Religion – Knowledge, Belief and Opinion

The TOK prompt I have selected for my IB1 is: “How can we distinguish between knowledge, belief and opinion?”.

This exhibition explores this prompt by evaluating aspects of knowledge and religion, and, in detail, the various perspectives and panoramas influencing the ideas of knowledge, belief and opinion.

Nowadays, religion is interpreted in several different ways, depending on people’s cultural background, ideologies and personal experiences. With respect to this prompt, it can be assessed based on the statement that – opinion has to do with whether the belief is justified, and knowledge is the “justified true belief”.

However, this assessment is based exclusively with the pre-notion that, it is the different perspectives and experiences of people that shape the distinguishing factors between knowledge, belief and opinion.


Object 1

Bhagvad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is the sixth book of the Mahabharata, one of India’s most famous epic poems. At a larger scale, the Gita is seen as the first fully developed yogic scripture. The Gita is described, by many, as a treasure trove of spiritual knowledge. It is an embodiment of religious knowledge. Religious knowledge systems offers answers to fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of human life.

The Bhagavad Gita is a type of propositional or declarative knowledge, a species of knowledge that is expressed in declarative sentences or indicative propositions. Significantly, proposition coupled with verification is the way even science gains knowledge. However, spiritual knowledge and truths, being non-physical, can’t be verified materially, but they can be realised experientially by those enterprising enough to adopt appropriate practices.

The Gita encapsulates most of the important aspects of knowledge of the Vedas, Veda means knowledge. Despite predating several ancient civilizations, the Bhagavad Gita continues to be as relevant today as it was 5000 years ago. The Gita is considered as a sacred form of eternal knowledge communicated by the Divine and heard by sages who then preserved them. Th Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual and religious expression and depiction of knowledge. Its significance is primarily based on the others’ acceptance of knowledge rather than whether people believe in it or not.

One of the most important things that the Bhagavad Gita tells us is that we have to think with a new mindset altogether, and the greatest knowledge conceivable is the art of thinking correctly. The Gita contains profound and deep spiritual knowledge. The Bhagavad Gita tells us Sankhya is to precede Yoga or, in other words, knowledge is to precede action.

In the terminology of the Bhagavad Gita, Sankhya means knowledge and Yoga means action. The Gita reiterates that we must act in such a manner that there is no revolt from any side as a consequence of the action we perform.


Object 2

Festival - Dussehra

Dussehra is an important Hindu festival which symbolises the victory of good over evil, truth over false and dharma over adharma. These significances are based on beliefs. Beliefs could be seen as the middle ground between knowledge and opinion. A belief known to be true is knowledge; a belief not known to be true is an opinion.

In this sense of ‘belief’, a belief is a proposition thought to be true – perhaps, but not necessarily, known to be true.

Our focus is thus on propositional belief: the combination of propositional knowledge and propositional opinion. Each of a person’s beliefs, whether knowledge or opinion, is the end result of a particular thought process that continued during a particular time interval and ended at a particular time with a conclusive act—a judgment that something is the case.

There are several mythological stories that signify the celebration of Dussehra. Different regions in the country follow one of these and celebrate accordingly. This not only highlights the different cultures and religions, but also emphasises on the fact that there are various beliefs regarding the purpose of celebrating Dussehra.

One is in relation to the Goddess Durga, who slaughtered a menacing demon, a day marking the celebration of Dussehra which is preceded by Navratri. Another takes us back to the Ramayana, where Ravana was killed. In this case, Dussehra is celebrated to mark this event by burning the effigies of Ravana in the evening.

This festival is therefore included in this exhibition as an example of how beliefs differ across different religions, cultures and traditions and how, unlike knowledge or opinion, beliefs are descriptions of religious conviction as well as trust and faith in an ideology or practice.


Object 3


To Those who are not Hindus: What is your opinions on Hinduism?

An opinion is a view or judgement of something not necessarily based on facts. Opinions are a result of beliefs, knowledge and perspectives. They are generally subjective. Unlike, beliefs and knowledge, opinions tend to have a low sense of certitude, referring to the lack of absolute certainty and conviction.

The above blog post is an assessment and evaluation of Hinduism by Antonin Tuynman, a patent examiner, futurist and biochemist. Antonin shares what he likes and dislikes about his “Hinduistic currents”. This is an example of personal knowledge, gained through first-hand observation and experience. His opinion need not rest on beliefs and requires no justification.

If your understanding of the subject of your opinion is strongly supported by reality-based evidence, then it may be knowledge, in the weak or strong sense of the term. If it is merely your preferred position on a subject, without at least some evidence to support it, then it is a ‘mere’ opinion and should not be considered knowledge. In this case, Antonin provides evidence for his claims on Hinduism, however they are to an extent bias, in the sense that, he criticises various features and characteristics of Hinduism from the perspective of a “Western person”.

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