Coexist

The pastor at the church where I work will on occasion mention in his sermons his annoyance with the “coexist” bumper stickers he often sees while driving, which spell out the word “coexist” using various religious symbols for the letters, such as the Christian cross, the Jewish star, the Chinese yin and yang symbol, etc. I just saw a similar bumper sticker yesterday which spelled out the word, “tolerance,” which also used the same kinds of religious symbols for the letters. The objection many religious leaders often make to the concept of religious tolerance is they say the belief systems of many different faiths are inherently contradictory and therefore incompatible, making peaceful “coexistence” impossible. I would agree there is definitely a contradiction between the no-self and no-god, karma-based paradigm of Buddhism, and the immortal soul, eternal God of Abraham, with the concepts of eternal punishment and reward of the Christian religion, and the God of Allah with Mohammed as the last prophet of God, with the belief one will receive 72 virgins in paradise after death, as found in the Muslim religion. On the other hand, the benefits of loving one another, even those who do not love us, forgiving others, and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us are universal concepts which many of these different religions do have in common. In other words, if we want to have the best chance to live in peace and harmony with one another, than it is truth which must be our concern – those universal truths which bind humanity together – not belief or faith in which religion we think is “right,” which tear humanity apart. Religious belief is never a matter of fact anyways, but is always a matter of faith – of belief. That is precisely why we speak of religious faith, and not religious fact.  Therefore, arguing over which god and which religion is the “right one” is futile and absurd, because there is no way to prove any of these gods are real to begin with since that which is of faith by definition has no evidence and therefore cannot be proven true.

If any given religion’s claims for God and the supernatural were real as actual matters of fact – actual agencies that affect the world in which we live, as many religions claim, there would therefore necessarily be evidence for their existence, and would then simply become another factor within science and our understanding of reality, just like gravity, the laws of physics, or electromagnetism, instead or being what they are – theological beliefs about reality, and not scientific facts about reality. Religion and theology would cease to exist in the way they are used today, since these supernatural entities would become yet another aspect of science, rendering religion and theology irrelevant and unnecessary – an artifact of our superstitious past when we used the supernatural to explain what could not be explained before the scientific age.  Therefore, the very continued existence of religion itself – its persistence even in the scientific age proves, ironically enough, that God and the supernatural are not real, or at the very least not a reality that has any affect whatsoever on the world in which we live and life as we know it, since there exists no legitimate, good evidence for these “transcendental forces” at work in our world which would take these things out of the realm of faith, and into the realm of fact.  Since theologies and religions do continue to exist today, entirely separate from science, then it is obvious we are dealing with beliefs and not facts.  Since matters of faith by their very nature cannot be proven true, then it gives people something to easily fight about – a fight which by its nature can never be set to rest since there are no “answers” to “theological” questions, since theology itself is founded on faith claims that due to their lack of evidence, cannot be proven true.  That is why this entire theological exercise, rather than being a genuine and legitimate search for truth, is actually a maker of mischief and war, and a game of power and control. Religious wars and tensions throughout history and to this very day demonstrate this sobering fact only too well.  This alone illustrates why religious faith is a bad idea. Genuine truth seeking on the other hand, is never about power and control, but about honestly seeking and discovering what is actually true – not necessarily what we hope, want, or believe things to be.

As we have discovered many times before on The Mystical Voice,” when it comes to matters of truth, faith is completely irrelevant, because what we believe never changes Reality, only our perception of Reality. This has been proven time and again throughout history – especially when we consider the fact how virtually everyone at one point in time believed the Earth was flat, but their belief never changed the fact and the truth it was always a sphere. Belief is by definition a product of ignorance, because we only believe when we do not know – that is precisely why we believe. If we know, then it is knowledge. If we do not know, and we choose to believe in something, then it is faith. And while we have our reasons for faith which tend to satisfy very strong and deep-seated emotional and ego needs, that does not necessarily mean what we believe is actually true. If truth is our concern, then what we believe is irrelevant, since belief is not a matter of fact, but rather an assumption of fact without evidence to back it up. That is why faith is the essence of dishonesty.

Belief without evidence – which is the essence of what we call “religious faith,” is the exact same thing as convicting someone of a crime without evidence, or arriving at any other conclusion or claim for factual information without evidence, or at best with only hearsay or opinion. We would never call it honest, or find it acceptable or reasonable to convict someone of a crime without evidence, basing our conclusions only on hearsay or opinions. We would also never find it acceptable or reasonable for a person to practice medicine who based their medical knowledge on only hearsay, personal opinions and beliefs, instead of earning a Ph.D after extensive years of training, research, and education based on facts, scientifically verified evidence, and rigorously tested and approved medical practices and treatments from a medical program at an accredited institution. Yet somehow, someway, we have no problem accepting as “true” our religious beliefs for which we have no proof or evidence whatsoever, basing them only on hearsay and opinions, holding them to a double-standard. The fact we hold this remarkable double-standard between discerning truth in “worldly” matters and so-called “spiritual” matters should give us pause, since contradictions and double-standards are always false, as we have discovered time and again on “The Mystical Voice.” Whether discerning Truth from fiction, or reality from delusion in our “worldly” lives or our ”spiritual” lives, we need to hold them both to the same standard when verifying the Truth of something if we are intellectually honest. I once heard a Christian man say he “has to” have faith in what the Bible says. Why? This notion one “has to” have faith, or to believe in something is false. We don’t “have to” believe in something. We may choose to believe, or want to believe, but we never have to believe. And what would happen if we openly asked the question and sought an honest answer to the question of why we really believe? We would discover it is only a cover for our need to be egotistically validated, while justifying our faith with ideas like, “We believe because God wants us to,” or some other non-truthful excuse. When you look at the honest psychology of faith, there are two basic reasons why we believe – because we are taught to, and because we want to. We cannot help what we are taught, but we can help what we do with what we are taught. We can actually question what we are taught when things are contradictory and/or do not make sense. Unfortunately, most people of faith are never honest enough or courageous enough to acknowledge this reality.

Contrary to what this Christian man said, we can choose to simply say “I do not know” when faced with an uncertainty. We do not necessarily have to “fill in the gaps” with an “answer” when in truth, we do not have one. We can withhold a conclusion about something until we have reasonable evidence and/or sound, non-contradictory logic to back up our claims. We do not “have to” believe. We can choose to not “have faith,” and to instead demand evidence and/or sound, non-contradictory logic to prove what is true. Faith is never necessary unless one is either too lazy or too afraid to ask the hard questions that are required to uncover the Truth, or to simply and honestly live without an answer. To say there are some things we “cannot know” which therefore “require our faith” is a cop-out excuse and a cover for the real reason we have faith – because we cannot live without an answer – because instead of honestly admitting we do not know what we do not know and accepting we do not have an answer, we instead tend to “fill in the gaps” by inventing an “answer” so we can end our questioning and bask in a false sense of “security.” Instead of having faith, we can instead be committed to Truth – which means we ask questions and discern what is reasonable evidence and/or sound, non-contradictory logic to back up our claims. Faith is laziness – because faith is simply a matter of believing whatever we are taught, told, or want to believe, without any evidence or truthful, sound, non-contradictory logic to back up our beliefs. Truth on the other hand, takes work – because uncovering Truth requires asking the hard questions, doing the critical thinking, and taking the time to investigate the actual evidence, along with having the courage and the self-honesty necessary to see what is, and accept what is, even if it contradicts what we want to believe is true. Regardless of all the common justifications for faith, the bottom line is, the real reason we have faith is because our egos demand it to validate our hopes and soothe our fears. There is no other honest justification for faith.

The reason we should be highly suspicious and questioning of faith, is not only because faith is about validating our hopes and soothing our fears, in which we are especially prone to be biased towards our desired conclusions, but also because faith is always blind, since the very act of faith itself involves believing something without any proof, evidence, and/or sound, non-contradictory logic to back it up. That is why the scientific method, which screens out bias as much as humanly possible, and the objective examination of actual credible evidence, regardless of whether or not it supports our desired conclusions, is so necessary to see the Truth. It is too easy to lie to ourselves in matters of faith because we tend to believe whatever we want to believe, not necessarily what is actually true. We also have a natural tendency towards confirmation bias – that is, accepting “evidence” which supports our desired conclusions and rejecting evidence which contradicts them. True backup is not the kind of “evidence” many of the “spiritual” or “religious” would consider evidence such as hearsay, hunches, pseudoscience, the words of “prophets,” “messiahs,” “authorities,” people with supposedly “special powers of perception,” or third-hand, decades-later written accounts of supposedly “factual events” as found in the New Testament Gospel accounts. True backup is genuine, legitimate, credible evidence which third parties can empirically verify through repeated demonstration, and is direct and undeniable, like me showing the evidence I have a million dollars in my back pocket by producing the money and allowing one to count it when someone asks me to prove the truth of what I am saying if I make an extraordinary claim such as, “I have a million dollars in my back pocket,” or Jesus materializing before each and every one of us today as he did for his disciples two-thousand years ago to prove the fact of the extraordinary claim for the resurrection, as we explored in “Doubting Thomas.” Obviously, once this kind of solid and undeniable evidence is produced, then it becomes knowledge, and not faith in the mind of the one to whom the evidence is provided.

If the evidence either is not produced, or cannot be produced to back up a given claim, then the claim must either be a theory, or a fraud designed for purposes of manipulation and control, because if something actually is true as a matter of fact, then by definition there must be evidence to back it up because factual existence is evidence. Factual existence without evidence is a contradiction, because factual existence and evidence are one and the same. We only know that which exists because it provides evidence for its existence. The only way to honestly verify the truth of any given claim is through evidence to back it up, or sound, non-contradictory logic to give any credibility to the very possibility of a claim to begin with. Even if a believer would concede the fact that God, being a matter of faith, can therefore only be a theory or an idea, instead of a fact, then at the very least, the theory must not contradict itself for it to even have the possibility of being true, because all contradictions and double-standards are false, as we have learned time and again on “The Mystical Voice.” Those who believe in the Loch Ness Monster actually have a better case than those who believe in God for the simple fact the idea of a creature previously unknown to us which lives under the water may actually be true. The possibility of such an idea is not impossible, because there very well may be such a creature. Also, such an idea is not a contradiction since there are not claims the monster can “materialize” and “dematerialize” at will, that it never dies, that it is omnipotent, that it floats up and disappears into the sky, or any other impossibility, like the claims for God and Jesus. While there is not any reasonable, credible, scientifically backed evidence to support the claim for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, it is nevertheless at least possible such a creature could exist.

The problems for those who claim the existence of God on the other hand, regardless of the words of so-called “prophets” and “authorities,” are much greater than those who claim the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. Not only is there no credible, empirically verifiable evidence for God’s existence, but the very concept of God as an eternal, separate authoritative being apart from creation is impossible, since it is a contradiction. The reason it is a contradiction is because all is One, rendering the idea of a “separate God” impossible. Every single solitary belief in the notion of permanent “separate beings” and “entities” is completely false, since as we have discovered before, all egotistical notions – those which purport “separate” and “independent” existence are ultimately illusions since All is One. That is why there can ultimately be no permanent, separate anything, be it “God,” you, me, or anything else. The fact there is no evidence for God, on top of the impossibility of the idea of God itself, since it is a logical contradiction and impossibility like a “round square,” take the traditional notion of God off the table. We cannot even reasonably entertain the notion of God the same way we can the Loch Ness Monster because unlike the Loch Ness Monster, the idea of God is impossible to begin with. That is why all the other arguments for and against the existence of God are superfluous. They are ultimately all red herrings which serve to distract us from the central issue – God is impossible. All other arguments are therefore irrelevant. Period. That’s the bottom line. Since the idea of God as that of a “separate” and “independent,” eternal being apart from creation contradicts the fact of Oneness, then God is impossible because any explanation for the universe but Oneness is a contradiction, because it is only in Oneness where there are no “two independent sides” to contradict each other. The argument, “God could produce the evidence, but chooses not to because He wants you to “have faith” is invalid because as we discovered earlier, faith has nothing to do with Truth, but with separating those who “know” from those who “do not know.” The only reasons to separate people in this way are power and control. If God does claim he withholds evidence from us because he wants us to “have faith,” then God is either lying about what it is he is claiming because the evidence does not exist to begin with, or being manipulative, because if the evidence actually does exist to easily prove the truth, then there is absolutely no legitimate, honest reason if you are an honest, compassionate, and truthful being to withhold the evidence. It’s as simple as that.

At this point, one could argue, “But surely there are things we cannot perceive which actually do exist, as the universe is far too vast and life far too complex for us to know everything!” It is highly probable there almost certainly are things which exist for which we have no evidence because we cannot perceive the evidence, or things for which we have no known, credible evidence for, like the Loch Ness Monster, but then we cannot speak of these things as a matter of fact, but only as a matter of faith, or as a theory. This is precisely the problem for theists who try to somehow maintain the contradictory position that God exists as a matter of fact, while also saying belief in God is a matter of faith at the same time, since God is a being we cannot prove exists. This is a contradiction because either God is a matter of fact or a matter of faith. God cannot be both. If we say God exists as a matter of faith, then we are conceding there is no real evidence for God, and we believe simply because we want to or are taught to. If we say God exists as a matter of fact, and not a matter of faith, then by definition there would be undeniable, incontrovertible evidence that God exists which everyone could perceive in the same way we perceive realities such as gravity, matter, and the world around us. The problem for theists, who make this claim for the “fact” of God, is there is no such evidence to empirically verify God’s existence. This fact is clearly evident in how many different religions there are in the world which purports so many varied and often contradictory ideas about God and the supernatural. It clearly demonstrates the fact these ideas have nothing to do with reality. If God and the supernatural were an objective reality like anything else we all can verify with our senses, and not a subjective product of our imaginations, then there would be far more agreement on who and what God and the supernatural are, and not countless religious sects squabbling and warring over differences of opinion about God.

Some theists may come back with the argument that only people with supposedly “special powers of perception” such as prophets, messiahs, and the like are those who tell us the truth about God, and we have to “have faith” in the “authority” of their words as being “inspired” since they are “agents of God,” who possess “special knowledge” nobody else has, and can perceive what everyone else cannot perceive. While this is a very clever argument I myself once found convincing, we should be suspicious of this idea on its face simply because it very conspicuously places all of the authority, power, and control into the hands of those who just so happen to possess these supposed “special powers,” and puts the rest of us “beneath them,” being told we have to “just believe” what they tell us. It divides the “haves” from the “have-nots,” and sets up an authoritative power structure for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, which alone should make us very suspicious, as this is simply unjust. Would it not make more sense and be much better for God and everyone else if he simply gave everyone this “special knowledge” so we would all know God’s heart and mind directly, and not have to engage in all of these absurd, war-mongering religious squabbles, disagreements over moral issues, endless confusion and arguments over “proper” scriptural interpretation, and silly spiritual superiority/inferiority complexes which have plagued humanity since the dawn of civilization? Anyone of integrity who wants to clearly communicate their message speaks for themselves. They do not have others speak for them, as this “omnipotent” God chooses to do so through “prophets” and “messiahs,” because whenever others are involved in communicating one’s message, there is too much margin for error, and almost inevitable misinterpretation and corruption of the Truth. If mortal, flawed human beings know this fact, than surely an ”omniscient” God should also know this. Even if we believe Jesus was God, then we could reasonably ask why he did not himself leave any writings of his own, instead of having his disciples and others give their second and third-hand written accounts decades after he supposedly lived, in which countless errors of memory and inaccuracies in preserving the facts of his words and the Truth of his message could only have increased with every passing day, let alone over several years. Again – if God’s message is so incredibly important to the salvation of humanity, then instead of relying on flawed human “prophets,” second and third-hand, decades-later written accounts of supposedly “factual events,” and missionaries to spread the “Good News” throughout the world in order to ”convert” others to the “right” religion, he would simply speak for himself to us directly. Period. That is why it is quite puzzling why a loving God would not do this very simple thing, enabling us to avoid all of this unnecessary confusion, bickering, and war.

To have some select, “special authorities” possess secret “special knowledge,” while making the rest of us following and ignorant sheep simply doesn’t make sense – unless of course the one who creates this power structure desires to separate themselves from everyone else so they can be followed, worshiped, and glorified, and have their subjects subservient to their unquestioned authority. This is exactly what the Roman emperors did to their subjects, as we explored in “Caesar’s Messiah,” and should give us pause, because nobody who has any integrity would ever require they be followed, worshiped, and glorified, unless of course they are a tyrant, a dictator, a king, or a Roman emperor. This is all the more reason to conclude the Roman Empire or at least some authoritative power structure invented Christianity for the purpose of controlling others. Some Christians would object to this, saying God is a “good” authority, who would never treat us the way a tyrant or a Roman emperor would, but people who say this are missing the point. It is not a question of whether an authority is ”good” or “bad.” It is authority itself that is the whole issue, since all notions of authority have nothing whatsoever to do with love and Truth, but with power and control. There is no authority in love and Truth since they cannot be owned, and therefore have nothing whatsoever to do with power and control. We would never accept from “worldly” authorities, unjust, war-perpetuating, deliberate suppression of information to the many, making it accessible only to the privileged few, but we accept this exact same injustice from the one whom believers consider the ultimate “spiritual” authority – God, when he keeps the majority of us “in the dark” to argue amongst ourselves about who and what he is and what he wants from us. This once again clearly demonstrates how we persistently maintain a hypocritical double-standard between our real-world experience and our ideas about God, justifying our double-thinking with excuses such as, “God has his reasons,” “We just have to have faith,” and “We cannot understand the mysteries of the Lord.”

The other problem with this entire authoritative power structure, is there is never any legitimate, non-biased, non-fraudulent way to prove the fact of who is an actual, credible “authority,” and exactly what comprises ”legitimate,” “authoritative,” and “inspired” information. Every religion has their “authority.” Christianity has Jesus and the Bible. Islam has Mohammad and the Quran. Hinduism has Vishnu and the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. Buddhism has Buddha and the Tripitaka, Mahayana Sutras, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Almost everyone who follows these authorities believes their authority is the “one true authority” for God and/or Truth, and while some of these “authorities” share the same truthful messages, there are many other messages from some of these “authorities” which contradict those of the others. What means do we have, besides our personal faith, to honestly discern which of these “authorities” are authentic and true? As we discovered earlier, the only honest way to discern fact from fiction, reality from delusion, is through evidence, and/or sound, non-contradictory logic to prove something can even possibly be true. Faith is never an honest way to discern Truth from fiction because as we also discovered earlier, it is too easy to lie to ourselves due to our tendency to believe whatever we want to believe, regardless of any evidence – even irrefutable, incontrovertible evidence which may contradict our beliefs. The problem for all of these so-called religious “authorities” is the fact there is no way to prove any of them ever even historically existed in the first place, let alone the credibility or authenticity of their teachings, as we also discovered earlier. Those teachings which we know are true because they have to do with cause and effect, action and consequence anyone can observe – such as the benefit of forgiving others, and doing unto others as we would have done unto us, are more common sense than any “divine” information.

The bottom line is, the very setup of an authoritative power structure in matters of Truth, as we have in religions such as Christianity and Islam, in which some select “special authorities” are allowed to be “in the know” from evidence, while others are left “out of the know,” without evidence who are told they have to therefore “have faith,” automatically reveals it to be a fraud, because Truth is not the exclusive property of only the “blessed few” who can perceive it, but is available for All to perceive who are open, willing, and courageous enough to see it. It does not require “special powers” to perceive Truth, nor “special blessings,” nor being a “special authority,” but it does require an open mind with the courage, the willingness, and the self-honesty to think outside the box of our limited thinking, and challenge our preconceived beliefs.  It is often stated by apologists the reason we must “seek God” to “know” he exists, and why God does not make himself plainly revealed to us like any other being or thing whose existence we all can empirically verify with our senses is to test our “faith” – in other words, to test our credulity in the face of bad evidence or no evidence, and to test our obedience in believing what we are told by authorities without hard evidence and asking critical-thinking, important questions to discern illusion from Truth.  This alone proves the fraudulence of “religious faith.”  The fact of the matter is, the question of the very existence of someone or something has nothing to do with “faith.”  We all struggle with faith in people and things we know for a fact exits.  Why does the very question of whether or not someone or something exists in the first place even have to be a question at all?  The short answer is – it doesn’t.  The bottom line is, the question of God’s existence should not even be a question if God is a factual reality.  The very fact God’s existence is a question therefore also proves the fraudulence of “religious faith.”  Even if we knew as a matter of fact God exists, we would still sometimes struggle with our faith, so the whole argument God’s existence cannot be empirically verifiable by everyone because it would take away “faith” is invalid.  After all, Jesus, who is claimed by Christian theology to be God himself not only supposedly lived on Earth as a living, breathing, human being others could see, hear, and touch, but also “materialized” and “dematerialized” after his resurrection to appear to his disciples and others.  God “spoke” to Moses through a burning bush, to Abraham before and after he was to sacrifice his son Issac, as well as to Paul with a blinding light on the road to Damascus, and in fact God has “spoken directly” to several people throughout history as recorded in the Bible.  This further illustrates the absurdity of the whole argument God cannot directly appear or “speak” to others because it would take away “faith.” The fact God does appear in the form of Jesus to others, and “speaks” to others as recorded in the Bible is proof that direct experience of God apparently does not take away “faith,” further invalidating this entirely absurd argument.  Ultimately, religious “faith” is simply rationalized by those who have no legitimate answers to these important questions.

Regardless of how we feel about the issue, coexistence is the only way to real peace because there will never be a time when all of us will agree on the “right” religion. Since that is the case, we may as well learn to coexist and get along with each other, regardless of our ideological and religious differences. If we do not want to destroy this world and ourselves through pointless wars over differences in opinion about religious and ideological absurdities, then we have no choice but to put an end to our childish ways, and get real as mature, critical-thinking adults. I once heard a missionary at the church where I work give a talk about her latest overseas mission in which she worked in an area where Christians and Muslims lived literally right next to each other. She said while it was nice they got along very well, it was difficult to get “converts” to Christianity. Is it not incredibly absurd to believe it is an undesirable thing for those of different faiths to get along with each other because you cannot therefore get “converts” to your faith? The idea is ludicrous. Those who would have us not “coexist,” as so-called “missionaries” like this one would have us do, and the pastor who hates the “coexist” bumper stickers would have us do, are those who would rather we defend our beliefs and remain separated, rather than be united in truth and love. Such people who are committed to their “faith,” are not committed to truth, peace, and love. They are committed to war and suffering, because the defense and perpetuation of these silly divisions over which ideology is “right,” which is what it means to get “converts” to our religion, and to get others to conform to our belief system, is an irrelevant, war-mongering waste of time. To simply do what is loving and brings life is never a belief, but is honoring and doing what is actually true. Either we can choose to be “defenders of the faith,” or be committed to the truth. The choice is ours.

Listen to the “Coexist” audio version

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