the religions of
the world forbid examination and do not want one to reason.”
143, 2012 March)
be said, that in
view of an imposing and scholarly ancient theological literature, to
include a chapter on formal beliefs in with the paranormal would invite
ridicule. However, as those beliefs have the same or similar origins,
that is, they are based on ideas involving various aspects of the
supernatural and which cannot be empirically substantiated, there is
some justification for including a simplistic treatment of the subject.
Further, many would see the "New Age" as a substitute religion.
major religions are
Christianity (1000 million followers), Islam and Hinduism (about 500
million each), Buddhism (200 million) and Judaism around 15 million.
Religious statistics are neces-sarily approximate as adherence to a
religion varies in rigour, and in the East many individuals belong to
two or more religions.
genesis of the major religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam had the
same roots. It is believed that the one true God revealed himself in
visions to those he chose to be his prophets or messengers. Among those
revelations was that he would send a Messiah, saviour or special leader.
Jesus was the Messiah and the son of God, that he died to save man, was
resurrected and ascended to heaven. It was around the accounts of his
life and teaching that the early Church grew. In the early days
Christians found it difficult to agree on the nature of God and the
meaning of Jesus' teachings, and the Church split in two. Refusing to
acknowledge the Pope in Rome as the head of all the Church, the Eastern
Orthodox Church headed by the Patriarch was founded in Constantinople
(Istanbul). In the early 16th century there were further splits when
Martin Luther broke with the Roman Church and formed one of the
Protestant groups, and King Henry VIII of England set up a separate
English or Anglican church.
there is a complete
lack of authentic evidence that a man named Jesus ever lived,
Christianity has the largest following in the world. The evidence
against Christ's historicity, the credibility of the Bible, the alleged
miracles and the rituals and doctrines associated with Christianity are
manifold and become obvious when a comparative study of the Bible and
other religious tracts are made.
Christ a Myth,
(1981) Indian atheist and scholar Joseph Edamaruku posits that the
con-spicuous similarity between the stories of Christ, Krishna and
Buddha for example, suggest that the exhortations of Christ in the New
Testament were the pieces of advice by Buddha who lived five hundred
years before, and that the entire life story of Jesus Christ was copied
from the life stories of Buddha and others. The customs and doctrines
too would appear to have had their origins in other religions.
7th century AD. a
new religion, Islam, was founded in the desert country of Arabia (Iran)
by the prophet Muhammed which taught the Submission to the Will of
Allah (God). Muhammed claimed to have had visits from the angel Gabriel
who gave him God's message to deliver to mankind. An illiterate
merchant, he learned the messages by heart and taught them to his
followers, a committee of whom collected them into a book called the
Koran, the holy book of the Muslims.
is believed to
have been an epileptic who wandered the desert and fasted for long
periods. Subject to these conditions, hallucinations and the 'hearing'
of voices are not uncommon phenomena, and it is doubtful whether any
credence can be had in those types of claims.
from the other religions in so far as it has no one founder but
developed over thousands of years, probably based on the religion
introduced by the Aryans who reached Northern India from the West
nearly four thousand years ago.
maleficent effects of
Hinduism on the population of India can be seen in the discrimina-tory
caste system introduced by the Aryans, which successfully restricted
any prospects of socio economic advancement by the disadvantaged
classes in India until its technical abolition at the time of India's
independence in 1948. The Hindus worship a multitude of gods, every
village has its own, and the results of having faith in non existent
entities rather than adopting a more pragmatic approach to life's
problems is evident in the widespread poverty and squalid living
conditions in that country.
in the ancient
world people worshipped many gods, about 4000 years ago the Hebrews or
Israelites began a new religion based on the belief that there was only
one true God, who created the universe and everything in it. They
believed that their God called Yahweh (Jehovah), or the Lord, made a
covenant with their leader, a shepherd called Abraham, and promised
them that in return for obeying his laws and commands he would look
after and favour them. Much of Bible is based on Babylonian myths
picked up by the Hebrews while in captivity. Like the religion of
Islam, the Jewish faith stems from the alleged hearing of supernatural
voices and the seeing of visions.
founded by Prince Siddhartha Gautarna in the 6th century BC, did not
expound any new ideas about any kind of god but introduced three new
ways of thought, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.
Enlightened One, came from a Hindu country where it was believed that
people were born over and over again to suffer in the cycle or
of existence, but he also taught that people could break away from this
and reach Nirvana, an abode of blissful spiritual life after
Buddha taught his followers the Four Noble Truths. The first is that
life is full of suffering. This is caused, states the second Truth, by
people’s desire for worldly success and fondness for material
possessions. The third Truth is that suffering can be ended and Nirvana
reached by ceasing to desire the things of this world, and the fourth
Truth shows how this can be done by following the Noble Eight fold Path.
Eight fold path can
be summed up as right beliefs, right aims, right speech, right conduct,
right occupation, right effort, right thinking and right concentration.
the same time
that Buddha was preaching in India, two Chinese teachers were
developing philosophies that were to grow into religions. Kung Fu tse,
better known as Confucius, and Lao Tzu whose ideas became known as Tao,
or Way. Confucius based his teachings on the wisdom of the past and
believed in the caste system of rulers and subjects, and masters and
servants. He consi-dered the family unit particularly important as the
basic unit on which society was built.
was against all
systems of government and adopted a fatalistic line. He believed that
people should not try and influence their destinies but just drift
along through life like sticks in a stream. In Kung Fu tse and Lao
Tzu’s time the Chinese, like the Indians, believed in hundreds of gods
and in trying to accept all of these Taoism became a rather muddled
religion, its priests resorting to magic and spells.
religions, Buddhism and Confucianism, are philosophies, and while there
may be something to be said in favour of the more altruistic tenets of
both the Eastern philosophies, Islam and the teachings of Christianity,
the common absurdities of creationism, eternal life, life after death,
reincarnation, the promises of rewards for conforming to their dicta,
and miracles in general, all remain unproven.
of all creeds
are the most widely followed of all paranormal beliefs. Many are born
into them, indoctrinated before reaching an age of reason, and in many
cases they dominate our lives and even the destinies of nations. They
are organized systems of belief generally revolving around the
existence of supernatural beings. There is no empirical evidence for
the existence of these beings, and as with all paranormal beliefs — the
reality of unknown energies and forces is purely a matter of faith,
fantasy, or conjecture. How did they evolve?
nature’s phenomena, primitive man attributed them to the activity of
unseen spirits, which he concep-tualized in similar forms albeit more
powerful than those with which he was familiar — man and beast. The
spirits or gods needed to be propitiated, kept happy with praise and
gifts, and important stages in people's lives were marked with
ceremo-nies and rituals. Temples were built to house the images of the
gods and in which to worship and pray.
and prophets of tribal societies were replaced by an organised class of
priests, who with their knowledge of the holy writs and special powers
became the intermediaries of the gods. With the consolidation of tribes
and villages under one ruler, the god of the most important tribe
became the chief object of worship in that kingdom. Myths were composed
to explain the creation of the world, and the putative deeds and powers
of the gods became exaggerated through the legends that grew up around
nations grew and
coalesced in the Mediterranean world, the pantheon of Egyptian, Greek
and Roman deities disappeared and was replaced by one true God who, it
is said, reveals his laws and rewards obedience with eternal life. Thus
it was on this debris of nature that man raised the imaginary colossus
of the divinity. Elsewhere, particularly in places such as India, the
worship of many different gods still prevails.
of mouth whole
peoples adore the God (gods) of their fathers and of their priests, the
customs, submission, authority and confidence unassailed, they
prostrate themselves and pray because that is what they were taught.
absence of any empirical evidence for the concept of supernatural
beings, the less fundamentalist and militant religions endured for
centuries until the advent of scientific rationalism in the 19th
century. Today, atheists, rationalists, humanists and free thinkers,
posit that while an untenable belief may have served a purpose in the
past, it is unacceptable and retrograde thinking in today’s world.
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