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E O EkeThursday, June 20, 2013
eoeke@aol.com


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WHY BELIEVE, WHEN YOU CAN UNDERSTAND?

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he mystery of our existence is one thing we will always require faith to make sense of. However science has made many discoveries which challenge what religion has taught about our existence. This has resulted in an unnecessary conflict between science and religion, a controversy that is now threatening the idea of the existence of God which religion teaches is the author of all knowledge. The question is how did we let this happen. The answer may lie in our attitude and approach to the unknown and whatever challenges our prior convictions. We may have simply misunderstood the truth that religion teaches that there is a right and correct principles to live life and that we are created beings who have great capacity for good and evil. It teaches a perfect truth that there is a higher moral law to which all men must be accountable. In essence, religion is the foundation and beginning of knowledge and it teaches that knowledge shall continue to increase as long as men are living on earth. From religion we learn that we must begin our journey of discovery and exploration of the world by faith and then add knowledge to our faith to gain understanding. This is why children take up the religion of their parents as the truth, Christians regard Christianity as the truth and only way to God; while Muslims regard Islam as the truth and only way to God to illustrate. Sadly, many people stop at the beginning and spend a life time defending a belief and and perpetuating ignorance, intolerance and bigotry in the name of religion.

The fear of God is supposed to be the foundation of our morality which would guide us in our relationship with others and how we choose to interpreted and use our new knowledge. It is also hoped that our new knowledge would make our need and understanding of miracles to change. Unfortunately, the increase in knowledge has led some to question the possible existence of the author of all knowledge. This has divided the world into those who would only believe(believers) and those who would only understand (atheists). And since there will always be what is unknown, this dichotomized view of our existence has created a fertile ground for schism and conflict.

It is ironic that religion often borrows from science to propagate its irrationality and at the same time ignore the truth science reveal about some of its dogmas. Yet, it does not need to be so. An integrated approach and attitude to knowledge would eliminate this artificial difference. All it requires is for religion to allow science to inform it in its areas of ambiguity where science has knowledge of what religion takes by faith, while science accepts the moral absolutes of religion which it is discarding for whatever atheist justifies. Then both would commit to tolerance, justice, equality, temperance, love as the ultimate values which should guide all humans’ actions. This is what trusting in God really means. The acceptance of the values of God which should guide our lives. Unfortunately, many religions have misconstrued it to meaan the acceptance of the dogmas of their religion and what they think God wants. If you spend time to think about it, you will understand the difference and why what man has done with religion has turned it into a very divisive construct on which people segregate. In this way, religion would give up its ridiculous dogmas, while science would accept the guidance of the perfect values of God. The current dichotomy creates a polarised world, where science has been seized by secularists and atheist to attack religion and undermine its moral values by hiding behind equality laws. The result has been anxiety amongst believers in countries like Britain that their religion is under threat by militant atheism, and rise of fundamentalism in religious countries to protect the emergence of anti-God liberalism.

Even though reconciliation between religion and science is possible, it would be difficult because many secularist and atheists who lead this attack on religion have already concluded that the whole idea of God is simply a belief and reinterpreted the evidence for his existence in nature to justify their unbelief. They go about using what God made to prove that he does not exist.

The problem is not that they are reinterpreting the same evidence which religion claim convince believers of the existence of God, but why God seems so distant in our modern world. Why has He chosen to leave the world alone so to speak. Why is God no longer speaking to men as in the days of old? Why did God think it necessary to speak to Abraham and Moses and fail to accord mordern believer such metaphysical evidence of his existence? Why would God continued to speak to people in ways the mordern can claim is a sign of mental illness? How would a normal believer convince a Psychiatrist that his claim of hearing God's voice or God calling him or her; is not auditory hallucination? The Bible is full of stories about God making contact with human beings. Many claimed that he spoke to them and had coherent conversations which left them better informed and enabled to solve some very difficult problems. Others claimed that he talked to them to enable them fulfil their greed and murderous intentions. This is what makes it so difficult for an objective person to completely rely on faith, or' thus said the Lord' to understand God. Such a mind would wonder why it should accept by faith that which he understands or has a logical scientific explanation. It would wonder why it should believe that evil spirits cause mental illness, when he understands the pathological basis of mental illness.

It would find irrational a belief that those who suffer from epilepsy are possessed by evil spirits, when he understands the aetiology of the disease. Why should a man accept that God promised an individual a piece of land that already belonged to another nation when God is not a mischief maker and can see and understand the injustice of the promise and greed that lies behind such claim? Why should a man believe in a virgin birth made possible by a contact between a young woman and an angel, when he knows that such a phenomenon is scientifically impossible and product genetically impossible? The real question is why does religion often focus on the irrelevant and absurd and ignore what is important. Why does religion ignore the knowledge that would help it gain a better understanding of the unknown and the mysterious and prefer to live by faith when it can understand.? Why does religion prefer faith to understanding, and belief to knowledge? These are the questions we must answer, if we will ever make sense of our existence and put to right use the wisdom of religion and the vast knowledge which science has made available. I suppose this is the real challenge of our existence and journey of faith. What should we do when science truly challenges our faith and exposes its absurdity or irrationality?

This is important because of what people can become when they pursue religion without knowledge. They become extremists capable of killing in the name of God. They cease to see the evil of cutting off the hands of thieves or stoning adulterers to death or condemning blasphemers to death. Faith without knowledge hardens the heart and makes it insensitive to the pleas of those it condemns by its religious beliefs. It makes a man believe that good can be achieved by doing evil because he believes it is what God wants. It enables men to abandon reason and justify the absurd and unjust, purely on the basis of belief. It hardens the heart and makes people insensitive, intolerant and bigoted. This is what can make religion very dangerous. Jesus was confronted by this face of religion in his various encounters with the Pharisees and Sadducees. On one occasion, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to find out what he would do as they were aware that he preached love of sinners. On that occasion, Jesus demonstrated to them what it means to love a sinner. Instead of learning from him to change, they determined to kill him. Religious madness is a very difficult problem to treat. It usually requires a lot of patience, deep understanding of the working of the human mind and divine intervention, as in the case of Paul to help a man who is convinced that he is doing the will of God, or exploiting others for gain that actually he is commit evil of great monstrosity. This is why any belief held with delusional intensitysis wrong. No one should be so sure of being right that he cannot consider the possibility of being wrong.

Religion which has disdain for knowledge and change, creates the type of minds we see in extremists. It creates the Taliban, El Shabab, Boko Haram, and Fundamentalist Christian groups with over valued ideas of their beliefs and relationship with God who regard the content of their holy books as perfect and absolute truth which requires no further understanding or reinterpretations in the light of knowledge. Such minds are programmed to ignore any evidence that challenges their certainty and simply regard it as false. They justify such rejection of knowledge and deny themselves the opportunity to examine and explore what it says about his faith. This fear of being proved wrong, and forced to change, fuels the aggression and desire to destroy all potential and overt oppositions to them.

They are minds that are determined to defend their ignorance. This is the tragedy of religion, that it makes the defence of ignorance a virtue and denies men the best way of understanding the mystery of Godliness. Even though many past honest seekers of truth made it clear that what they thought about God was just the beginning of knowledge, religion has turned their imperfect and incomplete wisdom into perfect wisdom without any room for improvement. They have accepted as the foundation of their knowledge, incomplete wisdom, frozen in time. While one can see its wisdom, one can also see its limitations in light of the advances in knowledge which has taken place since they were bequeathed to mankind. Any religion in our modern world which insists that no new light can be thrown on ancient wisdom is like a person who insists in using the Moss code in an era of internet and mobile phones. While he may still send his message, it is obvious that he is out of date, behind time and ossified in his knowledge and understanding of communication. This is what the religious extremist are, men and women who are fossilised in the past and ignore the advances that has taken place in the understanding of the mysterious.

There is still a lot we do not know about God. However, we do know a lot more than many authors of the Bible. Many things they attributed to the devil, we now know have nothing to do with the devil. This does not mean that the devil does not exist. It simply shows that certain things that were directly attributed to him has other plausible causes which may or may not have had anything thing to do with the devil. We do not yet fully understand why God keeps silent in the face of tragedy and allow religious people to keep making excuses for his inaction in the face of evil. Whether it is because most evil are man made, or that we indirectly bring about and perpetuate the natural disaster which often overwhelm us; I do not know. If and when we do find out, one thing is sure. Some of us will see it as proof of the non-existence of God, while others may see it as evidence that they have always been right and hence has no reason to review their irrational beliefs that glorifies ignorance in the name of faith. The search for truth continues. God help them so they themselves may know that they are as beasts to quote King Solomon.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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