group.

Encourage students to comment on possible interpretations, such as:

  • elephant head = great intelligence
  • elephant trunk = great strength but also finesse
  • lotus flower = enlightenment
  • hatchet = cutting off of past karma when enlightenment is reached
  • snare / noose = the trap of material possessions
  • dish of sweets = how sweet the inner self may be
  • hand raised with palm out = sign of blessing
  • mouse / rat = the importance of all creatures, whatever their size (or a symbol of obstacles to be overcome).


Ask students for ideas on where people ‘rush to judgement’ on first impressions that later turn out to be wrong.

1.  Happiness Part 1: status anxiety
2.  Happiness Part 2: religion and happiness
3.  Happiness Part 3: what is happiness?
4.  Morality Part 1: what is morality?
5.  Morality Part 2: should we live by ‘moral laws’?
6.  Morality Part 3: where does our sense of morality come from?
7.  Are You Religious?
8.  What Is a Religion and what is a Cult?
9.  What does it Mean to be Religious Today?
10. Religion in Numbers Part 1: how many people on Earth?
11. Religion in Numbers Part 2: how many people are ‘religious’?
12. Religion in Numbers Part 3: how did believers got to where they are?
13. Are All Religions Equal?
14. Transactional Analysis: learning how to feel equal
15. Bloom’s Taxonomy
16. Harry Potter and God
17. Without Fear or Favour Part 1
18. Without Fear or Favour Part 2
19. It’s Not Fair
20. Mind, Memory and Justice
21. Karma, Memory, Freedom and Justice
22. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 1: Religion Without God
23. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 2: God and Morality
24. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 3: Is Life Beautiful?
25. Can Atheists learn anything from Religion?
26. What do Buddhists Believe about God?
27. Is Seeing Believing?
28. Are We Being Hypnotised?
29. Sex and Relationships
30. Truth, Proof and Evidence
31. How should we deal with the range of different opinions in today’s world?
32. Is Religion a Force for Evil or Good?
33. Do Religious Experiences Prove God?
34. What Is Evil?
35. God and Evil
36. Can we verify Religious Experiences?
37. How Spiritual are You?
38. What is Philosphy?
39. The Power of Words
40. Art and Beauty

A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

© Sea of Faith 2018

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