RELIGIOUS

Perhaps we could best describe religion as a middleman between us and spirituality.  God would probably be more like a 'force' rather than just a physical entity and would be more encompassing, omnipotent, and without limitations than we may be presently able to readily comprehend.  

Prophets and messengers who claim to be giving us the teachings from God to us (such as Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, etc.) have laid the foundations for the world's major religions.  They have all given us a teaching that there is an afterlife and our souls go there after we die.  These messengers and the resulting religions cannot be merely dismissed as not being evidence for the existence of God and an afterlife as many atheists would have us believe.  Though this is not evidence in an empirical sense, it is evidence nonetheless.  For many wise, intelligent, educated, and open minded people, just one of these religions is all the evidence they need to have absolute faith in its teachings.  Many scholars have studied there chosen religion in great depth and come to the same absolute belief.  If only one such prophet had come to earth giving us one religion, then it might all be easier to dismiss as some sort of misinformation.  But the fact is that this has happened several times independently so that this evidence becomes harder to reject or discount.  Could all these prophets and religions be just dismissed as being wrong?

If one does not wish to believe that none of Jesus Christ, Mohammed, etc. were telling us the truth about life after death, then they are left to account for their messages by one or more of the following: (1) they were suffering from some serious psychological disorder, (2) were manipulated by aliens, and/or (3) masterminded such a grand deception, the likes of which the world has never seen, for some  motive or benefit which is unclear.  These alternate explanations would be highly unlikely for every single messenger unless it were explained by (2) in which case the number of messengers would probably be irrelevant.

 

Most priests of the major religions undergo a scholarly education.  This is especially true of Christians in the west.  Typically they study to at least a bachelors degree level in religious or theological studies.  Yet seldom (or never) do we hear of scholars reject or refute say the Koran or New Testament - they may question certain inconsistencies in these Holy Books (for example, with the New Testament, there are bound to be passages which may not be divine as they were written by mortal men about 40 or so years after the death of Jesus).  Even allowing for the fact that these people are typically believers to start with, this suggests that the more one is to investigate one of these religions for 'authenticity', the more likely they are to become true believers of it.  Even if there is the odd discrepancy in these Holy Books, the religion does not rest or fall on such and therefore a critic cannot rationally conclude there is no God or an afterlife.

 

The problem many people have with religious arguments is that they have to be open for debate on the evidence for their claims.  Though not all, but a fair number of religious people are not willing to engage in an open exchange of dialogue or critique of their religion.  Also, the messages of the prophets suited the time periods they were in and that is why some of their messages may seem somewhat overly simple to some of us today and may not always apply fully to the world we live in now.

One general problem with religion is worshiping without respecting other views and possibilities.  This applies to any form of belief whether it is capitalism, communism, atheism, materialistic science, or militant or fundamentalist interpretations/forms of different religions.  In addition, all belief systems share the same problem in that they will not hold up to rational arguments for every single one of their teachings or interpretations.

 

Some of the many religions there are appear to be made up, some have incorporated some or are based upon mythology, and some (one or more) may be essentially true.  Even so, man has added his own interpretations to religions as they give limited or incomplete information in order to complete the picture as well as other motivations (such as political and power related).  For me personally, religion cannot be accepted purely on faith alone and needs to be open to critique on all grounds including (but not limited to) scientific, historical, moral, logical, rational, etc..

 

Many of us may find some of the teachings or revelations of the world's major religions to be ambiguous, contradictory, or even incorrect.  It is quite possible they were meant to be presented to us in such a way so that they would not be absolutely irrefutable and thus not all would believe or follow them - as if it was all purposely done and is part of some grander plan.

 

It is not easy for all of us to accept the teaching of some of the religions that we have but one life for which we are judged upon.  What if one only lives a few days and dies as an infant?  Is an individuals personality not largely genetic (or perhaps more correctly, mostly 'fixed' when they come into the world) and thus ones actions and the life they lead not really under ones complete control?  What about animals - are they not capable of feelings and emotions like us and is it not only fair that they possess souls too (contrary to what we infer from some religions)?  One can be taught to live a certain way but their thoughts and feelings are determined mostly by their 'hardwiring' (their brain and soul).  So if ones actions are good but their thoughts are not pure, which counts in judgment?  Possibly, the soul is judged on how it makes use of the brain (and it's genetics) it is given to work through in this life.  For this to make sense, then our personality would have to be a combination of both what our soul brings with it and the brain's genetics.

Reincarnation of the soul may not have been revealed to us through some of the prominent religions since this knowledge may be a detriment to how we live out our lives on this earth.  One might squander the present life on guilty pleasures and evil ways knowing they can pursue a more moral living next time around. 

 

According to Genesis the earth is currently about 6,000 years old and the universe was created in 6 days.  However, radioactive dating clearly does not support this.  This discrepancy could be explained as follows: God creates the universe and everything in it in a period of 6 days.  But God has billions of years of activity take place during these 6 days (plus 1 'rest day').  So when we do our radioactive dating of fossils, etc. we end up with the measurements observed leading us to the  conclusions of age science makes - these are the apparent ages.

It may be the case that the 6,000 year age may have been misinterpreted.  Or possibly, another religion may have a better answer.

 

Let us examine the logic of Satan if he indeed exists.  It is told in the Bible that Satan is to be destroyed by God.  Satan having intelligence wants eternal life (and is in a dimension where entities would understand the importance of such).  So why would Satan not denounce his evil ways and go back to God's side?  Either Satan believes what the Bible says will happen isn't necessarily going to happen (maybe he will be forgiven and redeemed at the end) and he is right or maybe Satan is an entity deficient somehow in seeing this?  Or maybe Satan doesn't even exist (though God does)?

 

There were reported visits by Jesus Christ after his physical death to many people.  It is unlikely that these were just bereaved people seeing something they wanted to because two of his disciples seen him but did not recognize him at first (there was also another sighting where recognition was not made right away).

 

Possibly the best approach for evaluating religion as evidence for the non-believer and for many of the rest of us also is to look for events such as miracles (which would have to be supported and validated historically) and knowledge revealed through the religion which could not have been known at the time otherwise.  

 

If reincarnation is true, then one could not progress to the highest levels of spiritual progression just by following some external doctrine (ie. religion).  For this would not significantly change the soul, but only the person.  One's soul would have to reach such a high level by internal improvements which improve thoughts and feelings as well as actions and behaviour.  

 

Even allowing for man changing religious teachings, the fact still remains that there are fundamental differences between religions that should not be there if all are true.  We should expect almost full agreement between them and since we do not find such, this can be taken to mean either that all sources are not divine or are not fully credible.  This fact weakens some (or all) religions and their evidence for an afterlife to an extent.

 

Contrary to what some evolutionists say, people do not simply believe in life after death or religion because we are programmed to do so by evolution because it helps our survival (though it could also be argued that if there is indeed a need for a belief in God, possibly it was designed for and put in place by a Creator).  Many do not believe in either life after death or any religion and never have.  Historically, not all cultures have believed in an afterlife.  For example, prior to the prophet Mohammed receiving his messages in 7th century Arabia, the nomadic tribes there worshiped their ancestors but did not believe in an afterlife.  Neither did the Jews until an afterlife was incorporated into Judaism at a much later time (about a millennium) from its origins.

 

Atheism has no more logical foundation for it than religion and in fact, less so.  It has its own belief system - that of science and materialism (only the material world exists).  Atheists have turned disbelief (of a Creator or God) into a belief system in itself.  Science has become a religion on to its self as it is practiced by its followers who accept nothing else unless it adheres to conventional science as we know it today and materialism.  Having said that, atheism challenges religion and faith based systems and can be a positive influence in the enquiry of what may or may not be true.

 

People will typically adopt an atheist belief system due to the following factors: they have a greater than normal 'block' on awareness of a spiritual existence and implications of ceasing to exist thoughts; they acquire a belief in or are taught to believe in materialism (which can sometimes lead to believing too much in ones own intellect and that there cannot be anything greater in some supernatural realm, which they don't believe exists anyway); they develop a distaste or even hatred for religion; and they may have a suspect or somewhat deficient rationalizing ability (I'm not referring to intelligence or IQ here but giving too much weight to lesser factors and not enough to bigger and more important factors).  For the only rational positions to take are either to be agnostic or to believe there is sufficient evidence present that shows we possess souls that survive physical death.

It is only rational to be an atheist (note that some atheists are actually agnostic eventhough they may incorrectly label themselves as atheist) if one has some type of special knowledge (if it were to even exist which seems extremely improbable) that would completely refute every single one of the evidence types for survival of consciousness.  And I do not see how anyone on earth would have such special knowledge.

 

A fundamentalist religious approach on evidence of life after death is asking what does my religion say about this and then explaining the evidence within that context which fits that religion.  Atheists do the same with life after death evidence - they look at it and say what does materialism say about this and then fit their interpretations to suit their materialistic belief system.  If there is no materialistic explanation possible, the evidence is still rejected and no real plausible alternative is put forth.  Both are wrong in their approach as they are not at all objective and 'make' the evidence fit what they already believe.

 

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Harinder S. Sandhu
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This page was last updated on: May 22, 2010.