2. The "What to Believe" Problem

And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

The Bible: John 17:5

Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

The Bible: 1 John 4:1

At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

The Bible: Matthew 10:19

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

The Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:51

No matter what our own religion or belief system, most of us have a problem in exactly what to believe. If we believe that our own belief system is perfect and contains the whole truth, then not only are we in danger of having tunnel vision but we are doing a disservice to other religions or belief systems. It may be that in the future, those religions, which are intolerant of others and have a very narrow base of beliefs, will find themselves lacking in support. Surely, an appealing religion is open to many possibilities.

So, what to believe? It must include some of the following: Some believe that everything is an accident. To quote one person, “When you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s it!” There is no God and when you die, you return to an eternal state of oblivion as appeared to exist before you were born. Some believe that there is a God and all the dead are in some sort of suspended animation awaiting the resurrection, which will take place at some time in the future. Some believe in a spiritual resurrection and others that we will receive our existing physical bodies, which will have been perfected. Some believe that the dead are now in the spirit world in a continued state of existence of a different type. Others are not quite sure which of these two ideas may be correct and try to go down the middle. Some believe in a once and for all lifetime. Others believe that it is possible to have more than one lifetime on the Earth. Some believe that it is possible to receive impressions from those who have passed on from this life. Others believe this is impossible, trickery or at the worst evil. Some believe that Jesus was directly related to God and others disagree. Some say that Jesus went elseware during his missing years between the ages of thirteen and thirty where he studied Buddhism. Others would disagree. Some say he was born of a virgin and rose physically from the dead. Others say this is incorrect and that he may have been crucified, but he was then resuscitated. Then after 40 days, he left for France or India. Some believe that after being crucified, Jesus then appeared in America, where he repeated many of his teachings to the people of this continent (3 Nephi, The Book of Mormon). Others are not so sure. Some believe in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost and others that this is wrong because there is only one God and that is the end of it. God cannot be split into three. Some believe that in formal worship, those leading it should dress in formal gowns more resembling the middle ages. Others believe that a more informal or modern dress is more appropriate.

It is not our purpose here to decide which of these pictures is correct but to compare what religious books such as the Bible say about certain aspects and compare these with our latest scientific understanding and see if there is any common ground that can help us make a more personal informed judgement of our own.

Whatever is the complete truth about how things work and the hereafter, it has to be the same outcome for all, no matter what our religion or lack of it. The simplest model would be that of total oblivion for all eternity. If that is the outcome then it applies to all those who have lived, all those who are living and all those who will live in the future. This is in itself a mind-boggling concept. Most people appear to be under the impression, that if total oblivion for all eternity is the case, that when you die the world carries on without you. In one sense it does. However, in another sense the whole Universe comes to an end. Just as the whole of time, previous to your life, was crammed into that split second before you became consciously aware, so it should be in the split second after you cease to be consciously aware, that everything comes to an end. The end of everything. This is a daunting prospect in itself. Whatever the truth, some of the above, or various combinations of the above or something else that we are not yet aware of, then it will in the end, apply to all.

A simple analogy would be a group of intelligent people sat around a table in the Middle Ages contemplating the nature of the world. One may argue that the Earth might be a flat disk with the Sun and moon rotating around it. Another may say that the Earth is a dome because you cannot see over the horizon and that it rotates making the sun and moon appear to move. Yet, another may state that they believe that the Earth is a sphere and that the sun and moon might go round it. The sun must be regarded as fixed to the sphere of stars going round the Earth. Each of these three pictures contains elements of truth, but none of them is the whole truth. It is only when we have the complete picture that we can look back and say which bits were correct. We then see the absolute truth that applies to all. Another analogy could be an eclipse of the sun. There have been many explanations throughout the entire world as to just what may be going on. It is only when we have a complete understanding of what is really happening that we can see the truth. We have only come to these understandings in quite recent history. As far as life, consciousness and what may lie beyond it is concerned, then we may still be in that position, where we only have a partial picture of the full truth.

It is a pity that the differences between religions have given rise to such fervour or fuss between them. It is true that many people attribute some particular aspect of religion as being of fundamental importance to their own belief system, but in the great scheme of things is this important? The religions that stand a chance of survival must surely be the ones that have a more open tolerance and appreciation of other belief systems. Some individuals only need one thing that they cannot accept or swallow to be put off the whole idea of another’s belief system. It is strange that many religions that preach tolerance are rather intolerant when it comes to the radical ideas of others. We will embark on a journey through some slightly different ideas, which may be equally hard to swallow for some, but for others it just might make more sense. What happened two thousand years ago is commendable beyond words. However, we do not have a time machine in which to go back and check out all the nuts and bolts of the situation first hand. It is a pointless exercise arguing about what may or may not have happened. All we can do is just leave that to faith. Whatever our own belief system, we should not let that alienate us from the belief systems of others. Surely there is something more important thing from our point of view, two thousand years on. That is, are the teachings of our grand masters correct? That is, in the way we lead our lives, with the regard to how the Universe works and the continuity of our consciousness beyond death.

The difference in the religion of biblical times and that of today creates for us a paradox. There is the willingness to accept that some people had spiritual gifts, which could be used to enhance everyday life in the past, but if practiced in the present, this would be frowned upon. Take for example prophesy. The Bible is full of examples of people using this gift for various purposes, but it would not go down very well in the mainstream Church of today. Then we have examples of spirits appearing to people in dreams and those who had the gift to interpret the dreams. Again, this is something, which we do not find within the Church today. There were those who had the ability to discern spirits. Yet, when was the last time a demonstration of clairvoyance took place within the mainstream church with someone who has the ability or gift to do this? It is as though such things are regarded as only being possible at a certain point in time, thousands of years ago and not today. However, logically speaking, if any gift or ability was apparent during biblical times then it should also be present today. The laws of physics both discovered and undiscovered should be the same at all times. The problem may be that the idea of mediumship or clairvoyance in the early books of the Old Testament tends to be lumped together with magic, trickery and deception. There is no mention of this in the New Testament. In fact, the discerning of spirits is regarded as a spiritual gift.

There can also be problems when people change facts themselves, well after the event, to conform more to their own ideas of what they think is correct. These ideas or allegations are not often discussed within a religious service as you are then challenging the fundamental ideas of the religion itself.

One good example is, that it is alleged that reincarnation was a well-established fact and part of Christianity until around one thousand five hundred years ago when a small group of people decided to have it scrapped. Remember, this is an allegation and there are others who have counter allegations against it. The story goes that in the centuries immediately after the crucifixion, the idea of reincarnation was repressed. The basic ideas are still there in the Bible and are an explanation of why people are always asking who people were. For example, was John the Baptist, Elijah who had returned? The Roman Empire, which ruled most of Europe, was largely responsible for the suppression of the ideas. Arguments had raged between the years 250 and 553. Origen of Alexandria was one of early Christianity’s earliest theologians. He believed and taught about reincarnation as a fundamental part of Christianity. Around the year 300, which was around 50 years after Origen’s death, the arguments against him began to grow. Many eminent theologians high up in the Church began to mount a case against him. In the year 325, the roman emperor Constantine had a relatively small number of bishops (around 300) gather at Nicaea, near Constantinople. He wanted them to agree on certain fundamental points. They found this difficult. The compromise was to agree upon a creed; the Nicene Creed of today (...I believe in the resurrection of the dead...). More controversy raged around the year 400 but the matter came to a head in 553 when Origen's ideas were officially condemned by another General Council of the Church. After all this controversy, the idea of pre-existence, reincarnation in Christianity and an immediate resurrection in the twinkling of an eye upon death was replaced. The idea of a once and for all resurrection of the physical body and final judgement, followed by an eternal state of bliss or damnation took its place.

Celtic Christianity managed to hang onto some of the ideas until they were apparently overcome by the rest of the continental church at the Synod of Whitby in year 664. A further job was done on overcoming these ideas when the Cathers were exterminated in the thirteenth century. These were a Christian sect in Italy and Southern France. This and the Spanish Inquisition that followed was very effective at wiping out the public recognition of reincarnation in Christianity.

The point at the moment is not whether reincarnation is a fact or not, but to illustrate how original teachings may have or can be subject to change due to the whims and fancies of those in control at the time.

A parallel exists in the Buddhism belief system. After teaching for forty-five years, Buddha died aged eighty years. The teaching was then passed on orally. Around 480 BC a council was called to ratify the teachings at Rajigir to agree a definitive version of Buddha’s message. By 380 BC, a second council was formed at Vesali to ensure that all Buddhist monks adhered to the Vinaya, the code of discipline. At the gathering, differences of opinion arose as to what Buddha actually taught. There was a two way split and two slightly different versions of Buddhism arose.

Around 610 A.D. Mohammed received “the word” from the Angel Gabriel having been told to “Recite”. Being unable to write, these recitations were memorised. These revelations were communicated to relatives and friends. Several of his followers wrote down parts of the revelations. These were used around 650 when an official copy of the text was demanded. The demand came because many of those who knew the original texts had died in battle. There were inconsistencies in what was the correct text between Muslims from different regions. Some passages were recited in formal prayer or worship and were therefore not in dispute. Then a group of men were commissioned to produce the definitive text. After this had then been passed around the Islamic empire, the idea was that all other variations should be destroyed.

The Book of Mormon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was written by the American prophet Joseph Smith. It spans the years 600 B.C. to 421 A.D. We are told that this was originally written by ancient American prophets and it contains the ancient history of America. An abridged version was engraved on very ancient plates of gold by the prophet Mormon. His son Moroni is said to have made additions to these and then buried the plates in the ground. These stayed in the ground for around 1,400 years. Then Moroni, as a resurrected being or angel, delivered their location to Joseph Smith in 1827 A.D. It is said that Joseph Smith translated these when he was 23 years of age through inspiration or through the power of God, although he himself was uneducated. The gold plates themselves were either lost or returned to Moroni by Joseph Smith, but were never seen again. Nevertheless, eleven people of repute testified that they had seen them. In the main, the Book of Mormon does not contradict the Bible but adds to it. So, the Bible will be our main reference point.

There is even some uncertainty as to when the four Gospels were in fact written and this could be any time between 50 and 100 A.D. It is only just bordering on the possibility of an eyewitness account.

The point is, that even if in many of the worlds belief systems, a gifted person has had information passed to them straight from the horses mouth so to speak, then we cannot guarantee emphatically that people themselves have not muddied the waters somewhat and added a bit or subtracted a bit as the information was passed on.

Here we will take the Bible, mainly the New Testament and some extracts from the Koran and compare them to what we know about modern science and see if we cannot see things from a different perspective. It is a journey over an enormous length of time from the creation of the Earth to its final demise.

Bear in mind that from now on, the words God and Universe are interchangeable and are synonymous with one another.

For further information try entering the following key words in your search engine in different combinations: Christianity, Reincarnation; Spiritualism; Buddhism; Mormons; Islam; Judaism.

Return to Index


home page