Conclusions about religion:
Other Questions, Conclusions, Recommendations
We recommend that you read
the menu on this topic first.
Where did we come from?
There are many diverse beliefs about the origin of
humanity -- that we came from:
||Bacteria: About 99% of biological and earth scientists support the theory of
evolution. So do most Roman Catholics, most religious liberals, and
some religious mainliners. Contrary to public opinions, they do not believe that we are descended from monkeys.
They trace humanity back to a common
ancestor that humans share with the higher apes. The fossil evidence goes farther back to small
rodent-like mammals at the time of the dinosaurs, and eventually back
to bacteria which were able to live under very hot conditions
underground. The latter appear to be the source of all life on earth.
||Mud: Conservative Christians and Jews follow the Genesis
account in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). It has been
variously translated as having God make Adam from the "dust of the ground,"
"a lump of soil," "clods in the soil,"
or "a clod of clay." 1
||Insects: The Navajo Nation
teaches that underground insects either became, or helped create, the First Man
and First Woman.
||Fleas: An ancient Chinese creation story describes
human beings as coming from the fleas in the hair of a giant.
||From body parts: Hinduism
teaches that various castes of humans came from parts of a primal man,
Purusa. His body formed the entire universe. His arms became the
warriors; his legs the commoners, and his feet the serfs.
intercourse: Most traditions of Wicca,
and many other Aboriginal religions, share a common belief: that the seeds of all life,
including the human race, came from the sexual union of two
deities -- one male and one female.
What little agreement that
there is among religions indicates that humans probably came from lower,
simpler forms of
life. This vaguely agrees with the theory of evolution. 2
Is there life after death?
In a word, yes. For example:
||After we die, the body rots. If the body is not cremated, it provides life to countless millions
||Our DNA, mixed with the DNA of another, lives on through any
children that we have. If we are to have two children, then half of our DNA
is present in each. If they each have two children, then one quarter
of our DNA is present in each of our four grandchildren. And so on.
The influence of our DNA continues to be diluted with each generation.
But it is spread through an increasing number of our descendents.
Assuming that our descendents keep on having just sufficient children to
replace themselves, then the sum total of our contribution to the gene
pool remains constant from generation to generation, forever.
||Every action that we have taken throughout our life influences other
people and the world in some way. Even after we are gone, our actions
continue to change the universe. The ripples
formed during our lifetime, for good or evil, continue to spread.
But when people normally think about life after death, they think of
some continued form of consciousness -- one in which at least our memories
and personalities remain intact. Various religions teach
mutually exclusive views:
||The Celts and some other aboriginal societies taught that when we
die, we are born into an alternative universe that is much like the earth. When
someone dies in that other universe, a baby is born on earth. There
is an elegant symmetry to this concept. However, the belief does not
seem to be shared by other religions.
||The ancient Israelites, the Pagan cultures that surrounded them, and
the ancient Greeks shared a belief in an underworld, called Sheol or
Hades. This was a "post-mortem dungeon where pitiful souls,
reduced to shadows, lead a sorrowful and anemic 'existence',"
totally separated from God. 3
||Under the influence of Zoroastrianism and the Platonic concept of
the immortality of the soul, some traditions within later Judaism
developed the idea of eternal life with God. Christianity picked up
this concept. They developed the idea that each human would be judged
by Jesus, and spend eternity either with God in indescribable bliss in
Heaven, or isolated from God in terrible pain being tortured forever in
Hell without any hope of mercy.
||Some modern-day Christians are repelled by the thought that God
will send the vast majority of humans to Hell. Various concepts
of a second chance have been proposed. None seem to have any basis in
||Eastern and some Neopagan religions teach some form of
transmigration of the soul or of reincarnation, in which humans
through a whole succession of lifetimes.
||Most Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists and other secularists are quite
certain that nothing lies beyond death. The body's processes, both
mental and physical, gradually wind down. There is no soul. There
is no consciousness after death. The person does not survive death in
From the great variety of mutually exclusive ideas about life after
death, one is tempted to conclude that nobody really knows what happens.
It appears that most (perhaps all) religions are simply guessing. People are keen
to know what happens after death; all religions are expected to supply answers.
What is the meaning of life?
I am sorry to confess that none of us have studied this question in depth.
What little thinking that I have done on the meaning of life has led me to
believe that life is intrinsically meaningless. It is up to the individual to
give their own life meaning.
If you are interested in studying the matter further, Nancy Martin
and Joseph Runzo have edited a book that describes the meaning of life as taught
by the world's main religions. 4
||There are many ways to determine which is the
"true" church. Unfortunately, they lead to different
||Religions teach a wide diversity of rules for individual behavior.
There is no way at this time to reach a consensus about which, if any,
set of moral rules is true or correct.|
||Almost all religions teach an Ethic of Reciprocity that is
similar to the Christian Golden Rule. We should probably adopt
this concept in our dealings with other people. Where it is used, it
seems to work. When we treat others a sub-humans, dreadful things can
and do happen. However, to maximize the chances for peace in one's
locality and around the world, we need to apply the Ethic to
everyone, not just to followers of one's religion, or to people of the
same race as we are, etc.|
||Religions teach a wide diversity of beliefs about deity and an
individual's responsibilities towards that deity. Again, there is no
way at this time to reach a consensus about which faith, if any, is
||The theory of evolution and many religions teach that humans came
from lower forms of life.|
||There are a lot of theories about life after death, but we are a
little short on hard evidence. It seems as if nobody is really
have two choices:|
||To somehow learn to live with this uncertainty.
||To follow a religious belief, even though we have no proof.
We make no specific recommendations about which religion to select for your
own. We do
suggest some points to consider when making this personal decision:
||Inter-faith or intra-faith marriage: Religious differences
within a committed relationship can generate a great deal of stress,
and greatly increase the possibility of separation an divorce.
There are various
methods of minimizing conflict. Properly handled, religious
differences can bring a couple closer together.|
||God as a safe bet: Some academics, including Blaise Pascal
(1623 - 1662) have suggested that "If you believe in God and
turn out to be incorrect, you have lost nothing -- but if you don't
believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you will go to hell.
Therefore it is foolish to be an atheist." This statement has
become known as Pascal's Wager. It has quite a few logical
errors. For example:
||One cannot simply decide to believe in something or someone as
an act of will. People normally have to be convinced that what
they believe in has some supporting evidence.
||What if a person decides to believe in the wrong God? There are
many religions with multiple concepts of God and Hell in
the world. You might decide to believe in one God only to find out
that another God is the real one -- with his/her/its/their own Hell waiting for
you because you chose in error. A devout Christian may well end up
in Allah's Hell, and a devout Muslim may well end up in Yahweh's
||If you live in North America and feel equally comfortable with all religions, you might
consider choosing Christianity. About 75% of adults in the U.S.
identify themselves as Christians. Going with the majority might avoid
being the victim of religious prejudice. This number is dropping
by almost one percentage point per year. If this trend continues, then
by sometime in the 2020s, Christianity will become a minority religion
in the U.S. At that point, non-Christians might be less discriminated
||If you live in a country that has a state religion, you might
simplify your life by choosing that faith. In some countries, one can
be charged with a capital crime for changing your religion.|
||If you feel that a Neopagan religion like
Wicca is best for you, then you might
consider keeping a very low profile. Many, perhaps most, Wiccans do not
publicly reveal their religion to others. There are a lot of people in
North America who do not differentiate between
Wicca, the "witchcraft" mentioned in the Bible, and fantasy
"witchcraft" as mentioned in the Harry Potter and other
books. Others equate Wicca with Satanism. For some of them,
beliefs spread by the Inquisition in the late Middle Ages and
Rennaisance are still valid.|
||All other factors being equal, if you choose the dominant religion
of your family of origin, you might minimize conflict in your life.|
||It is not necessary to fully adopt a single religion. A "shopping-cart" or syncretistic approach is an option for some.
For example, one
might adopt the Wiccan Rede, (a rule governing behavior), and graft it
onto a Christian theology about
God, an Eastern Religion's concept
of karma and reincarnation, while adopting a concern for the
environment from various Neopagan Earth-centered
||With a few exceptions, we have found that most religions can inspire
their members to lead better lives. Most, perhaps all, have an evil, dark side.
Some are sexist, racist and/or homophobic. Many have discriminatory policies that would be illegal under civil rights
legislation if a businesses, industry, government office or
educational institution attempted to apply them. So, even if you adopt
a specific religion, you might consider working from within to
eliminate any bigoted policies that your chosen