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Living in a Religious World
2008/03/03 06:48

     We are living in a religious world. In all great ancient civilizations — Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Greek, Rome, Maya, etc. — religion played an important role. This trend has lasted until now. In all countries, most people have some religious beliefs and there are many different religions in the world. (I won’t name any religion in this book except Christianity.)
     These are a few examples of religious ideas:
     ● Previous life — descriptions about a person before he or she was born
     ● Afterlife — descriptions about a person after he or she dies
     ● God — some kind of existence having supernatural power and ruling over human beings
     ● Angel — some kind of existence helping people by its supernatural power
     ● Ghost — some kind of existence scaring and harming people by its supernatural power
     ● Soul — the non-material part of a person
     ● Miracle — supernatural events beyond the explanations of science
     ● Judgment — an act of God that rewards or punishes a person according to his or her deeds 
     We may see that these religious ideas are related to our conscious experiences. Maybe they do exist. If they don’t exist, it is understandable why some people have created them. Perhaps long ago someone felt that his self-consciousness was so essential and so real that he could not imagine that it would cease to exist, so he suggested the existence of a previous life and afterlife for each person. Next, he imagined there should be a world of Gods to arrange these things and that these Gods may perform miracles to affect our world. He created these ideas and they were passed on through generations, because many others believed what he said. Does your belief that science can explain everything waver a bit when considering the above? It is thus the case that either there are supernatural entities inexplicable by science, or we have evidence that the idea of self-consciousness, which is still a mystery to science, is real. To continue our discussions, let us examine the different viewpoints of people toward religions.
     It has been suggested that all religions are equivalently good, no matter which one people choose to follow. We may ask the people who hold this idea, “What do you mean? If someone goes toward a wrong belief, he or she can’t get the results that he or she expects.” And they may answer, “All beliefs are equally good. It doesn’t matter what you believe. You will get what you want.” But these statements can’t be true. What thing on earth satisfies this kind of logic? Is there any city in which the names of the streets are what people call them? Is there a test for which the official answer for each problem is what is written on the paper? There should be some right ideas and some wrong ideas. If you have a wrong idea, you won’t get what you wish. Even if we assume that all beliefs are equally good, for example, Mr. A expects some things are better than what Mr. B expects and Mr. A gets what he wants, then we can say Mr. A’s idea is better. Mr. B should expect what Mr. A expects, so now we have a contradiction, because not all beliefs are equally good in this example. The religious viewpoint that all thoughts are good or all thoughts are equal has inherent trouble.
     Some people hold to agnosticism, the belief that things outside the physical world can’t be understood no matter how hard people try or what method they apply. In a physics class, if a student says that he can’t understand certain concepts despite how hard he tries or the methods he uses, the teacher will assume that he is not as smart as many other students, because many other students are able to understand those concepts. Of course, agnostics don’t think they are less intelligent than other people, hence suggesting agnostic philosophy. They claim that events or entities outside the physical world intrinsically can’t be understood. They are mysterious and untouchable. However, when we engage in religious activities, we are trying to obtain more knowledge on this subject. Furthermore, billions of people possess various types of religious ideas. If any person has an idea that is true, then agnostics are wrong, because at least one person understands at least one thing outside the physical world. Agnostics may ask that person to understand something. When people consult religious books, they defy agnosticism. When people attend religious activities, they defy agnosticism. When we discussed the topics related to our conscious experiences, we defied agnosticism. To be frank, agnosticism is totally useless and has little chance of being true. In addition, this viewpoint has another problem. Strictly speaking, if a person really does not understand something, he or she is unable to say whether it can be understood or not. This person can say nothing. Logically speaking, agnosticism is nonsense.
     A more respectable idea is atheism. The view of atheists toward the world is also called materialism, since they believe everything in the universe can be explained by the properties of materials and the interactions between them — and there is nothing else. For example, atheism claims that all of our conscious experiences are the result of chemical and electrical activities in our brain. When a person dies, nothing will be left. This idea appears to be true because natural laws are so beautiful and powerful and they work so well to explain many things. This idea also appears to be true because people who claim they have had supernatural experiences are rare and perhaps all of them are liars. If atheism is true, the best thing you should do about religious ideas is to ignore them completely. What you do will make no difference and will waste your time and money. It would make you look foolish to attend any religious activity. Atheism is a respectable idea; however, the theme of this book is to defy it.
     Aside from the above thoughts, there are many beliefs in this world which consider that there is a world beyond the physical world, and it can be reached in some ways. Let’s classify them into two categories. Many religious beliefs tell people that there is a system, similar to the system of natural laws, governing the things beyond the physical world. That system has its own rules and they will decide your fate. What is the difference between the rules of the physical world and the rules beyond the physical world? The rules of the physical world apply to material things. They are reachable by experimental and reasoning methods, which are extensions of our everyday experiences. The rules beyond the physical world apply only to humans (or maybe some other life forms) as spiritual beings. They are considered to be reachable by special methods, like meditations, spells, exorcisms, etc., things that violate our everyday experiences and generally are not discussed in mainstream science. If it is true that there is a transcendental world, and the most important issue regarding this world is its systematic rules, what you want to do is understand the rules and utilize them for your benefit. In our scientific world, we first understand the rules of nature; then we can protect ourselves from disasters and create fancy machines to improve our life. We probably need to do similar things about the rules beyond the natural world.
     Many other religious beliefs focus on contacting beings beyond this world. Some people, like your boss or government officers, have authority over you. Some beliefs claim there are some beings of a transcendental world who have supernatural power to influence this world and decide your fate when your life on earth is over. If it is true, you have to understand what they want and act the way they say. You also hope that these beings are faithful and give you what they have promised if you have made commitments to them. You should show respect and do your duties to these beings.
     Living in this religious world, how have you reacted on this issue so far? What do you think when you see other people participating in religious activities? Are you clear what will happen to you after your life has ended? How much did you invest or will you invest during your lifetime?


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