In the beginning was the world. Man looked at the world and was bemused. The sky had a great glowing ball of heat in the day and a cool serene ball at night. Sometimes it was cold. Sometimes it was hot. Sometimes it rained. Sometimes it was dry. There were times for fruit and times for the animals to come through. There was birth and there was death.
He looked for the patterns and tried to make sense of it.
He solved the problems of the seasons, the behaviour of the animals, their feeding patterns and migration. He solved the problems of the seasons to plant, to gather and to sow. He created tools to harvest, hunt and irrigate. He created machines.
For seeking patterns and solving problems were his forte.
It was when confronted with the bigger questions that the limits of these powers was discovered.
At first the ball of fire and ice were viewed as gods. They bestowed their benevolence upon us. They watched over us, brought the seasons and the rain and had to be worshipped.
When we did this – it rained. If we do this again it will rain again. If it does not that is because we have done something wrong and displeased the gods. We have to make amends and pay penitence.
The holy men held the power; they alone could communicate with the gods. They knew the prayers and rituals.
Gradually the rituals and ceremonies grew ever more lavish. The temples and churches ever more ornate. They were the symbols of the power of the holy men who were revered.
As for death? It was another journey to another land – to a land of eternity where there is everything you desire. You are reunited with your loved ones and live for ever in god’s love. The soul (a mystical essence that was a brilliant idea) goes on and migrates to the after-life.
At first we merely had to cross a river (Styx) to the land on the other side. Or travel up into the sky. Or down into a world beneath. But as science opened up our knowledge and there was no other undiscovered land, or underground universe or heaven in the sky the rules changed; it was now a different dimension; a whole new universe.
This eternal heaven was Elysium, Paradise, Valhalla, or simply Heaven. Hel (not Hell), Sheol, Jannah, Olympus and a thousand others lost in the mists of time.
Strangely all of these heavens were shaped by the culture they were thought up by. The Greeks had gods cavorting, drinking, feasting, taking on human form and shagging anything that moved. The Norse had great halls with endless drinking, feasting and lust. The Muslims had beautiful gardens with fountains where you were entertained (presumably sexually) by 24 perpetual virgins. The Christians had this life in the clouds basking in the love of god with endless singing.
As our knowledge grew the views of souls and after-lives became more esoteric. The holy men adapted their story to fit the new narrative.
In those cultures with a strong belief system there is no room for questioning. The culture is frozen into the pattern of its founding holy man. The beliefs, rituals and customs are stultified. To go against the prevailing view is heresy. To speak against it is blasphemy. The punishment is death.
I have no desire to live in a theocracy where my mind is shackled, my customs and beliefs dictated, my mind numbed and the reward for being different is torture and death.
We had that in Britain for hundreds of years. It was dire. Fortunately we had an enlightenment and were freed from tyranny. Now we have a secular State and free speech. I like that very much. I will do everything in my power to defend it – (short of violence).
I believe the whole concept of god, the after-life, paradise and souls is a man-made construct to explain things we cannot understand or psychologically find it difficult to accept.
We psychologically find it hard to accept that our lives have no meaning or the universe came out of nothing.
We create god as the answer. He has a purpose for us. He created the universe.
We do not seem to have a problem with questions like – Where did God come from? God created something out of nothing didn’t he? Eternity is a long time to have to spend listening to a celestial choir – and even the twenty four virgins might begin to pale after the first billion years or so.
For me god solves nothing. It is a construct that puts the questions in a safe area so we don’t have to think about them. God has the answers so we do not have to think about them. Life does have meaning. There is a purpose. God has it all worked out. Sorry – not for me.
The sooner we start solving the problems for ourselves and living our lives to the full the better.
I do not believe in god, after-life or heaven in all their myriad compositions. I am quite happy with the Big Bang, polyverses, quantum and solving the problems as we go along. I want to put my energies into making things better here and now – not in a fictional after-life.
I respect anyone who believes differently to me, as long as they do not try to impose their views on other people or indoctrinate children. History is littered with the intolerance of the ignorant. I love a good argument. I deploy violence, hatred and abuse.