Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Mall of Eternity

The Mall of Eternity

Hey!  Let’s go shopping!  It’s almost Christmas, so let’s go!  I’ve got this great new place I found in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy called the Mall of Eternity!  Come on!

Now, this place is great, it’s got just about every religion listed in the Mall you could possibly think of!  Of course, the Directory’s kinda long, and most places are kinda small, but there are some really great stores if you know where to go, it says, right there on page 26 ½…

Oh, here’s the Directory:
  1. Catholic Church
    1. Roman Rite - also known as the Roman Catholic Church - minor variations by Country
    2. Eastern Rites - also called Orthodox - 781 denominations
  1. Anglicans
    1. High Church
    2. Low Church
    3. A total of 168 variations or denominations have been counted
  1. Protestant Christians -major ones listed
  1. Christian Cults, Sects and invented religions
    1. Unitarian
    2. Jehovah's Witness
    3. Seventh Day Adventist
    4. Mormons
    5. Scientology
    6. Christadelphian
  1. Judaism - Jewish - variations are mostly in practice, not beliefs
    1. Reform
    2. Orthodox
    3. Hasidic
  1. Islam - a few major versions
    1. Sunni
    2. Wahhabi Sunnis - dominant in Saudi Arabia
    3. Shia
    4. Khawarij
    5. 72 other variations per the list here.
  1. Eastern
    1. Hindu - a wide range of practices and beliefs that are only loosely linked.
    2. Buddhism - many variations depending on locality - includes: Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana  and Zen
    3. Sikh - mostly variations in turbans, rituals etc
    4. Confucianism
  1. Pagan
    1. Druid
    2. Wicca
    3. Satanism 
    4. Greek Pantheon
    5. Roman Pantheon
    6. Incan
    7. Aztec
    8. African (various)
    9. Caribbean (various)

Ok, geez, I didn’t… dang, that’s a lot!

I’m confused.

Ok, shopping trip over, let’s go back to reality.

I know that there are folks who read this blog who have some very basic disagreements with my views.  No problem.  I don’t agree with yours, either!  So, now lets’ take a look at the possibilities, by examining that list above.  It isn’t an imaginary Mall directory, but it is a list of the religions people around the world pretty much believe in.  (Yes there are folks who still adhere to the old Greek and Roman pantheons.)

You see, from your perspective, things are pretty cut and dried.   You go to church, read your study guides, listen to the preacher or priest, and you’ve got one pre-cooked, spoon fed religion, ready-to-eat.  You can study or read up on it or just coast along, getting advice or prompting from that nice preacher any time you’ve got a question.

But from where I sit, it isn’t so easy.

Without the easy belief of my childhood, I am subject - should I decide to shop around - to the cacophonous blaring of that multitudinous list of religious theocrats.

Not to put anybody down!  I know that each religion surely has any number of sincere, honest believers who really, truly believe the teachings and dogma of their religion, and who would gladly spend the number of hours it would take to convert me.

The problem each one of them has is the same one you have.

Who is right?

Each one has wildly divergent beliefs, values, customs (which often vary even within their own religion from country to country) and holidays.  They are each sincerely honest in their belief, at least some of their believers are.

But they can’t ALL be right!  There are two possibilities - either none of them are, or just one of them is.  There are no other possibilities.

So.  At some point, after examining all of this, one gets to where it is time to make up one’s mind.  But how?  What criteria do I use to determine which one to believe?  Sincerity?  Honesty?  All of them will have adherents with plenty of both.  Holy books?  Some of them have holy books much older than christianity, do we go by age, or do we go by volume?

Do we go by number of adherents?  Sorry, that’s a logical fallacy.  There are plenty of beliefs that are widespread, but hardly true.  People once thought George Washington cut down a cherry tree, but we know for sure that’s a fabrication.

There just isn’t any way, short of someone actually coming back from the dead...and there just isn’t any proof that’s happened.  Lots of different religions have claimed it has, but truthfully?  No.

Some have claimed to have died on the operating room table and been brought back to life.  Yes, there is a phenomenon where people have clinically died for a period of some few minutes short of brain damage levels and were revived.  Some of them, like Dr. Eben Alexander, have claimed that their experience has changed their lives.

The odd thing, though about these Near Death Experiences (NDE) is that they almost always tell a story which parallels the teachings of their birth religion.  Now, if Dr. Alexander were to come back and convert to Buddhism, claiming that his experience backed up the teachings of Buddha exactly, that might get some attention, but that has yet to happen, to my knowledge.

No, I just can’t get my head around the idea that after over a hundred thousand or so years and the invention of literally thousands of gods and hundreds of religions, there isn’t any kind of a resolution to the central obsession of the human race.

Maybe its time we got a new hobby.

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