Religion - Faith or Knowledge?
'Do not believe in the strength of traditions even if they have been held
in honour for many generations and in many places; do not believe that
which you yourself have imagined, thinking a God has inspired you.
Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or
of priests. After investigation believe that which you yourself have tested
and found reasonable and which is for your good and that of others.'
Gautama the Buddha (C.563 C.483 BC)
"Those who seek a meaning and purpose to life eventually include religion on their investigation agenda, since it has been a fundamental part of human life for thousands of years.
Many, from birth, have no freedom of choice and are obliged to follow a family or state religion. In that respect, I can thank my parents for not indoctrinating me into either religion or politics,
leaving me an open mind to draw my own conclusions in later life.
Apart from church primary school as a child, my first introduction to religion was at the age of 17 when applying to join the local church youth club. The conditions for joining were confirmation into the Church of England faith and attending regular church services. I didn’t have a problem with that at the time – I just wanted to play snooker and table tennis.
It was duly arranged for me to have chats with the vicar for confirmation lessons. He was a very amicable gentleman and we met for an hour each week. He talked about Jesus and God and read relevant chapters from the Bible and cordially invited me to ask questions. I remember asking such questions as: ‘If there is a God, why are babies born handicapped?’ ‘Why do children have to die?’ ‘Is there an afterlife and, if so, what is it like?’ and ‘Why does God takes sides in war?’ And why this and why that.
Over the weeks, the expressions on his face were priceless as he struggled to answer my questions. He talked and talked and talked, but what I received was politicians’ answers. I never got a direct answer to a direct question, and believe me I really wanted to know. After six weeks I was more confused than ever, and was more or less told that I must have faith and believe in the Bible, because what happens in this world is only for God to know and not for us to question. I was disillusioned. Here was a man who had been preaching from the pulpit for many years but couldn’t answer the basic questions of life from a 17-year-old. Yes, I did get confirmed – I really did want to play snooker and table tennis!
Because of that experience I remained agnostic and never gave orthodox religion much thought for the next 18 years. I felt that it had stayed in the dark ages for too long, and was all faith and belief without offering any proof or giving acceptable answers to sensible questions. I could never understand why, if there was a God, ‘He’ would wish humanity to remain in ignorance of the laws governing life and death.
Blind Faith and Belief
Many who read this book will have been touched by tragedy, and often left ‘cut and bleeding’ or maybe just ‘badly bruised’ when life suddenly pulled the rug from under their feet. Very few of us will escape a battering on this Earth in one form or another. When traumatic things happen and, happen they do, I feel that knowledge is more comforting than blind faith or ignorance. I have talked to many whose blind faith has been rocked to the core or destroyed by life’s sudden tragedies. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ we cry out, naively thinking that death and destruction, murder, rape, divorce, accidents and terminal illnesses only happen to other people.
During a television programme about the devil and evil, a devout Jewish gentleman who survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War Two particularly moved me. One of his very pertinent questions was: ‘Where was God when six million Jews were being gassed?’ It was evident by the tears in his eyes and the tone of his voice that the question had rocked his faith and haunted him for over 50 years.
One could equally ask: ‘Where was God when World War 1 started?’ Or ‘Where was God during the Catholic Inquisition, when hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were tortured and murdered in ‘His’ name?’ ‘Where is God when thousands are dying every day of starvation and disease?
Should we just have blind faith and accept that such horrors are the will of God and that we mustn't question? Is that an easy cop-out to pacify our ignorance, or have the knowledge and answers been there for thousands of years staring us in the face?
Many religions are based on belief systems that accept alleged events as being true and factual without definitive evidence or proof. Thus belief systems, by their very nature, invite doubt, and tend to be matters of opinion or subject to argument or disagreement. Perhaps that is why ...."