Guest post by Matt Hensley:
I am fascinated at the things people are willing to believe. Not the crazy, end of the world sign holding type person, or the I was abducted and anally molested by space aliens type person, but by your average, walking down the street living in the suburbs perfectly ordinary in every way individual. Ask an average person if they believe in Bigfoot. Or the Loch Ness Monster. Most people don’t. They have a hard time believing that these things exist, because of the lack of evidence. People are pretty sure that if a colony of giant hairy men and women (other than hippies or bears) were living in the forests of northern California, we would have found them by now. If a giant fish monster were really living in a lake, someone would have caught one. People like proof. We like explanations that make sense. We prefer to know that things are real before we believe them, because they add stability to our lives. We don’t like the thought of unknown elements, possibly dangerous, running amok in our world, because we like stability and normalcy. But ask that same person, your banker or lawyer, for example, if they believe in god and the bible, the answer is usually yes.Matt is a personal friend of mine who doesn't live that far away.
Noah’s Ark. One story from the bible. An amazing tale about a man who built an ocean liner, filled it with animals from all parts of the world, and used this to save the earth from total destruction. Roughly 500 feet long, 90 feet wide and 55 feet high, constructed of wood. About half the size of the Titanic, built thousands of years in the past, Using magical instructions from none other than god himself. Ask a Christian if they believe this, and the answer is yes. Ask them why, they will say because god is all powerful. God can make anything happen. Except, of course, Bigfoot. Because that would be ludicrous. And that’s where everything in the conversation goes crazy. The rational average person suddenly believes that a magical being in the sky, not an alien, not a space monster, not a visitor from another galaxy or planet, but an ALL POWERFUL BEING helped a guy like you or me build a giant boat in his backyard to save the world. That this god used magical helpers called angels to assist in all the logistical things associated with the giant boat. Ever seen Bigfoot? No. ever seen an angel? No, but they exist, unlike Bigfoot, who doesn’t, right?. What if I told you that I saw a modern day Noah three weeks ago? Would you believe me? Well, I did, and its exactly the same as I believe the story of Noah got its true origins from. I do believe that some stories in the bible may be true, to a point, without all the divine bullcrap. Here’s what I saw.
As you know, there has been a massive flood in Pakistan. Hundreds of miles of land, underwater. Filmed from a helicopter, I saw news footage of a man: some belongings, a few animals and family members, all floating on a raft made from what looked like the roof of a log home, awaiting rescue. Now imagine this, how ever many thousand years ago, in Noah’s time. The modern man is aware of the world. Its size, shape, the existence of other countries and cultures thousands of miles away. But what about ancient Noah? What was his knowledge of the world? Maybe a hundred miles? Up until recently, we were still exploring uncharted areas of the world, discovering tribes in areas who had no knowledge of us or anyone else in the world other than themselves. So it is perfectly reasonable to assume, that in Noah’s time, the world he knew was small. Along comes a flood, similar to the one last week. To him, the whole world would be flooded. He climbs on a raft, or maybe the roof of his home, grabs the family, some chickens and ducks and a goat, and off they float, for days and days. The raft is full, people try to get on it but he doesn’t let them for the sake of his family‘s safety. eventually, they are lucky enough to survive and float to safety, and tell the tale. And, like all good tales, it gets embellished, being told mouth to ear for years and years, until it evolved into the biblical story we know today. Isn’t that far more likely than what happened, than the whole magical biblical account? But say that to a devout Christian and you will have an argument on your hands. An intelligent conversation with a Christian about a bible story can be an insane experience, especially when you use the logic that they apply to other abnormal or paranormal beliefs to examine one story. In their view, If the bible says it exists or happened, it does, no matter what. And few are comfortable exploring it further, because it affects something, a deep seated fear, a need, a core belief that speaks out to their very existence: in a word, Heaven.
Sit and examine yourself. Your intelligent, self aware, and probably productive in some fashion. At some level, your creative, maybe with artistic ability, but most definitely imagination. But of these things, its self awareness that is the greatest curse man has. Because with that, comes the knowledge of death. Sooner or later, your going to die. And when it comes down to it, no one wants to. Why? Because no one knows, definitively, what happens after. In steps religion, with the claim of an answer. Religion is the same as the pursuit of easy, great wealth. Most people desire something easier and more valuable than what they have. Con men know this, and exploit people around the world daily. Ever been part of a pyramid scheme? Bet you know someone who has. Would you eat the ground up arm of an albino woman if it would bring you great wealth and power? Probably not. But right now, in Africa, there are people cutting off the limbs of albino people and selling them to witch doctors, who in turn make potions that supposedly will bring great wealth if consumed. Religious voodoo in practice today. In Christianity, it’s the same thing. Believe in a book, and all its magical stories, combined with following the rules written in the book, (and of course pay the required bills on time) and you get a fat juicy reward: a glorious place in the afterlife, even though we cant prove it exists. Religions prey on this daily. it’s a trillion dollar business. Look at Vatican city. How much did all those priceless works of art cost the average person afraid of dying? People want more. Its our nature. And we will do just about anything to get it. The problem with man is, we are men. We are all capable of lying, but we always want to believe others tell the truth, especially if its something we really want to hear. Like, there’s a magical place in heaven for you, for example. What does man want? IMMORTALITY. Where can I get it? Religion.
Lets say, for the sake of argument, I was new to all this, and wanted to find the right religion. How would I find it? How many years would it take me to interview all the leaders of each religion, and let them try to convince me that theirs is the absolutely correct one, in order to insure that I get what I pay for? Its not like getting a drivers license, after all. Most states require me to get training before I can get certified to drive. But if I look in the yellow pages and call them, all drivers instruction schools are the same. They follow the same rules from the same state approved books, based on state laws. The teachers may differ in style and demeanor, but in the end, it doesn’t matter , because they all will get me what I need. My reward, guaranteed. Christian religion can’t say this. In fact, they mostly do read from the same book, the same instruction manual, but they all read it differently. Different versions, with different interpretations and expectations. And lets face it, everyone thinks their religion is the right one. If I asked you if your religion was the one I should believe in, would you say yes? And by proxy, if yours is right, if I chose say, Buddhism, or god forbid (a little pun there in case you didn’t catch it), Islamic faith, wouldn’t I therefore be wrong and go to hell in your eyes? And that also begs the question, wouldn’t a Muslim or Buddhist think the same thing if I didn’t choose their religion to believe in? from what I can see, it would be virtually impossible to stumble across the right religion that would get me a place in the magical afterlife, unless of course, I chose YOURS.
Now you may dismiss me because I am an atheist, or don’t have a PhD or two like some, but the fact of the matter is this: I don’t need one. Things are far more simple in life, once you face certain realities. I’ve read the bible. Not studied it, or memorized it, or obtained any great fancy document that means I have mastered it or can argue against it by quoting others who have. I can say it’s a good book, with lots of very inspiring stories, promoting morality and documenting as best the writers can some semblance of ancient history and peoples lives, and there is nothing wrong with that. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a book, nothing more, and I am smart enough to think of rational explanations for the stories it contains. The Stand, by Steven King, was a great book, full of supernatural stories, prophets, self sacrifice, and even god and the devil, but I doubt we will be extolling that book thousands of years from now as something more than it is, a work of fiction with some real places and events mixed in. I’m just an average man, who asks himself a simple question, and tries to find the answer: “what’s more likely?”. I have accepted that we as a species have no idea where we came from, or where we are going. There are amazing things in our world and even in other parts of the galaxy and beyond that we do not understand, but we have developed the ability to try. The ability to put aside preconceived notions from our past and use our brains to conceive of theories and ideas that will help us find answers to our questions.
Throughout our history, we have searched for answers. Better ways to travel, new things to discover, sometimes for better or worse but always attempting to learn, to better ourselves, to create. We live in a golden age of discovery, and we need to embrace that, not fear it, by clinging to voodoo ideas about magic beings who judge us and control our entry into an afterlife. There is no shame in looking around at things and questioning if they are true, based on the facts, or discovering new facts that counteract the old facts. If there really is a god, prove it. Or let him come forth and prove it himself. Stand on the steps and show his power, prove his abilities, explain his motivations for the things he supposedly does, justify his expectation of servitude from me. According to the bible, he spoke to people before, why not now? I do not believe, nor shall I ever, that some magical being created everything I know. Its just not likely. There may very well be life out there somewhere, in another part of the universe, but I am willing to bet this being doesn’t call himself God, or want our cash in exchange for coming to live with him after we die. I believe that somewhere far away, this being looks up at his sky, ponders his existence, and wonders if he is alone, the same way we always have, and tries to explain it all with the knowledge he has at hand, just like us. The universe is a big, big place, so in fact, I think it’s likely.