Monday, October 14, 2013

Why-Questions For Ourselves

The oldest question in the world. It has general and personal aspects.

Honestly, I think we can't answer the general aspects. We don't know beyond doubt where we came from. Religions have all their own answers, sometimes in full contrast to one and other. I have gradually learned to rely on myself. "Why am I here", "Where am I going", are questions usually approached in a moral fashion by religions. It may be a help cord for humanity to hold on to, but is it an answer to the question? The role of humanity in the scheme of things on Earth, is seen as a task, by religions. And its future is determined by the way humanity carries out this task. The problem then lies, again, in the differing, sometimes contrasting answer furnished by religions. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism basically say, though in differing ways: The human soul is forever; its future in the afterlife is determined by how the living man or woman behaves during life. And there's an invisible, omnipotent creating God who creates, decides for and judges us, and everything else. But the stories of these religions are different, and so is their worship. Buddhism says: there is no invisible world behind this, this is all there is and has been, there is no creation, and the human soul isn't immortal. Personally, I think that all religions cast their light on an aspect of the truth that was revealed to their spokesmen, usually referred to as prophets. Why the stories differ, is an answer God only knows;) Or only some answers can be proved to be true or false. Islam still is my own religion, but I can't confirm that the prophet Muhamed, pbuh, really met archangel Gibryl, and that Gibryl truly came with God's word. We can't prove it, no matter how valuable and truthful its content may be. That is faith: Acknowledging something to be truthful or valuable, without having falsifiable evidence. The consequence is, that none of us have the right to forcefully impose our non-falsifiable convictions on other people. That also goes for atheists.

I think, that Buddhism has a point here, it's view can be retrieved with Ibn Rushd, for those who like to know if there's a parallel with Islamic views somewhere. I agree with them and think there was no first creation. Mass cannot have emerged from the non-existent. That's technically and absolutely impossible. Non-existence isn't empty space, because space is existence. Therefore, mass must always have been there, which doesn't mean there has never been empty space. Empty space is always mass-related. Like Ibn Rushd, I think, that God is working within the universe, as the force within it. God may be time, the law or force of nature, an abstract concept. God cannot be compared with anything at all, says the Qur'an. There's no god, there's just the law or force of nature, but that's not god, atheists say. When the Bible says, that "the earth was without form, and void", it may say there was a first creation of our present planet and the other celestial bodies, but Genesis leaves open whether it must have been a remould of something else, another mass. The story in Genesis may sound contradictory to scientific knowledge and even to itself. An aspect not irrelevant to the age-old question, is that other religions have their own stories, that may also be impaired and proven-untrue.

And then, how about thinking of where we're headed to. The afterlife. Is there nothing, or is there a retribution, where justice is restored? It's always been approached from a moral point of view, even by atheists. We should live righteous lives in order to attain a good afterlife. Or, vice versa, we don't need to... etc. The only thing not eagerly considered, is the possible preparation to a bad afterlife. A life in Hell. If Hell is forever, shouldn't we learn now how to live in pain, or at least in unpleasant conditions forever? Shouldn't we learn to accept evil as part of a whole that may have good in it, simply because the whole 'needs' this aspect. We're not taught to deal with an eternal painful retribution. (How we should, is another issue.)

All things considered, I think it's better to keep things personal. It leads to always-relevant and tangible answers to the age-old questions. Why am I here? Where do I go? I stick to things I know. I came from two parents and a long line of ancestors. I live here, because I was born nearby. I have children, they have my genes. Why do we live somewhere? Because of family, a partner, or friends cherished enough to be counted as family. Because I like the town I live in. Because of a job. But I think that most people tend to find their livelihood near family and friends. The chance is realistic, that I'll stay here too, because it's not easy to leave and then live away from family. Why do people leave the vicinity of family and friends? To be with a partner. It may be uniting with an existing partner, or traveling to a country or town where a partner is likely to be found. It may also be necessity. If it's impossible to find a source of income or affordable housing in the vicinity of family and friends. Yet, I think that most people hesitate to leave their country or city for work only, no matter how tempting the prospects may be. There should be someone or something else too, to make it worthwhile to live alone in an apartment far away from home. That's how it works for me. In all honesty -- a partner, or family and trusted friends somewhere else will make me move away more easily than only a great writing gig. The chances are realistic, though. And it's best to recognize that I'm not sure what will happen after death, and try to do my 'best' as is recognized as such in my community, including not causing harm to others.

With thanks to fellow blogger Izaakson.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Am I God?

A while ago, I read somewhere: 'Are you God yet?' A thesis meant for further thought or discussion. The topic interests me particularly, so I want to try and answer. The word yet intrigues me, because it apparently allows the concept of a temporary God.

The idea that you and I could be God, is unfamiliar to those raised in Jewish, Christian, or Islamic traditions. The Christian idea of God resembles most that of a human, male artist who 'makes' everything from matter, perhaps aided by utensils, see top image. In Jewish and Islamic thought, the hands ought to be removed. Perhaps the knife can stay, but the Jewish and Islamic concept don't allow a human God-figure. [112.4] And none is like Him, says the Qur'an. In these three religions, God is not to be identified with His/Her/Its creation; God is the force behind it. But if we don't know God's nature, what's against thinking that God indeed is everything? This is what my fellow blogger must have thought, and there's a point in it. The entire top image could be seen as God. But then enters a complication many people may dislike: It can only mean, that God is neutral and imperfect. This is because all creatures have an enemy in creation, and because people are prone to discontentment. People are inclined to set norms for themselves and others, and they are inclined to failure in living up to norms. Religious people are not brought up with a neutral god. God sets the norms and decides in the end who have done their best to stick to those norms, and who haven't. Some kind of retribution then follows. (For Muslims a big issue, because not-following the rules is disobedience, and partly not-following them may be hypocrisy, an even worse sin).

It is useful to study other religions and philosophies than your own, because you see your own ideas in a broader perspective and might be inclined to see other people's true thought contributions to this world. And the world has several religions –– with conflicting or matching theories and norms. For instance, Islam says that every person has but one life. After death, we wait in the grave till judgment day. Then will be decided who goes to paradise, and who goes to hell. Yet, Hinduism and Buddhism say that after death we all get a new life, or become another creature. Only Buddhism doesn't recognize a self-existent, eternal soul, and doesn't believe in creation by an omnipotent god. The concept of me and you being God would probably best fit into Buddhism. But do these thoughts justice to the question 'are you God yet'? I doubt it, because there's more to it.

Maybe it helps to first look which parts of traditional religions could be seen as plausibly, reasonably true theories. It is plausible, that there is an invisible force behind everything around us. It is plausible, that everything around us has always and eternally existed –– after all, where could matter have come from? It's also plausible, that everything we know, both matter and the forces and abstractions behind them, all-in form 'God'. Calling only the force behind everything 'God', however, is equally plausible. So 'God' can very well be just a matter of definition –– taste? It makes it possible to debate, whether God is eternal. If you and I are a little piece of God, God as a concept may be eternal, but God in you and me perhaps isn't. Consequently, it is plausible, that God has created/revealed different religions, philosophies, and societies. But how plausible is it, that one is superior over the other? That is a matter of forensic archeology and text falsification. It is plausible, too, that phenomenons people may refer to as 'ghosts', spirits, or souls, do exist. Yet, it's also plausible that they may not exist. What else is plausible? That God is omnipotent and perfect, or is omnipotent and perfect only in certain fields. In other words, it's even plausible that God is not omnipotent and perfect. It casts another look on our imperfect behavior and emotions of discontent. If we're God, as our imperfect selves, we must live with the fact that we may not like ourselves and our sins, and that we need to find the tools towards acceptance. Buddhism traditionally is strong at that issue. And it's plausible, that time and the law of nature have some link to God.

Secondly, it also helps to look at those parts of traditional religions that remain out of sciences' reach: The issues we don't know and, at best, can believe in. The hereafter and divine sanctioning are those issues. We don't know –– and usually don't like the thought –– if God is neutral towards his/her/its creatures, or if God sanctions them. We can't dismiss the thought of divine sanctioning, yet, stumble upon the differences between religions. We don't know if spirits are souls of the deceased, nor if they have eternal existence. Another issue we don't know, is if our soul is eternal and self-existing, or temporary. The question if at all we were created, by who and how, is another we have no answer to. So it's hard to fill in those questions for others and impose them, yet it's often been done. It's disliked that people with harmful behavior get away with it unsanctioned. And people like to exercise power. But then, comes the largely unanswerable question of honesty. How honest are religions, when they try to give answers? Truth is, that it's unknown if the prophet Muhammad truly received revelations from God via archangel Gibril. This in spite of good documentation of the prophet's words. Even the prophet pbuh, technically speaking, had to trust his instincts. If we want to successfully pass honest judgment, it's best to stick to that which is plausible, without imposing it on others.

Therefore, from an honesty-point of view it's plausible to wonder: "Am I God?" It's possible to label everything as God. Or to make one's own definition of God. Last weekend, I confronted my family members with the issue. My brother said "we don't know, but people will always try to gain power over their group and then use religion as a tool". My brother-in-law said "I don't like the thought of a neutral God, and for the rest I don't know. But to me, your sister is God. For me that's enough". I find it a great answer. No more words needed.