Religion and Life After Death - Part 4
Religion and Life After Death – Part 4
Oliver T. Spedding
Just about every human being has at one time or another wondered why we are here on earth. What purpose does our presence here on earth serve? The logical answer is that we are a component of nature just like the other animals and plants that share the earth with us. The only real difference between human beings and other animals and plants is that we have a superior intellect that allows us to see ourselves as beings, allows us to be aware of ourselves and gives us the ability to even foresee our eventual death. With this in mind, it seems obvious that there is no special reason for our presence here on earth. We are here because we are part of the greater creation of the world and the universe - nothing else. In this context our presence here is no different than the reason for the presence of the other animals and plants. We don't question their presence so why question our own? Because we think that we're special and so vastly different from our fellow inhabitants we imagine that there must be a unique rationale behind our existence.
The problem is that our superior intellect and our huge ego allow us to assume that we are extraordinary and thus have a unique reason for existing. If this is so, then what is that unique reason? To dominate the other species? Surely not, if one considers the huge number of species that mankind has driven to extinction. Could our purpose here really be to destroy the earth? Not likely. It's true though, that all the other animals and plants on our earth do have a purpose, mainly as part of the food chain and the human being doesn't seem to have a place in this chain; unless it's right at the top and makes us the reason for the presence of all the rest of the earth's inhabitants. We certainly couldn't survive without the food, medicine and materials that the rest of nature supplies us with. But, on the other hand, the rest of nature certainly doesn't need mankind. If the human species was removed from the earth what's left would undoubtedly flourish and be controlled by its own natural laws. Species would still become extinct but they would be removed because they no longer serve a purpose in nature and not because of man's greed.
Perhaps we should abandon the idea that we are so special, curb our rampant egos and accept that we are simply a tiny part of the universe and nothing else.
There would be no religious faith if there was a physical presence of God; something that we were able to prove existed. But why does religion need faith? Because human beings are fixated by the unknown. They need to know, and this need has immense power. The longer the need remains, the more powerful it becomes. And the unknown isn't static. It can be embellished to fill any particular need and with no evidence of justify this, especially if it relates to the behavior of the believers. Human beings can be influenced to do good or bad simply by their faith. Mankind cannot ignore something that cannot be proved to exist, especially if it concerns his very being. Human beings will continue seeking proof of the unknown and the more they search and the less they find, the stronger their belief is likely to become. Even the atheist and the agnostic are intrigued by their own beliefs and will also go to great lengths to prove them. And their faith also grows with each failed attempt.
Religious belief is probably the most powerful emotion known to mankind and can lead to great mercies and unbelievable atrocities. But without belief there would be no religion, so religion will never die because there will always be belief. God will never become a reality and mankind should be grateful for this. We need a God that we cannot prove to exist so that we can have religion; a need as great as the air we breathe.
Good and Bad Things
Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people? If God is all-merciful and loving wouldn't He prevent the bad things from happening? These are probably two dangerous questions to ask as they question the existence and the accepted image of God. Shakespeare is quoted as saying: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" and this is one part of the answer. God isn't in control of mankind's thinking process. We have a choice of either thinking and doing bad things or thinking and doing good things. We are also given the choice of whether or not to be receptive to our sub-conscious mind and, by implication, guidance from God.
The lure of easy wealth can skew people's thinking and cause them to ignore their innermost feelings about what is right or wrong and thus allow theft, fraud and other illegal means of obtaining wealth to influence them. And when these people succeed with these crimes and evade punishment, questions arise as to why God allowed such things to happen. Also, when good and kindly people suffer through their own negligence or ignorance, again God's motives are questioned.
As was observed earlier, co-incidence plays a huge role in what happens in our lives and this is probably another answer to the question about the experiences of good and bad people. It therefore seems advisable to accept these two answers and also accept that mankind has the choice of doing good or bad things and that co-incidences are the result of this choice. What would be the point of our existence if God controlled everything that we did? Human beings need and want the freedom to make their own decisions and choices and must therefore accept the consequences. If we didn't have this we would be robots, doing our Master's bidding without thought.
Most religions believe that God created the universe and all that is in it and even if this were not so it's still obvious that there must be some form of controlling force from which all creation evolved. But it's highly unlikely that this force has human characteristics, human frailties and human emotions. If this was in fact so, then the entire universe would surely be fatally flawed.
Is it not possible though, that the very essence of the universe is something that is in everything: energy and life? Science tells us that there is energy or life in everything; just at different levels of intensity. The lowest intensity would be some inanimate object such as a rock or a stone while the highest intensity that we know of would be the human being. And something that is filled with energy and life is Nature. Is it therefore not possible that nature is at the core of the universe? Would it not be accurate to say the nature formed the universe and everything in it? The Oxford dictionary defines nature as "the physical world, including plants animals and all things that are not made by people". In other words; all things that are natural. And what controls the universe? The laws of nature.
If we understand and obey the laws of nature we flourish whereas if we defy these laws we suffer. Examples of the laws of nature are; the law of supply and demand, the law of gravity, the law of relativity and the thousands of common sense laws that we live with today. Just about all the misfortune that befalls us can be traced back to not adhering to these laws.
But these laws don't control us and cannot be bargained with or manipulated. We can obey them or disobey them; we have the power of choice. And this power to decide is our right. But whatever we decide, we are responsible for the consequences. We can't blame nature for what befalls us. The name LIFE would probably be a more fitting name for the power that makes up the universe and all within it. It has no human connotations, it has no gender, doesn't lend itself to any visual impression and yet it implies power and vastness.
We are Part of Nature
The mystery surrounding life after death will always remain but there is one theory that needs to be considered.
We accept that human beings are a valid part of nature and that, apart from our superior intellect that allows us to be aware of our being and also enables us to believe in our own immortality and hence eternal life, there is no reason to believe that we will not suffer the same fate that we believe happens to other animals and plants. It's accepted by the vast majority of human beings that other animals and plants don't have a soul and that, when they die, they become nothing. Why can't this also happen to us?
As was noted earlier this concept is almost impossible for mankind to envisage and accept as being its fate, and yet it is very possible. Nobody has ever been able to convincingly explain a spiritual after-life or the concept of reincarnation, but the possibility of human beings becoming nothing when they die is so simplistic that no explanation is needed.
The human being finds it impossible to imagine not existing but, if you've ever been in a deep state of unconsciousness then you will realize that it is quite possible. Perhaps you underwent an operation in hospital where you were subjected to a general anesthetic. You probably remember lying on the operating table, the surgeon asks you to count to ten and suddenly you're back in your hospital bed. Or you may have been knocked unconscious as a result of an accident and regained consciousness much later only to find yourself in a hospital bed. The time between you losing consciousness and regaining it will seem like an instant whereas, in fact, many hours probably have passed. During that time you were not aware of your existence whereas the people around you at the time were aware of your physical being and they knew that you were alive because they could see you breathing and the machines that you were connected to verified your existence. Only you weren't aware that you existed. There was just nothing. Would it be any different if you had actually died?
From the above you can see that it's very possible not to exist in your own mind so it isn't so impossible to not to exist.
Being reduced to nothing would remove the fear of retribution for our discretions during our lifetimes but would also deny any reward for our good deeds. This scenario would also make our lives more simplistic as our motives for our actions during our lives wouldn't be influenced by the threats or promises that we have been told are in store for us and we would be guided by the goodness and love instilled in us. Although becoming nothing would take away the fear of what might be in store for us after we die it would also allow us to accept that as we would no longer exist we wouldn't have the pain and sorrow of losing those that we love. After all, if we are nothing we could not have any thought or emotions at all. We simply wouldn't exist and that may not be a bad way to end it all. We were nothing before we came here and we're nothing again after we leave.
Death is inexorable and unfortunately the human being has been given the ability to foresee its inevitability. The entire universe is based on goodness and love and we should focus on our faith in God as all-loving and merciful and trust that what happens to us after we die will be a fulfillment of our faith.