Many folks, including our Minister, look up when singing a hymn.
I found this in Christian literature on the web:
Heaven is a real place where the people of God will live one day. In fact, heaven is where God and the angels
live. John 14:1-3 even says that Jesus is in heaven preparing us a place to live. In heaven, those saved by God, will have new bodies without the curse of sin! There will be no one who is blind, deaf or cannot walk in heaven (Isaiah 35:5-6 and Philippians
3:21). Although Jesus builds houses in heaven, the Bible also says that those saved will also build their own houses and inhabit them as well as plant and eat from vineyards (Isaiah 65:21). Most importantly God will be in heaven and He wants to be your friend.
He wants to dwell with you and wipe away all your tears (Revelation 21:1-4).
The religion tells you how to go to the "Paradise". Religion also tells you where you will go if you are "sinner" and do not repent. A very nice, religious lady told me, recently, that she is just "passing by, for a short time" on this Earth, waiting to go to the "Paradise." Where is this Paradise? You are standing on it. It is called Planet Earth. You were so lucky to be born and breathe, have sight. Paradise is the here and now. See, hear, feel everything.
Homo sapiens has always done the religion.
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 topursue 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
What is your Excuse?
So, you look for the Paradise?
You want to do the beautiful life forever?
Your Religion gave you promise?
Just need to be the righteous person? Believe God?
Get baptized. Pray, every day. Go to the Church?
Confess, repent, ask forgiveness for all the sins past and
those to come?
Where this Heaven is , a little vague, but no hardship,
No disappointment, no misery, no pain.
Just joy, peace
God is there, waiting for you.
So, this sounds like a good offer. Maybe you think you have done all the right things and your ticket there is punched. You are just waiting for the day.
You know, you and I were lucky to be born. We were even more lucky to be born in the right part of the earth. If you were not born here, you need to thank your parents for bringing you. We live in a privileged part of the world."Privileged" may not be quite
the right word, but what I mean is you are not in abject poverty and starving to death. At least a billion people in other parts of this Earth are doing just that.
The planet Earth is indeed a paradise. However, if home is a ten foot square shed
in the slums of Bombay, shared by ten people, no water, no toilet; work is a 12 hour day for a total of one US dollar; this may not seem to be any kind of paradise. If you have never seen beyond the slum, have had no education, life is a 24/7 fight for
survival, then you have an excuse for having no understanding of the planet you live on, no knowledge of your origins, no comprehension of the natural forces around you. If you just go to the temple, the mosque, recite prayers, then I can understand.
and I, though, have lived through an age of great discovery. We are literate, have been educated in colleges and universities. We have access to what we call "leisure time", when we can read, watch educational TV channels, subscribe to National Geographic
or The Smithsonian, go to museums, the planetarium, buy educational DVD's. We can travel, see the Grand Canyon, Patagonia, Ngorongoro and Serengeti, climb Kilimanjaro.
So, what is your excuse?
words attributed to Confucious:
"We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”