You do not have to go to Patagonia to see Paradise. Just open your eyes.
Religions continue to cause problems. Religion has been around for a long time. There seems to be no country, no ethnic group, no civilization, no tribe that does not have religion or some form of spiritual belief.
I came to consider, when did
it all start? More importantly, why do we seem to need religion? I tried to look up reasons for religious belief. [Google search]. Lots of folks have already tried to answer this question. I see, " The ten reasons we need religion".
Some came up with sixteen, others, only six. In any case, the answers given were either wrong or very feeble, in my opinion.
I decided to try to come up with my own answer[s]. I think if we have a clear understanding of why we needed [need] to
have religion, the light will shine on the answer, which, I believe, is:
We can do without religion.
More than a few already take a pass. Let's have a look. Norway and Sweden are at the top of the list, with 70% saying they have no belief
in any God. Next is France, Austria and Germany, around 20-30%.Those who did not believe in any God more or less "tolerated" religions. This has changed, and there has been a wave of "new atheists" like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who wrote
best-selling books utilizing knowledge and logic to paint religion into a corner. Bill Maher, comedian and film maker,finds religion a vulnerable target.
This being said, when you factor in the third world countries [Africa, middle East, India] it is
revealed that 85-90% of the world's population holds to some religious belief.
Humans have had spiritual beliefs for a long time. The Neanderthals buried their dead 40,000 years ago. There seems to have been a funeral with use of fire; Tools,
ornaments, were buried with the deceased, as in preparation for an afterlife. I saw a documentary last night about the Australian aboriginal. They had painted images on sacred sites over 40,000 years ago. The descendants
believe the "old people" speak to them from these rocks. The aboriginal people who populated the Americas 15-20,000 years ago had spiritual beliefs, as many as there were tribes; [see my previous blog]. There were no written texts, no ediface. Stories
were passed by mouth from generation to generation. Beliefs were closely linked to the natural world.
The hunter-gatherer existence of homo sapiens faded as people began to grow crops [the agricultural revolution]. Populations increased rapidly,
towns and villages evolved. Written languages developed. Religions became a dominant force, impressive edifices were constructed, the most notable of which were the Egyptian pyramids. It would appear that these structures were
a preparation for the afterlife, as evidenced by the tombs within, harboring all manner of possessions, even pets, as well as the mummified body of the Pharoah. The Egyptian identified many Gods, [about 30] Ra, the Sun God; Sobek, God of
the Nile; Anubis, God of embalming, to name a few.
At almost the same time, advanced civilizations developed in the Americas. Interestingly, the Ｍａｙａ also built pyramids of a slightly different structure [flat top] Their religion also recognized
many Gods. There were ceremonies and rituals, most notably human sacrifice. They had a creation story where two of the Gods brought forth the Earth from a watery void and gave it animals and plants. Sound familiar?
Mayans had it that evil doers descended to a dark place where they would be tormented forever. This was thousands of years before the advent of Christianity;
but the concept sounds familiar?
The Roman Empire enjoyed its best days 100BC-400AD. They also recognized many Gods and Goddesses. Zeus, Mercury, Mars, Apollo and, famously, Venus. Venus was the God of love, beauty, sex. The Greek
equivalent of Venus was Aphrodite. Aphrodite was married, but had an affair with her brother, Ares. In Greek and Roman mythology, the Gods and Goddesses exhibited human foibles. Artists of the time rendered the Gods muscular and the Goddesses beautiful. Greek mythology describes the" Elysian Fields" where the righteous entered to pursue a happy and blessed life. The other way, you met the God of the Dead, Hades, who was a fearsome figure,
ruling a dark and gloomy place.
Christianity began in Jerusalem and spread to surrounding Mediterranean countries. In about 400AD, the Roman Emperor, Constantine, converted to Christianity, resulting in rapid spread of this religion throughout
the Roman Empire. Christianity is now the World's largest religion, with 2.5 billion followers.
Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of humanity whose coming as the Messiah (the Christ) was prophesied in the Old Testament.
Christians believe God created the world in six days, resting on the seventh. They believe man is His most prized creation.
Jesus Christ is God's Son and the only way to salvation and forgiveness of sins. Christians believe he was sent to earth,
born from a virgin, was crucified, and rose from the dead in three days so that man's sins could be forgiven once and for all.
Christians' holy book, the Bible, is believed to be God's inspired word, a historical document, and a guide for faithful living.
Most Christians believe in a Heaven and Hell, eternal destinations for those who have been saved and those who are not, respectively. Heaven is a paradise reserved for believers and Hell a place of torment for those who have
Islam originated in Mecca, 700AD. It is now the second largest religion in the world. [1.7 billion] Islam also says there is only one God [Allah] and that Muhammad was the last messenger of God. Islam also has a Holy Book,
the Quran. Muslims believe there will be a day of resurrection when mankind will be judged on their good or bad deeds and consigned to Paradise or Hell. Heaven is a place of joy and bliss.
Disbelief will get
you to "Hell".
I should not forget Buddhism. Last night I saw a documentary on Knowledge network called "The Tea Road" . The travelers came to mountain temples, ornaments, candles, giant Buddha statues, hundreds of Monks, praying, chanting. The
message from Buddha seems to be all about peace, kindness, caring, respect, etc. If you follow the Buddha's life rules, you will not go to "heaven" or "Paradise" but you will be "reincarnated" and your spirit will live
again in another body.
The big religions are now thousands of years old. Spiritual beliefs existed tens of thousands of years before the "big ones". I totally understand why there was spiritual belief and religion. Homo sapiens had developed a
large enough brain that he was aware of his mortality. He was surrounded by natural phenomena for which he could have no understanding. Drought, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, tsunamis would have defied explanation. As a hunter-gatherer,
he was menaced by predators much stronger, faster and better armed than he. As a pastoralist, predators killed his livestock; as a farmer, drought, fungus or locusts killed his crops. Infections killed. Any small wound was fatal. Childbirth was a deadly lottery
for mother and newborn. There was no rest and recreation. Life was a brutal struggle for survival, and often very short. [ Life expectancy: Bronze Age-25, Roman Empire-30, Medieval-30 years].
The Sun must have been a great mystery. What were the moon
and the stars?
Homo used his brain to try to find answers. Of course it seemed that some great power controlled his fate. Of course he performed ceremonies, made sacrifices, tried to appease. He had no good answer for anything. Of course he could
believe the mountain was spiritual. The spirits of his ancestors lived in a whale or the Bear.
He could make any story he wanted. There was no evidence for anything. Who could not believe? Who could argue?
Then came languages. Written words,
tablets, paper, printing. Then you could write a book. Then you can multiply your followers. The population was not separated into ignorant and educated people. Nobody was educated. Belief came easy. No questions. Ask one, if you dare. [read about Galileo]
But now we have knowledge. Mountains of knowledge. Just in the past 200 years. Now, in yours and my lifetime, we are in the age of great discovery. Charles Darwin presented his great idea. Now turns out to be spot on. Then comes radiometric dating, an understanding
of plate tectonics, mapping of the genome of many species, the Hubble space telescope and a massive expansion of the fossil record.
We have more answers than a man can grasp. information is available to everyone. Documentaries on television, popular
magazines, books and DVDs you can purchase on line, Museums with great paleontology collections. In the United States there is the greatest number of colleges and Universities anywhere in the world.
In spite of this, America's knowledge of evolution
and related sciences is abysmal.
So what excuse could religiotic America have? The answer is not an excuse, but is the mechanism of denial. There is no excuse. The answers to the greatest show on earth are there. What has to happen is that folks
need to decide to look at them. Why don't they avail themselves of this opportunity? Which is all around them?
Well, the answer is, they don't want to. This knowledge scares them.
They want to go to that Paradise.
That's why we got religion.
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion,
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one