I used to work for a terrible shoe company that made terrible shoes. It was one of those trust fund companies that the current owner, a soft handed spoiled kid turned hapless old man, had inherited from his hard working father. He ran the company with the help of his useless hag of a wife who was more interested in looking up to date than doing any work and they tried to make their way by making knock off shoes which they failed to market as cutting edge and trendy. The theme of this horrible company was "perception is reality."
"Perception is reality" is a statement which attempts to assert that reality only exists in the perceptions of one's self and others. In the shoe making business this meant that we were to sell an inferior product that was a knock off of something else as if it were the best shoe ever made in the history of mankind, because if we could affect the perception of people regarding the shoe, the reality of the shoe would be altered.
The problem with this idea is that only the willfully stupid, truly stupid, or painfully stupid are actually impressed by this notion. I think some religious people fall into each category, but it's painfully stupid people that I feel are the most destructive. The painfully stupid are people who are vain to a fault. People who are easily manipulated into following something, buying something, or believing in something because they want the positive image that's associated with it. Painfully stupid people buy crappy knock off boots because Perez Hilton mentioned them in passing once. Painfully stupid people believe in religions because they want to be rich, powerful, and/or respected - it can be one or all three of those or something else, but the main motivation for painfully stupid people to be religious and especially overtly religious boils down to perception.
These people act in ways that hold true to their perception of how a good person should act instead of just...being a good person. That's the difference between reality and perception. 'He seemed like a good guy' is the positive perception of countless neighbors living next to rapists and murderers across the country, you read about that in the news all the time. Being a good person is different that being perceived as a good person because when you are good, that's reality. When you seem good, that's perception. If we allow reality to be confused with perception, bad things often happen. For instance, perception is reality has ruled the Catholic church for a very long time and now we have thousands of cases of molestation, abuse, and misconduct coming to light because people who were perceived as being pious and good were in actuality creepy old drunk uncle types.
Perception is not reality. In simplest terms - if perception were reality, then reality wouldn't be called reality, it would be referred to as perception. Perception is our own personal take on reality - it's what you get when you have to deal with reality plus human emotions plus complex cognitive ability. Just like I shake my head in pity when I see an over-tanned, under-fed party girl wearing knock off shoes like they're Hollywood itself, I feel terrible for people who are religious for the sake of perception.