What does Berger mean when he says, "things are not what they seem?"
When Berger says “things are not what they seem,” he is referring to all aspects of our social life, from individual to communal to even world wide social structures such as religion, race or gender.
As way of illustration, think of any person you know fairly well, but not intimately. You may know things about them, but you cannot say that you know everything that goes on in their life, and in fact you would probably be shocked to learn of some of their experiences or beliefs. What is true for the individual is also true for organized groups of people. We all hide behind stereotypes, some gladly, some disappointedly, but if you are able to look past your expectations, then you will be able to see the unique and sometimes shocking truth (or at least slightly closer to the truth).
About three years ago, I had a falling away with my church (which will remain anonymous for now). I had been a member since a child, and so I had never really been worried about looking too hard at what it meant to believe what was taught. The actions that started me down the path of leaving was actually, for the first time, taking a critical, outside look at what was actually being said and taught, and how it matched my own personal values. One of the critical choices I made was to start reading a Jewish translation of the ‘Old Testament’. What had once been something that I had heard many times before became new, and I was able to look at it with new eyes, and realized that what I was reading was not what it had seemed to be when I was still entrenched in my old belief systems.