Discovering Religion: Episode 1 – Ready-Made World
There is great beauty in the Universe. From luminous nebulae serving as the interstellar nurseries of the cosmos, to the spectacular remnants of supernovas signifying their violent demise, the life and death of stars are played out on a stage of immense space and time.
The heavens are a blaze with trillions of the galaxies, themselves comprised of so many stars that collectively, there are fewer grains of sand on all of Earth’s shores. Somewhere in the fathomless depth of space is an inconspicuous corner of universe, home to an ordinary galaxy, made of 400 billion suns. A midst this swirling incandescent sea is one point of light, proving warmth and energy to planet harboring the most extraordinary beauty in the cosmos — a place we are privileged enough to call our home.
For the entirety of human existence we have been fascinated with the night sky, tracking constellations, building monuments, and designing our calendars to accurately reflect the celestial clockwork of the heavens. Man saw the world, and it was mysterious. But for thousands of years our ongoing investigation of the universe has pulled back the veil, as astrology was replaced by astronomy, numerology gave way to mathematics, and alchemy abandoned for chemistry.
Over time our observations accumulated and became organized in various fields of study that collectively we term as science. In effect, science in the language of the Universe through which we may pose questions and receive answers. In deed, such questions as to the age of the Universe and how life developed and diversified upon the Earth are well understood though the application of the language of science.
Yet despite these amazing revelations, no one can definitively say why we exist or what happens after death, but there is no shortage of explanations, as our species would have never gotten this far if it was not for our inquisitive nature and desire to make sense of all that we see. However, what is so astonishing, is the fact that the ideas we have come up with to explain existence are so drastically opposed to one another. Such contrasting points of view about life and how to live it, have resulted in some of the darkest moments in human history, and the contention continues to build, threatening the survival of our species and the fragile world that has provided us life in order for universe to know and understand itself.
Everyone living today has been born into a ready-made world. All that we observe is the product of countless generations of human thought and ingenuity, striving to make the Earth more a comfortable and safer place to live. The ability to sculpt and change our surroundings is due to the collective knowledge passed down from previous generations. As a result, our lives have been made easier and our lifespan extended by the application of this information and the refinement of technology.
In addition to this great wealth knowledge about the natural world, our forebears have also imparted their philosophy on how to live life and govern one’s actions. For instance many nations throughout the world have adopted the Greek philosophy of Democracy as the best and most effective means to represent the will of its citizens. The world’s religions are also included in this list of ready-made philosophies, institutions of thought that have become so ingrained within certain cultures that they are often indistinguishable from race or even from the governing laws of the nation itself.
Just as many of us go about our day paying little attention to how drastically science has influenced our way of life, we too take for granted the widely held systems of belief that influence our actions and the we think. It is all too easy to accept the world as it appears, to become immersed in the problems of our own lives, distracted by the media and false celebrity, and to waste our time and money on things we don’t need.
Yet, despite our apparent life of ease, many of Earth’s inhabitants do not enjoy the same luxuries. For all that is good in the world, there is also great hardship, pain and suffering. We live in a world of great contrasts, where we are capable of experiencing the most exhilarating joy as well as the most heartbreaking sorrow. We are given such wonderful, healthy lives that we share with people for whom we care and love, only to have it all inevitably ripped away.
In my pursuit to better understand the nature of this unforgiving universe, I have observed many conflicts and contradictions within the philosophies used to explain existence. In fact, so great are the variations in the perception of reality that it is not only religious extremists and hardliner atheists that disagree, even members within the same religion cannot reach a consensuses on the certain topics.
Both Christians and Muslims revere the scriptures detailing the creation of universe found in the Torah, or the Jewish Holy Book. Because this one story is shared among three different religions, themselves comprised of various denominations, it is no wonder there are many competing views on how to read and interpret these scriptures. Some followers, who maintain a literal understanding in the creation told in Genesis, are lead to believe the Earth was created some 6,000 years ago. Therefore, young Earth Creationist feel it is vitally necessary to come up with explanations in order to account for the extensive fossil record and other geological phenomena that give evidence of an Earth that is 4.5 billion years old.
Although there are many Jews, Christians, and Muslims that have believe the widely accepted views of science, the fundamentalists within each of these religions are at great odds with the concept of evolution. Creationists often attempt to make evolution appear synonymous with atheism or to portray evolution as an alternative religion. However, so little do these fundamentalists understand about The Theory of Evolution, they do not know what the word “theory” even means.
Evolution is much more than just a guess or a hunch. It is a prevailing theme within many scientific fields of study that provides enormous predicative capabilities. Over the last 150 years, facts from every scientific discipline have accumulated in overwhelming support of the Darwin’s theory of evolution. There is a staggering amount of evidence that time and time again reconfirms the process of macro-evolution as it has occurred over a vast expanse of time.
Yet under the microscope we may see natural selection at work with our very own eyes, in the micro-evolution of bacteria as they develop resistance to antibiotics. Evolution has occurred as much in the past as it does in the present, yet creationists continue to deny or even manipulate these facts, attempting to discredit the hard work of countless scientists in order to advance their personal beliefs. However, this should not be surprising considering the historical relationship between science and religion.
Throughout European history the Church has sought to imprison, excommunicate and even put to death anyone caught spreading information about the natural world not in accordance with the Bible or the understanding of the universe as held by the papal authorities. The same suppression of scientific research and the abuse of humans rights so prolific in the Dark Ages has continued all throughout history and into the 21st century.
In America, religious groups are lobbying to ban the use of stem cells and to prevent gay couples from receiving the same rights and benefits as all other US citizens. Religious groups feel a duty to impose upon society their divine standard of morality, which oddly enough, the one true God has provided each of his 3 religions with 3 conflicting sets of beliefs.
But without these moral codes, Theists argue there would be nothing stopping them from pillaging, raping, and murdering, plunging society in utter chaos. Therefore, atheist are looked upon as social deviants, where the belief in any God, no matter what or who it might be, is considered more respectable than the belief in nothing at all. However, evolution is an amazing process which has imparted all creatures, humans and animals alike, with a sense of morality and the desire to follow social guidelines. With such drastically opposing views and so many fundamentalist willing to violently defend their beliefs, it appears the Earth will never reach a state of lasting peace. Moreover, the ultimate goal for most religions, specifically Christianity and Islam, is to convert as many followers as possible before the arrival of what they believe is the immanent apocalypse.
For over 2000 years Christians have been awaiting the return of their Messiah and proclaiming THEIR generation to be one living during the end times. With this kind of attitude it is no surprise the evidence of global warming’s devastating effects continue not to be taken seriously. But, it is not just Christians that believe in the end of the world, Muslims also await for their version of apocalypse and the coming of the Hidden Imam. With fanaticism on the rise and the acceptance of science on the decline, it leads one to believe that sooner or later all of this must come to ahead, and real danger of apocalyptic prophecy is that it might ultimately be a self-fulfilling one.
Before you continue to the next episode, I would like to preface by saying the aim of this series is not to convert anyone or to place doubt within faith. My desire is to examine the different ways in which religions groups have interpreted the story of creation and the implications of these views on the physical reality God is believed to have created.
If God is both the first-hand author of the universe and the second-hand author of the scriptures, it is my hope an investigation of the two will provide an accurate and unbiased way to correctly perceive reality, regardless of one’s sense of spirituality or religious affiliation. I hope you will follow my series and please show your support by subscribing. I now invite you to join me on my pursuit of truly, Discovering Religion.