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Original Superstitious Irrational Notions
Part 3 of God Really IS Great! Religions Poisoned Everything! Series
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:25
Anyone who has ever built a house understands the value of a good foundation. Excavators are required to dig down to virgin soil, but structural engineers recommend solid bedrock to make the best of all possible foundations. Errors in the foundation may not be repairable later on in the project, so great care is taken to ensure all of the measurements are exact and the foundation is perfectly plumb and square. The tallest buildings in the world today are over half a mile high, yet the scrutiny of its foundation is made in centimeters. A city skyrise building may be a spectacle but over time there will be severe consequences if built on a poor foundation. A settling foundation will exert excessive stress on the framework. The foundation will begin to crack leading to cosmetic defects and later to structural damage. In the most severe cases this will lead to the entire collapse of the structure. Only a careless builder would consider building on a less than perfect foundation.
The principles in the construction of buildings are directly applicable to the development of a belief system. Carelessness in laying a proper foundation will have adverse consequences on the superstructure. The most beautiful and secure belief system is destined to collapse if it is built on a deficient foundation. It is somewhat amazing to see people focus on superficial topics and neglect to examine the integrity of their own faith's foundation. Surely, it is more exciting to discuss the latest end-of-world prophecy, new interpretations on the symbolic beasts of Revelation, faith miracle healing, or living a prosperous Bible based lifestyle than it is to scrutinize an old "tried and true" foundation.
Christians readily accept Bible statements such as “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22) whether or not it makes sense to them. The sacrifice of Jesus is fundamental to the Christian faith, yet most Christians cannot reasonably explain why God required the death of his only son before he could begin to forgive a single person. The question is not “WHAT” Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished or “HOW” his sacrifice achieved our redemption, but “WHY” did God require his sacrifice in the first place? We do not require the death of our children to forgive so why did God? Why couldn't an all powerful God simply reprimand and then forgive Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden for their disobedience? One fascinating explanation for Jesus' death proposes that God required an infinite God to die for finite humanity's sins to balance the scales of justice before he would forgive. There is nothing remotely reasonable or rational in this proposal.
When people can't reason a faith principle they usually regress to their childhood beliefs. Most adults are biased toward their childhood religion. A recent survey by the Pew Forum reports that over 70% of adults remain in the religion of their parents. This is no surprise since religious doctrines are repeated tens of thousands of times throughout a person’s young life when the capacity to reason is developing and at a time when authority figures are inherently trusted. Unreasonable religious doctrines are promoted with a "take it on faith" mantra and are naively accepted with little questioning. When irrational ideas become entrenched in a person's mind it hampers their ability to reason in their adult life, especially on religious topics.
Furthermore, how can anyone argue any irrational belief in other faiths if the only argument for their fundamental beliefs is blind acceptance on statements in their "holy book"? The Muslim may cling to the Koran, Buddhist can rely on the Buddhavacana (the Word of the Buddha) and the wisdom of the Hindu Sansrkit can be accepted on absolute authority. The door is opened for the promotion of superstitious irrational and often times dangerous notions the moment reason is superseded by "holy scriptures".
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4,5
Probably the single most controlling superstitious irrational notion is a life-at-death philosophy. This notion began in the garden of Eden when the serpent deceived Eve by telling her she would not surely die if she disobeyed God’s law. So powerful was this suggestion that it eventually became the basis for a life-at-death philosophy for all of the world’s religions. The definition for the word "death" was soon altered, no longer would it commonly be understood as the “end of being alive”. The new religious definition became a transformation of life from one nature to another. The life-at-death philosophy is the basis for many other absurd beliefs. The doctrines of hell fire, immortal soul, limbo, purgatory, reincarnation, and indulgences all find their origin in this philosophy. Some go as far as to suggest the dead are more alive than the living.
According to this philosophy, both good and bad people continue living after they "die". The doctrines of eternal torture in literal fiery flames of hell and more recently, the equally absurd idea for a mentally tortuous place void of God was promoted as the eternal abode of the wicked . The life-at-death notion also corrupted the human conscience. Temporary physical torture was promoted by religious leaders as an act of love since it could save a person from permanent eternal torment. Creative torture devices designed to prolong the temporal agony of pitiful religious prisoners were employed to coerce confessions “leading to eternal salvation”.
Original Sin and its penalty are two misunderstood foundational concepts. Sin in the strictest sense is lawlessness, more specifically the disobeying of God’s laws (1 John 3:4). The penalty for disobedience was clearly and succinctly communicated to Adam as being death. One rendition for original sin is the premise of “missing the mark”. This theory claims Adam missed the mark of perfect obedience and the resulting imperfection is transmitted to the rest of his posterity. Adam was created a perfect human being. As a perfect human being, Adam was able to comprehend all of God’s laws and capable to obey them perfectly. God expected nothing less of his perfect creation. Adam was told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil else he would surely die. Adam was not deceived but disobeyed God in full knowledge (1 Timothy 2:14) The term missing the mark implies an attempt to hit a mark. Adam aimed for a very different target altogether and successfully hit the mark of disobedience. Adam did not “miss the mark” as some claim, instead he chose to disobey God knowing the consequence for his action would result in his death. Another penalty was never stated or implied by God. God deceived Adam if the penalty was not death, but rather an afterlife of eternal torment. But wait one moment, Adam and Eve did not die on that day!
The term "spiritual death" was contrived to explain why Adam and Eve did not die immediately on the day they disobeyed. Though the Bible never references spiritual death it is commonly accepted and defined as a separation from God, Adam and Eve would continue living but without a close relationship to God. There is no need to perpetuate this erroneous concept any further once the penalty for their disobedience is correctly understood. Genesis 2:17 reads, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it "you shall surely die.” The word-for-word literal translation for the latter part of this verse from Young's Literal Translation of the Bible reads: “dying thou dost die” or "dying you will die". How true this was, Adam and Eve began to grow old the moment they disobeyed. The process of dying commenced and ultimately culminated in the death of the first couple, but did their souls continue living on in a spiritual realm?
The living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything... Ecclesiastes 9:5
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. Ezekiel 18:4
Greek philosopher Plato considered the soul the essence of a person which is an incorporeal (not bodily), eternal occupant of our being. Early Christian writers, Origen (ca. 185-254) and Augustine (354-430) introduced the concept for an “immortal soul” into the Christian dialog. Their influence has lead to today’s popular Christian belief that the soul survives the death of the body and will be judged by God to determine if it will spend eternity in heaven or in hell.
There are fundamental problems with an immortal soul. Those in support believe God can never extinguish a soul he created. The concept for an immortal soul is in direct conflict with God's attribute of being all powerful and also questions God’s other attributes of all loving and all wise. This becomes more apparent when considering the parent child analogy. If a child chooses to disobey a parent after much effort from the parent to reform the child by instruction and fair punishment (appropriate consequences for bad decisions), a wise parent would evict the child from their house. This benefits the other children in the house since the disobedient child directly affects everyone. The parent could have decided to lock the child in the basement of the house and punish them forever for their disobedience, as some suggest God does. Most would consider this extremely unwise and unloving. How much wiser and loving is it for God to evict (extinguish) the soul from his house (the universe) instead of keeping it alive in torment in a corner of his universe? The concept for a “mortal (susceptible to death) soul” supports God’s attributes of all powerful, loving, just and all wise. The scripture in Ezekiel 18:4 quoted above adamantly declares God always maintains full control of the human soul and death is truly the ultimate consequence for a soul who sins.
The philosophy for an immortal soul is also fully antagonistic to free will. Most, if not all religions acknowledge that the gift of life and free will are two of God's greatest gifts to his creation. The ultimate free will choice a person can make is whether or not they want to live in God’s universe under his arrangements. An immortal soul eliminates this choice. It seems irrational to think anyone would prefer death over life, but the selfish mind is quick to abandon reason. These would prefer to live outside of God’s universe and according to their own rules. God does not provide this option. Since God is wise, we expect his arrangements to be the best for all his creation. Alternate arrangements, regardless of how beautiful they may first appear only result in misery to themselves and those they come in contact.
The Bible also does not support the concept for an immortal soul. The term “immortal soul” is not found in any Bible translation, yet people refer to it as if ubiquitous in scripture. The first scripture to reference the soul (not immortal soul) is an often misunderstood scripture in Genesis 2:7 Below are various English translations of this verse.
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. King James Version
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. New International Version
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. English Standard Version
This is the only “formula” scripture for the relationship between body, spirit and soul in all of the Bible1. We notice all translations use the identical phrase “and (the) man became”... a living soul, a living being, a living creature. There is no mention of man “possessing” a living soul and it is absolutely absurd to speak of man possessing a living being or a living creature (the latter two being modern translations for the Hebrew word “nephesh” originally translated as the word “soul” in the King James Version).
The popular Christian concept for the soul can be written out as:
the ground + breath of life + soul = man
Body + Spirit + Soul = Man
If we were to replace the term soul with the modern translations for the Hebrew word “nephesh” we get:
Body + Spirit
+ Living Being = Man
Body + Spirit + Living Creature = Man
Do humans really possess a living being or living creature as part of their existence? However, Genesis 2:7 is properly written out as:
the ground + breath of life = soul
Body + Spirit = Soul
Body + Spirit = Living Being
Body + Spirit = Living Creature
These statements are supported by reason, science and the Bible and should be easily understood and accepted if we can free ourselves from the encumbrances of religious tradition and Greek philosophy. Given this understanding we can conclude when the spirit (breath of life) leaves the body at death, the soul, living being, or living creature ceases to exist.
A life-at-death philosophy and the doctrine of an immortal soul are two original superstitious irrational notions which have become foundational doctrines in religion. These are superstitious since they are beliefs not based on scientific evidence or observation. They are irrational because they cannot be reasoned to be the actions of an all loving, wise, just and all powerful God. They are notions because they are imagined ideas or concepts not supported by the Bible. A massive philosophical structure has been built upon these erroneous “foundational” doctrines which today is on the verge of collapse.
Let us not forget God’s plan must be the best course of action for his creation. Allowing people to be born, experience pain and suffering for their brief lifespan only to die later does not seem like a very good plan even to the simplest mind. God must have something better for humanity, a plan that is reasonable, loving and fair for all his creation.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
1. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is the only other Bible scripture mentioning all three (soul, body and spirit) but no relationship to each other is stated or implied: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”. For example, one can speak about hydrogen, oxygen, and water in the same sentence. The relationship each has to the other should not be inferred if not explicitly stated.
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God is Really Great! Religions Poisoned Everything! series titled "Eden"
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