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Chapter Two

Religions

Note: This Chapter contains Theologies of both past and present and examines the origins of man's many belief systems.

Religion has played a major role in every age and every culture. The practice has been with us since humans first evolved on this planet. Men were always troubled by the mystery and finality of death and Religion attempted to supply an answer. Since no way exists to prove its conclusions, the Religious premise must be accepted on faith.



Primal Religion

To understand how the original notion of a god began we must go back in time to the earth, as it existed when humans made their initial appearance. The dawn of spirituality began with Early Man who stared at his surroundings and wondered who, or what, had created everything that his survival depended upon. Surrounded by predators and threatened by the hostile forces of nature, he devised rituals hoping to gain power over his environment. His first response was a belief in magic. Anthropologists have dubbed this primary form of religion "Sympathetic Magic". Its purpose was to mimic nature by producing similar effects found in natural phenomena. For example, observing that rats had strong teeth, men began to eat rats hoping to gain similar tooth strength; noticing that bears were physically powerful, they ate bears to gain their power and so on. Primitive Man practiced this form of magic for Eons until it gradually began to dawn upon him that he wasn't getting the results he had hoped for. As winter approached and the days grew shorter, he worried that the sun was leaving and the fearful darkness would soon engulf him. Using "Sympathetic Magic", tribes hurled flaming sticks into the nighttime sky in the vain attempt to re-ignite the sun and keep it from leaving.
 



Death continued to plague him and when a fellow hominid met the inevitable, the tribe rubbed his body with red clay hoping to bring back the pink blush of life to the corpse. More Eons passed before a new thought occurred to some perceptive individual. "What if somebody (or something else) was controlling everything"? That was the beginning of a new concept and, shortly thereafter, man started to propitiate the spirits, who he now thought animated nature. Early Man believed in spirits of trees and grass, of sky and water, plants and animals and every aspect of nature. Primitive Man imagined that an invisible "Spirit World" was controlling things so he created more rituals to appease these spirits and began entreating them to send him animals that were the staple of his diet. This is the origin of Totems, which each tribe invoked to insure success during the hunt. More rituals became a necessity for winning favor of the spirits and great care was taken to avoid offending and incurring their anger, which might result in poor hunting. Man has always feared the "wrath of the gods" in his quest for survival. In this regard, Prehistoric Man was no exception.



Monotheism materializes

Before modern faith came upon the scene, Pagan cultures flourished that recognized the existence of spirits and gods. Both genders were included in the celestial Pantheon and some early societies sacrificed innocent virgins to appease their gods and goddesses. These sacrifices were condoned by the entire society, convinced that the ritual would protect them. Then along came an Egyptian Pharaoh named Ahknaten with a revolutionary idea of "One God" and the Egyptians had to abandon their religion of Animism and accept Ahknaten's new theory. But one god or many, the motivation behind faith was always the same. Paradoxically though it may seem, worship was designed to mollify man's fear of God.

Personal God: Monotheism becomes a security blanket.

Pharaoh Ahknaten had introduced the world to a new Celestial Wonder, a personal God. The idea of a personal god was something totally new at the time. No longer was the function of God merely to control nature, regulate the sun and moon and keep the universe running; a personal god was aware of all His children's needs and would care for them. He could hear the prayers of each individual and comfort them through the long night of fear and despair. Every culture since has relied upon the belief that a personal god was watching and listening and would offer help to His human creations. The mind is captivated by the belief that it is in direct contact with the Almighty and that He will grant its fervent wishes. The feeling is indescribable; it is almost hypnotic and the pious mind accepts this belief without question.


The "Spirit World" gradually evolved into the "Religious World."

Hinduism

The Hindu Religion is one of the oldest Theologies on the planet and at the helm is the god Brahman. Because of the tenet of reincarnation it is impossible to debate with a Hindu disciple. Should someone claim that Christ or Jehovah is the one true God, the Hindu will agree and declare that Brahman shows his many faces to the world as all the gods and that each face is merely another incarnation of Brahman. He also believes in many other deities including Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganeesh, Kali and three hundred million lesser gods. When a pious Hindu has proven himself worthy, after a number of reincarnations, he may reach Nirvana where his soul will find peace and final rest.






Buddhism

The most fascinating religion is Buddhism, which boasts well over a billion followers. Do all the world's religions offer the same "judgments of God" for our behavior, namely the rewards of Heaven or the torments of Hell? Most of them, I'm sorry to say, do. Yet, there is one that resembles no other faith, and that one is Buddhism. Buddhists are faithful to the Buddha but is the Buddha a god? And is Buddhism a religion, in the way we of the west interprets faith? Although the world accepts it as a religion, the one thing that sets Buddhism apart from all the rest is-it has no god. To understand, we must explore the myth that spawned that great Eastern philosophy.




The Buddha, as he is referred to, was not a god but a mere mortal named Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni. He was born a Prince in the palace of his father. The King decreed that his son should be raised in the palace behind its cloistered walls. As he grew, he wondered about the society that lay just outside the grounds. Never permitted to venture into the town nor mingle with the peasants who inhabited his father's kingdom, he learned nothing about life, as it existed in his country. Associating only with the privileged members of court, he gained no knowledge of the daily lives of the people he would someday rule.

Disquieted by the reality denied him by his position, he developed an intense desire to discover what the subjects of his father's realm were experiencing. He devised a plan to disguise himself and venture forth into the village where he would live amongst the common people. One night, while everyone slept, he slipped out of the palace and entered the city. His aim was to find out how the average citizen existed. Upon seeing that suffering and unhappiness was the legacy of humanity, he realized that he must seek enlightenment in order to help his people. Dedicated to find wisdom, he sat down under a Boa tree and vowed not to return to royal life until he had discovered the secret of enlightenment which he could then endow upon his subjects. And, there he remained, focusing all his attention upon his naval until his goal could be achieved.

The myth does not tell us how long he sat there, but his focus was so intense, that he shut out all thought save that of finding enlightenment. At long last, a beautiful lotus flower sprouted from his naval, signaling him that he had found the wisdom he sought in order to help all humanity. Myths are always symbolic, but the wisdom Siddartha had found, eventually eased the suffering of his subjects and touched more than a billion hearts throughout the Asian continent.



His odyssey to enlightenment gave Buddhism its "Four Truths" and "Eight Noble Paths" which is accepted as the cornerstone of its philosophy. The "Four Truths" relieved his peoples' suffering, and the "Eight Noble Paths" eased their troubled lives. It is wisdom indeed, and while the Eastern world has embraced it, it seems unlikely that the western mind has the discipline to adopt its dogma. One of the "Noble Paths" 0ffered by Gautama, suggests, "Surrender the things you want that are "not in your best interests". There is no doubt that this is genuine wisdom but what society would follow such a noble truth? If it could, would the world have its wars, drug problems, Aids, rapes, murders and a myriad of other horrors with which mankind is constantly plagued? Many of us engage in pursuing our desires despite consequences to our health and safety. When the results are catastrophic, regret, anxiety and depression follow. Sometimes, those who believe their behavior is innocuous are driven to suicide in the attempt to escape their dilemma. Panic and guilt are almost always spawned by self-destructive impulses that man refuses to curb.


The most fascinating aspect of Buddhism is, that while extremely principled in morality, it recognizes no deity. The realization that a belief system, embraced by a billion adherents, can be so lofty in it's values without a god at the helm is a huge paradox. And, yet, Buddhists are not considered Atheists by other cultures. They observe rituals and tenets indigenous to other forms of worship. They have their temples, priests, icons and even a bible, yet their mythology recognizes The Buddha--to whom they pray--as the very mortal Siddhartha. Strange though it may seem, religion can exist and flourish without a godhead.

Hebrew

Paying homage to God through Scripture has not always yielded the purest moral image that one could hope for. The "Holy" Bible, which is the cornerstone of The Judaic-Christian faith, meticulously describes the gruesome origin of the Hebrew Religion. Fresh blood of slaughtered animals was poured over "holy" sacrificial altars throughout the tabernacle of the wandering tribes of Israel. Gore literally drenched the tent in which "sacred" services were held but the interior was splendidly fashioned of gold, silver and precious stones that were stolen from the Egyptians on God's orders (So saith Moses). The first tribal priests were Moses' brother Aaron and his sons for generations to come. They burned the flesh of bullocks, lambs, turtledoves and other livestock to provide "a pleasing savor to the Lord" as the Clergy initiated Peace Offerings, Wave Offerings, Sin Offerings, Heave Offerings and Trespass Offerings as payment for infractions of the Mosaic Code. Two millenniums later even the Virgin Mary, being a Jewess, had to bring a Sin offering to the Priests to be made "clean" again after the birth of Christ. So demeaning was motherhood during antiquity because of the archaic taboo against blood.

Christianity

The advent of Christianity officially began after the Crucifixion by the followers of Jesus. The original Church of Christ was spawned by terror and torture. The Auto de Fe, better known as "The "Inquisition", took the lives of thousands that refused to accept Jesus as the "Son of God". In order to make converts, priests poured hot molten led into their ears and tightened ropes around their heads until their skulls burst. Men and women alike were placed upon the rack and slowly stretched until their arms and legs were torn from their sockets. The only way that victims could stop the horror was to recant and swear that they accepted Christ. History clearly records that Inquisitions took place in many different lands and that conversions were made in the most ruthless fashions, but with the passage of time such bestiality seems to have been almost entirely forgotten.





Mormonism

The Mormon Religion is a form of Christianity, which features the Angel Maroni and the Golden Plates. The text goes on to claim that Jesus Christ returned to Earth and appeared to the American Indians. While none of the Mormon premise can be substantiated, we do know that its founders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were quite involved in the occult. If a "prophet" appeared today and announced that he was a practitioner of "Black Magic", do you suppose he would he attract many supporters? Well, strangely enough, the "Church of the Latter Day Saints" has become one of the fashionable and respected Theologies of our day and growing steadily.



Islam

The faith of Islam uses the Koran as its Scripture and not many Americans are familiar with its contents. The Koran is the equivalent of our western Bible, containing many of the same Patriarchal characters and fables of the Old Testament. Allah is the god Jehovah-known by a different name-and Mohammed is the prophet of the Muslim people, just as Moses is venerated as the prophet of the western world.



The Religion of Islam had not yet been created as the first book of Moses begins. In Genesis we learn of a "Sacred "Covenant" made between God and the Hebrew Patriarch, Abraham. A loyal servant of the Lord, he is put through a grueling test to prove his love for Jehovah. The Almighty orders him to murder his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar. I'm sure we all know that story and most of us also know that Abraham was the husband of Sarai or Sarah, who the Bible tells us was barren. Sarah entreats Abraham to impregnate her brown-skinned handmaid saying, "that I may have my children by Haggar". A boy is born and named Ishmael but not long afterwards, Sarah becomes resentful and orders her husband to abandon Haggar and Ishnael in the desert. He dutifully obeys and soon their pitiful sobs are heard up in Heaven. God comes down to investigate and upon learning what transpired, makes a "Sacred "Covenant" with them to create a new peoples from the seed of Ishmael. The Hebrew god Jehovah promises them a population as vast as the "grains of sand on the beaches". This, according to Genesis, is the origin of Islam that sprung from the loins of the Jewish Patriarch, Abraham!! Moses is the alleged author of this story and since he, nor anyone else witnessed these Covenants, how he came by this information remains a mystery.



In the New Testament, the same god that made the Covenants with Abraham and Ishmael, sends the Angel Gabriel to a Jewish virgin in Bethlehem to announce the birth of "His Son". Three religions, all-vying for the approval of one Father, can initiate a multitude of conflicts, especially if the father shows the slightest trace of favoritism. So, what emotions would one expect to be piqued in "God's children" when God infers that the Jews are His "chosen people"? If this slight did not occur in the Bible, it may have spared a good deal of pain and hatred for Jewish people the world over, anguish they still experience because of it. It seems that planets can remain in orbit without a Heavenly Father's constant approval but not human beings. Is it possible that these biblical Covenants made between Abraham, Ishmael, Mary and Jehovah backfired and caused 9-11, America's second "Day of Infamy"? The implications of this biblical tale are staggering. Despite three covenants made by the same god, man's intolerance of his brother continues. History clearly chronicles that Islam and Christianity have frequently conducted Holy Wars against each other and currently Muslim Fundamentalists seem bent upon the destruction of their brothers in Israel. It is absurd to even consider that our Creator precipitated this man-made madness.


THE NEW TESTAMENT
(For God so loved the world)


Throughout history millions have believed every word in the Bible but today many worshippers feel that the Old Testament no longer carries its original authority. They discount many of its fables on the grounds that although our forebears meant well, they were misinformed. These folks are "selective" worshippers who accept what hey find agreeable and discount the rest. Unfortunately, Scripture does not offer that luxury. Either the Bible is the word of God or it's not. And if the Almighty did write it, as many members of the Clergy claim, didn't He know in advance that one testament wouldn't suffice? If Jehovah is infallible why did he need to write a second one? And if He is the author of the New Testament, He has presented himself as a Personality that's not even remotely like the god of the Old Testament. Besides, it's not so easy to ignore the first one because a number of its prophecies are fulfilled in the second. In essence, the two testaments are irrevocably intertwined. Were it not for that fact alone, Christianity would have no gospels and no god figure as well. It is therefore not possible to discount the Old Testament or the entire foundation of Christianity would collapse.




The second part of the Bible finds Jesus Christ paying the ultimate price for the “Original Sin” of Adam and Eve. As the gospel according to Luke unfolds, we meet a young Jewish girl named Mary, who is betrothed to a man called Joseph. Luke claims that Mary receives a visit from the angel Gabriel announcing that she has will conceive a holy infant. In Matthew’s gospel it clearly states that the angel appeared to Joseph-not to Mary -and it occurred in his dream. Nevertheless, This fulfills the prophesy of the Old Testament that a Messiah is coming. Luke is the only Apostle to tell the story of Gabriel visiting Mary. He must have also considered it advantageous to claim that Jesus was a blood descendant of King David because he provides a genealogy tracing Jesus back to the King. In doing so, he lists forty-three generations from David to Jesus. Matthew also offers a genealogy but Matthew lists only twenty-eight. When we compare both genealogies, we discover that no two names on either list are the same, except for the final name Joseph-the husband of Mary. It therefore appears that Joseph is descended from David-not Jesus. We are left in a quandary because the New Testament has just begun and we are struck by inconsistencies.




There is a striking difference in the Personalities of Jesus and Jehovah. Christ is kind and gentle, filled with love and compassion while Jehovah is portrayed as wrathful and filled, with vengeance. Jesus never mentions the despicable deeds that Bible writers attribute to Jehovah; not one word about the awful flood that drowned the world or the cruel punishment of Adam and Eve. No mention of betraying the Hebrews by causing Pharaoh to pursue them, the deadly plagues He visited upon Egypt or the slaying of the firstborn of every Egyptian family.. There is no doubt that Christ gave the world a new image of God-one that is not remotely like the god of the Old Testament. He saw the Father quite differently than the way Moses had depicted h Him. In essence, you could say that Christ was also defending God against defamation of His character and morality.



Moses was still revered when Jesus began to challenge many of his principles. Those that obeyed the Mosaic Code considered this blasphemy. But even more so, the priesthood of the day began to feel threatened by his new ideas. One day he went to the Synagogue and berated the loan sharks, threw down their tables and chased them and their animals from the Temple. But he must have known that moneylenders and animal sacrifices were part of Jehovah's rituals. His unusual practice of exorcising devils from those he believed to be possessed frightened the worshippers. Is it possible that Jesus Christ believed in devils? Scripture claims He believed with all His heart. But His "Father" created everything so God must have also created devils, but why? If Satan were destined to become Christ's archenemy, why would God create devils? The answer is simple; He didn't! In olden days people believed that illness was caused by demons inhabiting our bodies. It's hard not to feel compassion for them because medicine, as we know it, hadn't been established and no one would have believed that microbes were the real culprits. Still, if Jesus Christ were God's son why wouldn't he have known that? Recently there has been a resurgence of Exorcism in the Catholic Church as modern prelates "cast out devils and unclean spirits" just as Christ did and some gullible Catholics have been injured or killed by the practice, which only shows that many scriptural passages continue to foster a belief in magic.

Note: Let me try to set the record straight. The Jewish people did not kill Christ. The priesthood, then in power, occluded that he might become a problem and hurt their lucrative practice and the shekels might diminish, so they alerted the Roman government and accused him of trying to overthrow he system. But Jesus was never a thorn in Rome's side; in fact they hardly knew him. When Judas Iscariot betrayed him, he actually had to point him out to the soldiers who could not even recognize him. The Rabbis and high priests, protecting their investment in their temples, were the culprits and it is they that bare the responsibility for his execution. I'm sure this truth will fail to impress many for the myth of the Jewish people being culpable has infected even our youth.



The unforgettable scene at the cross can melt the heart of an Atheist. The pain and anguish have been indelibly imprinted on the minds of the faithful for the last two thousand years. It is excruciating as Christ pleads to Yahweh, “My God My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and God never answers. The Bible cites several instances where God spoke aloud from heaven, from a cloud and from a burning bush and His voice “was heard by many” but when His Son pleads with Him to answer-not one word; He just silently let Jesus die. Such callousness at the very end of Christ’s life defames the very meaning of a loving and caring god. The pious will continue to venerate this book and believe such heartlessness about our Creator-but never shall I.

Note: A careful analysis of the New Testament reveals the fact that Luke and Mark were not members of Christ’s original twelve Apostles. Who were these men that wrote gospels and claimed to be eyewitnesses to the events reported in all four gospels? This becomes very significant when we realize that Luke alone gave Christianity three of its most crucial tenets.
1. Angel Gabriel visiting Mary.
2. The Immaculate Conception.
3. Jesus born in the manger.
4. Mark and Luke are the only disciples to report “The Ascension”.

The Christian Myth


Some time ago on public television, Bill Moyers presented the renowned Mythologist Joseph Campbell in a fascinating series of interviews. Mr. Campbell has since departed this world leaving a contribution to theological thought that will remain a classic for many years to come. According to this learned gentleman, every faith begins with a myth, which then spawns the rituals, tenets and scripture of that religion. The Christian myth is no exception-says Mr. Campbell-for it springs from one of the more fascinating flights of man's imagination:



In the beginning, Satan was God's most favorite angel. He served his master faithfully and lived in peace and harmony with all the heavenly occupants. One day, God decided to create human beings and ordered Satan that henceforth he would serve man. Lucifer adamantly refused to serve anyone but his Lord, God. Jehovah became livid at being disobeyed but Satan remained adamant and hostility began to escalate between the two powers until a full-scale war broke out in Heaven. It was catastrophic because many innocent angels were killed (?) and the conflict ended with Satan's "fall from grace in the eyes of his Lord". Jehovah banished him to Hades where he would tend the flames of Hell forever more. If it were not for this myth, "The Fallen Angel" might have enjoyed a far better reputation, in fact we may never have heard of the "Prince of Darkness" or of Devil worship.


According to Mr. Campbell, and I should add Bertrand Russell as well, this is the original myth that gave rise to the Christian faith, following which rituals and tenets were added to flush out the religion. By creating a Devil as the epitome of evil, the myth served the purpose of absolving God of all responsibility for the cruelties and injustices that occur in the world. The creation of two separate powers (one for good and one for evil) it eliminated the grays and everything was painted n black and white. Today, when we imagine God and Satan as mortal enemies, we fail to recognize the alliance that the early church constructed. It's almost as though they had formed a partnership between the two powers so that when we die, God judges us and sends the "Sinners" to Satan in Hell. We are well aware of what supposedly awaits us if we arrive in Hades but what happens if we receive our just reward and go to Heaven? Have we ever taken the time to think this through?



We've been conditioned to earthly pleasures throughout life and spent our existence pursuing the things we love. What would we do with ourselves in Paradise? There are no football games or other sporting events to relish. What about the love we have for our cars and our computers? We couldn't drive anywhere and there's certainly no Internet or TV in the Hereafter. It's not very likely that we could find many interesting hobbies to fill our time. Perhaps we could take a trip to the mall for some shopping? No need for designer clothes up here. How about a nice glass of cold beer at the local tavern? I don't think so. Hey, how about sex? Jesus said that all marriages are dissolved in Heaven. Hmm, I would think not. But wait, I mean with my own spouse? I can see where that wouldn't work either because suppose I had outlived three spouses, I don't imagine I I'd be allowed to sleep with all of them. No, that would definitely be a Sin. By the way, can one sin while in Heaven? And if one does, can he still be sent to Hell-even after living an exemplary life? Hmmm, better keep on thinking. How about food? Scripture says Jesus ate a hearty meal of honeycomb and fish after He had risen. But does it really make much sense to continue needing nourishment-and toilets for eternity? What if we turned into angels-could we just fly around all day? I've heard some people say they thought they might become pure energy, but what kind? Others say they would be in ecstasy just to sit on the right hand of God. But that's out the realm of our experience. Obviously, life after death would have to involve the same sort of things that we loved and did while we were alive. So, the Hereafter would probably be like living life all over again. But many good people have led very unhappy lives. So, what would their reward be after a lifetime of righteousness? They undoubtedly fantasize that suddenly they would feel gloriously happy but it just doesn't work that way; happiness is not something we find-it's something we choose. And yet it's not hard to understand why so many dream of going to Heaven. This is a pretty rough world with all its crime, murders, kidnappings, drug traffic and injustice that many experience. It makes one fantasize about a better place somewhere else where everyone is kind and even the animals don't kill each other. It is natural that Heaven would seem to be a better world than this one.


I'm sure lots of well meaning people have dreamed about the Hereafter without giving it much rational thought but suppose, to our amazement, we failed to arrive in either Paradise or in Hades? Would there really be much fun being ghosts and continuing to wander through our old haunts for eternity? This concept of life after death definitely requires more thought.

The Origin of the Bible

In the previous Chapters numerous examples of slander and defamation leveled against Our Creator were shown to be present in the "Holy Bible". Peculiar though it may seem, the faithful will probably fail to recognize them. Before continuing to examine the Theologies of other cultures, it is significant at this point to discover just how our own "Holy Book" came into being.



The "Judaic-Christian" Bible was created approximately 300 years after the Crucifixion. It was during the third century in the Ottoman Empire, that Emperor Constantine of Turkey settled the religious strife in his country by converting to Christianity. Constantine then decided that a "Holy Book" was needed and ordered his Cardinals to collect old folk tales, Hebrew stories and assorted gospels written by unknown authors after the Crucifixion. Among the many works collected were the five books of Moses, the gospels according to Peter, according to Mary, according to James, according to Thomas, according to Matthew, according to John and a plethora of Apocryphal fragments. After much deliberation, the Cardinals cast their votes for the manuscripts they wanted included in one cohesive volume. It was this compilation of themes that later came to be known as the "Holy Bible". Consider this: if those men had chosen other works, the faithful would now believe different authors. The revered Bible that millions of worshippers have accepted as the "Word of God" was created by a vote of men.

Note: I repeat, I'm neither for nor against any religious practice because I believe that people have a basic need to worship. But must religions create fearful gods in order for them to work?

A few related thoughts


Egypt was constantly invaded by fierce tribes, known as the Hiksos people that dwelt in the craggy regions of the Tigress and Euphrates. They coveted the Nile River, which overflowed its banks yearly, inundating the fertile valley below and never failed to produce lush verdure in great abundance. Each time the tribes invaded they were subdued and scores of prisoners taken. The Hiksos were an extremely persistent people, driven by the dream of living in an environment that was the antitheses of their sparse homeland. They had been successful in their pursuit twice before and occupied Egypt briefly. Ultimately, the Egyptians prevailed and brought back scores of prisoners to serve as slaves. Soon their numbers swelled and began to pose a serious threat to the country. The Pharaoh knew he had to get them out of Egypt so he commissioned his grandson (who was found in the bull rushes by the Princess) to lead the Hiksos out of Egypt and into the desert. Biblical authors later claimed this to be the Exodus of the Hebrews led by Moses. This event became the cornerstone of Judaism.



Extremely meaningful is the fact that the Egyptians left a detailed, hieroglyphic account of their history and failed to mention the "Exodus" or that "Hebrews" were ever held in bondage. In addition, they left no report of the Nile turning into blood, the many plagues that allegedly decimated the country or the slaying of the first born of every Egyptian family. All these events are chronicled only in the Bible.

Note:
All Religions are "Belief Systems", which means they can be altered by new and compelling information but precisely how has Religion continued to hold such a grasp on the mind? The answer may be found in " Parental programming".

Parental programming


We all have parents and each of us has been "hypnotized" by them to a certain extent. This idea may seem incredulous at first because the process occurs in such a natural manner. The parent is the "hypnotist", the child is the "subject" and religious beliefs constitute many of the suggestions that they make. Perhaps the word "suggestion" seems a bit too clinical-so let's say "imitation" or even "copy" because that's how we learn. Initially, by copying or imitating our parents and then others we later encounter. Day after day as we grow, we re-enforce the messages we get from mom and dad, practically since birth. "I am a Catholic", says one; "I am a Jew", says another, "a Protestant, a Methodist, a Moslem" and so forth, and yet we seldom ask ourselves why? The answer is so academic there seems to be no need to inquire. I am a Catholic because my mother/father were Catholics. I am a Jew for the very same reason. We identify with our parents through the suggestions they make to us. These messages need mot be overt because we can receive them subliminally from observing their behavior. One stern look of disapproval can have as potent an effect as a lecture. Noticing their demeanor in a house of worship can reveal their level of religiosity. Do they seem to be at ease with their god or do they appear obsequies and fearful? We incorporate all these signals and frequently, even wear the symbols of their faith to help us feel that we belong. One may wear a Star of David, another display a Crucifix, another completely cover her face- and as we age, the original suggestions enter the Limbic system of our brains and become deeply ingrained habits that feel comfortable and natural to us. So natural in fact, that it never occurs to us we may be following a form of post-hypnotic suggestion. This does not imply that we walk around in a trance, only that our beliefs are unconsciously re-enforced on a daily basis.



As our small world widens and society becomes more meaningful, we discover that most folks share this "suggested-religiosity". That discovery condones the practice and adds a strong sense of legitimacy to the state we're in. But the final realization sets in when we learn that highly respected individuals like government officials, Priests, Rabbis, our Presidents and even the Pope himself, all agree that the information fed to us with mother's milk is valid. The original Parental Suggestions become a tenacious habit that lasts for most, if not all, of our lives. "Habit" may seem a strange word to describe a person's faith but that's what it is-a post-hypnotic habit! Perhaps that may explain why each religion believes with equal fervor in a different god.


Let's take a close look at a person that is hypnotized. He or she will behave in almost any manner that the hypnotist suggests to her. While she sincerely believes that the suggestions are her own thoughts, she will accept ideas for which there is no sensory evidence of reality. In other words, she can be made to believe that something exists which she cannot see, touch, smell, hear or taste. Conversely, she can also be made to "see" and "hear" things that do not exist. "Happenings" that are frequently reported as religious experiences meet these criteria. The "belief" is genuine even if the event is not. Tests have shown that certain suggestions are short lived while others have been known to last for years. Religion is of the long lasting type, often persisting for a lifetime, which may explain why many people-who are quite rational in other aspects of life-continue to believe the outlandish passages in Scripture.



If we examine several different religions we would have to concede that all of them could not be true, yet the adherent of each would insist that only his was valid. He is convinced that his god is the only true god-while the others are false. And he might often defend his belief with his very life, as many have done in the past. What is it that makes religion so delicate an issue hat it can seldom be discussed without powerful emotions surfacing? What puts people on the defensive about the subject? And lastly, exactly what are they defending? Most of the time it turns out to be the values of mom and dad. In essence, criticizing the cherished beliefs of someone's parents feels like criticizing his parents. Pleasing one's folks is almost a universal phenomenon, which many continue even after the parents are no longer alive. The hypnotic process therefore, may explain the tenacity and persistence of faith.



"Parental suggestion" is a two-edged sword that can stimulate one's curiosity or even create a state of indifference. Some parents are too stringent in their beliefs and can unintentionally create problems for their offspring. Suggestions containing threats like those of Hell and Damnation imprint the mind with such powerful stimuli that later adult reasoning often fails to expunge them. Only the use of common sense and compelling new information can alter a belief system.




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