Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

In the mid 19th century, Charles Darwin created a storm by writing about evolution. His words went in the face of the Christian religious belief which stated that creation was the work of a divine being.

God 2

Looking at the diversity and complexity of plants, animals and insects it is not surprising that we should marvel at creation and, even with scientific explanations, wonder if the hand of God is not the most reasonable explanation for such marvels.

However, perhaps the two extreme views of Darwinists and Creationists are much closer than it would appear. In the bible we read that God created mankind in his own image. Is it not possible that the reverse is the case? Perhaps we created God in our own image. The concept of a divine super being is too great for a human brain to grasp, especially the human brain of thousands of years ago, hence for our Western Society, God is a white male with long hair and a beard, a figure we can recognise and relate to.

Today, it can be difficult to reconcile modern scientific teachings with the concepts from a bible, which was written, at least in part, several centuries before the birth of Christ and the words of Jesus and his teachings were, we are told, first written by Mark some forty years after Christ’s death.

The bible is a book which can be interpreted in many ways. It can, and is by many, literally taken as the word of God, with the supernatural and miraculous events proof of the wonders of Christianity.

When stripped of miracles and parables it can be a powerful philosophy for living. What is more, at this fundamental level it seems to contain the same basic messages as all other major religions. The fact that there are such divisions between Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and their various sects is down to mans’ desire to overlay his own interpretation of the world on the original philosophy.

What if everything around us, from the stars to a blade of grass, is part of, for want of a better word, a universal intelligence? Humans are probably the most intelligent, followed by animals, birds, cold blooded creatures, insects and finally plants. Without getting pedantic about definitions, we must concede that there is some form of intelligence in all those things. The Dandelion seed will strive to reach the light, even pushing its way through an asphalt path.

Dandelion Asphalt

That is the least wonderful thing about it. Take a look at the seed head. A hundred or more seeds per flower each with its own parachute and a single plant can produce more than 2,000 seeds.

Dandelion seed head

These tiny seed contains the blueprint for a new multi flowered plant. It is all too easy to dismiss this as mere genetics or DNA but within that pinhead sized seed is the intelligence (There’s that word again!) To produce the next generation of dandelions.

The acorn is perhaps even more remarkable. Apart from environmental effects, stony soil or shape changing winds, the little acorn contains all the plans for a full blown oak tree. The number and shape of the branches, a root system to feed the tree. Even the seasonal pattern of producing thousand of acorns and shedding and growing new leaves each year.

Throughout the ages there have been wise men. Men who have grasped an understanding of the Universe in which they live. Most ordinary people feel as though they are surrounded by mysteries and there seems to be a fundamental human need to make some sort of sense of the World and beyond. As a consequence we tend to readily accept the words of those wise men who are able to offer explanations for many of the mysteries. The wise men can be witch doctors, philosophers, scientists or preachers - men that people were able to look up to and who could lead them towards ‘The Light”.
Wise Men

However, imagine the difficulty, many hundreds of years ago, of trying to explain "The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” as Douglas Adams put it. Without patronising our ancestors, it would be akin to trying to explain the internal combustion engine to a three year old child. Consequently the story would have to be told in the form of parables or tales that were within the grasp of an unsophisticated people, mostly unable to read or write.

How would you explain that a child was born to Joseph and Mary without any of the characteristics, prejudices and attitudes of its parents or grandparents but with a clear understanding of the true philosophy of life. Maybe a virgin birth would be the most simple explanation. If the spread of Christianity virtually died with the death of Jesus, the story of his resurrection after four days is perhaps another story, told maybe decades after Christ’s death, to explain how Christian teaching were suddenly revitalised as much as forty years after his death.

The preachings of the wise men often spread like wild fire. Look at the way Christianity spread through the world from its humble beginnings in the Middle East. As the message spread so did the number of ‘Preachers’, many of whom embellished the preaching with their own personal interpretation of the original message.

This must be why we now find so many sects stemming from the original Christian teachings. The first conference to try to gain consensus in the various teaching was held as early as 431 AD. and now there must be hundreds of large and small groups, all with their own firmly held views of Christianity. The divisions can be deep and cruel with inquisitions to ‘Persuade’ others to follow the ‘Right Path’. Even today the rivalry can cause the deaths of thousands.

What would the early Christian teachers made of these bitter conflicts? And what of Bishops living in palaces and many religions having great wealth?

Most people will, at some time or other, have prayed to their particular God. This will usually be in the form of a plea for help. It may be very personal, asking help for a particular situation or it could be more altruistic, begging for World peace or victory for ‘Your side’.

These prayers are based on the assumption that your God is all seeing and all knowing and is interested in you or your group or tribe. In World War 11 Germans and English people would be praying to the same God for victory over the enemy. In Britain certain Sundays were designated as days of prayer for victory. What is the poor harassed God to do? Whichever way he leans he is going to let down a huge swathe of humanity.

Could it be we are asking too much of our God? Perhaps prayer is much more simple in its aims and purposes.
The church building was where you could gather with people of a like mind, hear the teachings and sit in quiet contemplation. Not asking for help or assistance but simply quietening the mind and in doing so, escaping for a short time from the problems and worries which were filling your head. Simply an opportunity to connect with your God, no matter how you ‘See’ him.

How about Cathedrals? Were they to encourage ordinary people to have a place for quiet contemplation or were they some form of status symbol for Cities, Kings or Bishops?

However, if you are one of the many people in the West who have turned away from Christianity and, at best, give it lip service, what about Christian rewards and punishments? If you are good you go to Heaven and if you are bad you go to Hell. Throughout the ages these two extremes have been vividly depicted.

Heaven is where you will be greeted by God who is, of course, a white caucasian male, together with a band of angels and all your nearest and dearest who have passed on before you will be there to meet you. The ones you didn’t particularly like will, we hope, be in the other place.

If you haven’t been good you will also finish up in that other place — Hell where you will be tormented with fire and brimstone, whatever that may be, for all eternity. There is one get out.

No matter how wicked you have been, there is still hope for you. If you repent before you die, you will go to heaven and sit on the right hand of God. So repent right now - just in case.

Putting cynicism to one side why bother? You can just do as you like without any question of reward or punishment. Whether you believe or not, you will probably behave reasonably well and do your best to fit into society. In fact you will, consciously or not, follow the Christian ethic, after all our laws, customs, patterns of behaviour, manners and the way we in which we lead our lives are based on two thousand years of Christianity.

All around us are people who want to change the World. Usually they want to change it to match their particular beliefs or preferences and to persuade others to live the way they live. Sometimes they attempt this by words, either spoken or written but often the turn to direct action which means they will kill and destroy in order to try to change things.

Individuals do change the World. From Genghis Khan, who is reputed to have killed 40 million people, to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. However, they do seem to sink back into some sort of obscurity and for most of us the world goes on very much as before.

It has been said that Christ said only one really new thing and that was “Love one another”. If this was truly universal we would care for one another as we care for our immediate family. We would put no-one at risk by driving dangerously, we would not steal, we would not battle with our neighbours, locally or globally. In fact there would be no need for laws and there would be peace.
Butterfly effect

Even your smallest action or reaction changes the world. It has been said “Something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” But, the butterfly effect doesn’t have to create chaos. The smallest amount of change in your everyday life can mean a world of difference to others.

If you are able to change an unkind deed or word to a kind deed or word the effect may not at first seem obvious. However, cumulatively things will change. Your normal patterns of behaviour will alter, the people you interchange with may react to you, and eventually to others, in a better way. So, slowly but inevitably the world will change,

Whatever your beliefs you must at sometime have wondered about the miracles described in the bible. Living in a scientific world where everything is studied, analysed and explained in great detail, it is difficult to reconcile stories of miracles with hard, scientific facts.

Raising the dead, feeding the five thousand, changing water into wine, walking on the water. When retold, these stories must have had a profound effect on people. If this man Jesus could do these things then he must truly be the Son of God. They would re-affirm that Christianity was the path to follow and, the mysteries of heaven and earth.

In our modern world all but the most faithful of believers are at least sceptical of these stories although they seem to be an integral part of the teachings of the modern church. Almost as though church leaders are still talking to our more simple minded and illiterate forbears.

But finally, perhaps the ultimate ‘Miracle’ must be a human birth. One sperm one egg and and another person is added to the seven billion people already on earth, Remarkable in itself but that new human is unique. Not one of the seven billion will be exactly the same.

Darwin’s theories on evolution had a profound effect on organised religion and Christianity in particular. It flew directly in the face of the belief that “God created heaven, the earth and all that in them is”. According to Darwin, the fact that the dandelion grows seeds attached to a tiny parachute is a process of natural selection. Minute changes made over millions of years. The changes that do not work die out and the changes which improve the chances of the species surviving or improving become part of the plant or creature’s make up.

Why is there so much conflict between the two ideas? The concept of natural selection is perfectly fine but hand in hand with it is the the mysterious life force, consciousness, intelligence which controls such progress. We do not have to believe in a white robed, golden bearded God working in a laboratory creating the wide diversity of life on earth but even the most committed atheist must get some sense out of Shakespeare’s oft quoted line “There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy”

I suppose, if asked, I would call myself a Christian, based on the fact that I have lived my life in a Christian country, the customs, laws and fundamental philosophy of which are based on something like a two thousand year old Christian heritage. However, if I think deeply before giving the quick answer, I would have to say I don’t know what I am. I perceive life as a mystery. Something beyond my comprehension. I cannot believe it is simply a huge cosmic accident or that it can be broken down into scientific equations. I think I believe in a basic philosophy and I also believe the philosophy is truly universal, it is only man who has diverted it into divisions and sects - in doing so man has created conflict and bitter wars out of something which should have been beyond petty squabbling.


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