Religion and Life After Death - Part 3
Religion and Life After Death – Part 3
Oliver T. Spedding
One of the most prominent concepts of life after death is reincarnation. This is understandable as just about every human being believes in his or her invincibility. The idea of not existing is extremely difficult to envisage and accept. Our egos are just too dominant. But most people confine their theories of reincarnation to this earth. This too is understandable as our earth is all we really know and care about when it comes to location. But if we were all reincarnated to this earth it would surely be vastly over-populated by now.
Is it possible that our earth is the only life-sustainable planet in the entire universe? If the universe is infinite and goes on forever then surely there must be millions of life-sustaining planets that could accommodate people and other forms of life after they leave this earth. If this is in fact so, the case for reincarnation is greatly strengthened. If a human being on our earth dies then it's conceivable that his or her soul begins a new life in another being somewhere in the universe. And as a soul is a spiritual entity made up of love and feelings, it would not have any of the physical components of the life that it has just left, such as arithmetic and language. These skills would have to be learned according to the environment that the soul has now moved to. But the things that are deeply embedded in the person's being would more likely be retained; things like the love of music or art or business.
Something else that contributes to the case for reincarnation is the question: Why are some people so successful at certain things while others live in mediocrity? Some examples are: Ludwig van Beethoven and music, Michael Angelo and art and sculpture, Jesus Christ and belief, Einstein and mathematics and Bill Gates and financial achievements. Why did these people excel while so many others didn't?
One theory is that this is the result of reincarnation. If each lifetime that we live is an "experience" that leads to the next "experience" that begins with each one of our deaths, and our souls take on a new physical body, then it must surely be possible that any love for a particular subject that truly fills us with devotion and becomes part of our soul will become part of the new body's self. And if the love for this subject continues to grow with each new "experience" then the achievements that are created with each "experience" will become greater and greater.
If we take Beethoven as an example, then he must, in one of his earlier "experiences", have become attracted to music and this attraction must have grown into a love and understanding of music that grew within his soul. In Beethoven's next "experience" his love for music must have grown even further and continued to grow with each subsequent "experience" so that by the time he reached the "experience" that we know of on this earth, he had reached the stage where he was able to create the beautiful music that he did. This would explain why Beethoven was such a musical genius and the same could be said of all the other geniuses that this world has experienced.
Then there are the two brothers, one a year older than the other, that come from a closely-knit family of four where no favoritism is shown by the parents. Yet the older boy becomes a hugely successful businessman, creating a vast business empire and rearing a happy family while the younger brother struggles to make it through life, finding it difficult to relate to others and accumulating little in the way of wealth. Both boys came from the same background, had the same upbringing and education, were good friends with very little sibling rivalry and yet the one is a huge success and the other mired in mediocrity. Has this got something to do with their previous "experiences"? Could it be that in his previous "experiences" the older brother nurtured a love for business and family life while the younger brother's "experiences" were all mediocre, lacking in ambition, easily pleased but also filled with belligerence? If reincarnation is true then this is a very possible explanation.
What this theory implies is that, when we die, our souls move on to another body on another planet and take whatever we grew to love in our very souls with them. The concept that there are billions of life-sustaining planets in the endless universe being created all the time lends credibility to this theory as they would provide the necessary home for all the departed souls. But we should also bear in mind that the love for bad things that many people nurture would also be part of their souls and could lead to even worse behavior by those people in their next "experience".
Nearly all calamities that befall human beings can he traced back to their causes, but man finds it more convenient and safer to blame his or her God. But who is really responsible for the misfortunes that befall us? When someone meets with an untimely death for example, people will say that it's "God's will" or "the Lord called or needed him or her". But if God is all-merciful and all-loving then surely He wouldn't inflict such pain on the bereaved by taking away someone that they loved. But by blaming God people are able to avoid the real source of such tragedies which often would be very painful and in many cases, debilitating. Here is an example of the source of a tragedy being avoided and quite correctly so:
A man and his wife had a sixteen-year-old son who was away at boarding school. At the end of each school term the man and his wife would travel in their car to their son's school and bring him home for the holidays. But on the day before the son was to be fetched by his parents at the end of one school term he 'phoned his father and told him that one of the girls at his school had recently obtained her driver's license and been given a car by her parents. As the girl would be travelling through the town where the son's parents lived on her way to her home, the son suggested that he travel home in the girl's car instead of being fetched by his parents. The father agreed, but on the way home the inexperienced girl driver lost control of the car and in the ensuing crash the son was killed.
At the funeral service the minister explained to the congregation that the son's death was "God's will" and that this had to be accepted as the reason for the boy's untimely death. The fact remains though, that the son's death was the result of the father's decision to allow him to travel in a car driven by an inexperienced driver. But blaming the father for his son's death would have placed a terrible burden on the man and caused him a great deal of unnecessary pain and guilt and would have greatly exacerbated the tragedy. By putting the "blame" on God the minister was weakening the basis of our belief that God is all-merciful and loving and implying that religion is hypocritical and shallow but at the same time he was protecting the father from guilt. Why would an all-merciful God deprive people of those that they love? Doesn't this create doubt in the minds of those who hear it? Perhaps the term "accidents happen" or "it was an accident" would have been an alternative. Then, those people who desperately want to find reasons for the loss of a loved one can do so of their own accord and the image of God as all-merciful would be intact.
One of the most worrying situations facing most religions today is the endowment of deities with human characteristics. The Christian bible states that God created man in his own image and likeness but more and more people are saying that the IMAGE of God was created by man. In most cases God is depicted as being a male who has human emotions and qualities and so, behaves like a human being. But how can this be? The human being is incredibly flawed and, as God is seen as perfect, man and God cannot possibly be similar. If this comparison was in fact so, then the universe would be flawed and would surely destroy itself. But again care needs to taken not to weaken the faith that humans have in their beliefs as this is what all religions are based on. It might be better to use the image of a perfect deity as a behavioral goal that human's should try to simulate. Giving a deity human characteristics enables it to be more easily accepted by most people and this is possibly why religions have persisted with this definition for so long. Trying to encourage people to love and worship something that cannot be described would be extremely difficult. Better to create a deity that can be easily visualized and accepted.
Most, if not all, religions encourage their followers to give, assuring them that by giving they will receive something. Unfortunately most people associate this with money. But is this really what the religions mean? Many people have given away vast sums of money in the hope of receiving more but how many of them actually received any reward for their generosity? Very few, if any. There is no realistic reason why anyone should receive more money after giving away their money.
Perhaps the real meaning of "giving" refers to a different kind of giving. If you give more effort and thought to your work it's far more likely that you'll receive a reward because you will have accomplished so much more. And the reward will not only be monetary but also in the form of personal satisfaction. If you give more consideration to the way you deal with other people you are very likely to benefit greatly because people respond to others in the same way that they have been treated. The important thing here is that it is up to us to make the first move. Treat others kindly and with respect and they will reciprocate with kindness and respect.
It's very unlikely that the "giving" referred to by religions was ever meant to be monetary. Giving in the hope of receiving is shallow and hypocritical and it's very likely that the more money that you give away the more others will take advantage of you. The giving of effort not only to yourself but to others as well, is far more likely to bring abundance both monetary and spiritual.
Some religions require their followers to "tithe" by giving one tenth of what they earn to that religion. Many people misinterpret this, assuming that they will be rewarded in kind and most of them are left disappointed. The fact is that like all other enterprises, religious endeavors have monetary expenses and to meet these expenses they rely on the generosity of their followers. So the tithe that is paid to them enables them to continue with their work of tending to their followers. It could be called a payment for the services that the religion provides for all its followers; comforting the unfortunate, guiding the lost and encouraging the downhearted. There's no reason why they should do all this for free and expecting a monetary reward for contributing to the religion is unrealistic and hypocritical. It's much more reasonable, if you are seeking a reward, to give of yourself, to yourself and to others. That way you're much more likely to receive. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't tithe. What needs to be done is to change your attitude towards giving to your religion and look upon it as your contribution to its efforts to make this a better world without expecting a reward.
The Oxford dictionary defines prayer as "a request for help or expression of thanks made to God or a god" but most of man's prayers are unrealistic and impossible. Many people pray to God, ask Him to help them out of their predicament and then sit back and wait for their problem to be solved. Then, when the problem isn't solved, as most aren't, these people find all kinds of reasons why this happened. From "It's God's will" to "I didn't pray hard enough", the need to justify why their prayers weren't answered abound. But in just about all the instances where prayers are answered it's the result of the person praying actually doing something positive to alleviate his or her problem and trusting that God will guide them. When this happens usually all credit goes to God and when it still doesn't happen it's because the person didn't listen to God's guidance.
In just about all incidents where it's claimed that a prayer has been answered it's possible to explain why the prayer was successful in actual earthly terms, thus disproving any kind of "miracle". This is especially so when people are saved from death and is usually the result of the timely and astute actions of the medical practitioner or surgeon and not the intervention of God. What's important though, is that something was being done to help the situation and was probably done with faith in God's guidance. And in those rare unexplained cases, how do we know if the prayer was really answered by God? We don't. But there's nothing wrong in believing that God did intervene. We are all entitled to our beliefs but this creates another question; why did God allow the problem to arise in the first place? Why did God allow his follower to suffer such a great deal of pain, suffering and trauma? Was He testing his follower? Surely no god would do this.
There are isolated cases where co-incidents appear to be the answer to prayer; for example, a person who is in dire financial straits wins the lottery and then claims that his or her prayers for wealth were answered by God. But why did God choose that particular person and ignore the multitude of other destitute people also asking for financial help from God? The simple fact is that the person who won the lottery had the winning numbers and the others didn't. So, did God help that person to choose the correct winning numbers? Unlikely, as he could then be accused of favoritism and this would surely be most ungodly.
Many people try to use bargaining in their prayers by promising to do something in return for their prayers being answered. This cheapens prayer and implies that God can be influenced or bribed to do the person's bidding.
Other people attempt to flatter God in the hope that this will influence God to favor their request. Once again God is being given human characteristics by implying favoritism. God and nature cannot hold favorites as this would imply human frailties, something that cannot be.
An example of man's praying practices can be shown in this example; a person writes a book and then asks God to allow it to sell millions of copies and so make the writer rich. But what if the book is badly written and boring? Can God force people to buy this book? Of course not. This is a very negative form of prayer. Now, a person writes a badly written and boring book and then asks God to allow it to sell millions of copies and promises to give half the royalties to the church. Again, can God force people to buy this book? No. And trying to influence or bargain with God must surely be insulting to God. Another negative form of prayer.
But if that writer plans to write a book and asks God to guide him or her so that the book ends up being well written and interesting and doesn't offer any kind of reward for this help, would the chances of success not be greatly increased? Definitely, and the reason is that the writer is trusting in his or her faith in God, and regardless of whether or not God actually helps in the writing of the book, the writer's faith in God will inspire him or her to write a good book. This is positive prayer and if far more likely to bring about a "miracle' than any other type of prayer.
We can conclude from this that for prayer to be answered or appear to be answered, it is important that the person praying do something positive about his or her request and by showing faith in their beliefs. If you sit around waiting for God to help you you'll probably wait forever. There's an old saying that "God helps those who help themselves" and there's a lot more truth in this observation than most people realize or are prepared to accept.
The Sub-conscious Mind
The concept of a "sub-conscious" mind has received a great deal of attention over the years, but what is this "sub-conscious mind"? The Oxford dictionary defines it as "the part of the mind which you are not aware of but which influences our actions and feelings". Could this "mind" have any connection to God? Although there are many people who claim that God "speaks" to them could this not be the sub-conscious mind acting as a conduit through which God communicates with us? If our sub-conscious mind influences our actions and feelings without us being aware of it doing so then it seems quite possible that it could be the link between man and God.
Many motivational speakers and practitioners have, over the years, urged people to become more receptive to their sub-conscious minds as a source of positive ideas, inspiration and answers to their problems. So where do these messages come from? Who or what controls our sub-conscious mind? If our sub-conscious minds are controlled by something then surely it can only be by God.
By following the urgings of the motivational practitioners and becoming more aware of our sub-conscious minds and the way it influences us, is it not possible that we are opening ourselves up to receiving the answers to our prayers from God? As our sub-conscious minds are responsible for the automatic actions that we perform every day such as our reaction to danger and our automatic response to situations that can be detrimental to our well-being it seems very possible that the same principle could easily apply when we pray to God for help.
We are told that the human mind has the solution to just about every situation that we are confronted with so it makes sense to allow it free reign so that it can deal with our problems; that is - answer our prayers. If this is true then where does the power of the sub-conscious come from? If we truly believe in God then this must surely be one of the sources of God's power.
If we can train ourselves to become more aware of our sub-conscious it's very possible that what we are actually doing is becoming more aware of the presence of God. And even if it isn't, the subconscious mind can and does help us in a myriad ways. And if your prayers are answered just be grateful. Is it really necessary to know who or what answered the call?