We live as forms of conscious energy which are aware of the limits of our forms, as well as the limits of other forms, which is ultimately responsible for our sense of “self” as separate from “other.” While our sense of self is ultimately an illusion since All is truly One, we nevertheless experience life as a “self” as a profoundly “real” experience, and do not realize our lives are real only as a dream is real, but not Reality, as a dream is not Reality. Contrary to popular opinion and religious belief, our “selves” are not “separate” and “independent” from the whole of All any more than an ocean wave is ever separate from the ocean.
As a direct result from our sense of “self,” combined with our relatively high degree of intelligence compared to other life forms, we have a profound uniquely human need for meaning and purpose. With this sense of “self,” we also have an extremely strong survival instinct which tell us to preserve our forms, just as every organism also has this same survival instinct. For human beings however, it is far more complicated than for simpler organisms due to our relatively high degree of intelligence. Because of our higher degree of intelligence, we strive to not only instinctually preserve our bodies, but also our self-concepts – our egos, and by extension, our beliefs and worldviews – many of us doing so at all costs. At the same time, we experience a profoundly disturbing cognitive dissonance between our desire to preserve ourselves and live forever, and our inability to deny the fact that our forms are impermanent, just like every other form in the universe, and that we, like everything else, will one day die. While we would like to deny this fact, death is the one fact absolutely nobody can deny.
In the realization of the undeniable fact of death, and our desperate desire to find a “way out” of death, along with our need to find “meaning” and “purpose” for our limited lives as egos, we invent the idea of an unlimited, eternal, “supreme ego,” otherwise known as a “higher power” or “God” if you will, along with the concept of the “afterlife” to fulfill these incredibly strong, primal ego needs. Because we want to believe our egos will somehow “live forever,” we therefore have to believe the eternal “supreme ego” – God, is real, and not simply a figment of our imagination. To understand that “God,” the “supreme ego” is imaginary, is to understand that our self-concepts – our egos, are imaginary as well. That is why believers tend to conflate faith with fact, even though this is an incorrect conflation. As we discovered previously, our egos are in a sense “real,” but only as a dream is real, just as our egos are not Reality, as a dream is not Reality – that is, “real” as an experience, yet temporary, passing, and illusory. To understand all of this would be to admit that our death – the impermanence of our forms, is an undeniable fact, and any notions of “individual permanence” are also imaginary. Since we cannot accept this fact, we deny and ignore all evidence, all logic, all rational thought and sound reasoning which does not support our desired conclusion of permanency. We accomplish this by putting religious belief in a separate “box” from everything else in our lives, to keep it protected from logical, rational analysis which would expose it for the illusion it is, and to justify why we hold endless contradictions and double-standards between what we know for a fact is logically true in the “real world,” and what we believe is the “truth” of the so-called “spiritual world.” This is why the religious will not allow questioning of the fundamentals of their faith. Instead of facing the Reality all is One in light of the mountains of evidence and non-contradictory logic around us, we instead accept religious belief and all of its impossible contradictions and double-standards, believing in two “separate” and distinct “realities” – the “real world” and the so-called “spiritual world,” because we cannot accept the fact of Oneness, our inevitable death, and ultimate impermanence. The problem with awareness of the Truth of Oneness, especially for those who believe in the traditional ego-centric conception of God, is it invalidates all dualistic religious beliefs, including the whole of Judeo-Christian, Islamic theology which would not exist were it not for the contradictions and double-standards their belief systems contain, as stated previously.
The reason why apologists such as Lee Strobel have a job, writing numerous books which rely on contradictory, double-standard “logic” on why God is supposedly “real,” and why we spend all of this time and energy creating concepts of “substance dualism,” with notions of separation between “the spiritual,” and “the worldly,” manufacturing ideas of gods, faiths, worship, and an endless supply of justifications and rationalizations for these ideas which result from our dualistic point of view is because our emotions are in the “driver’s seat” of our lives, not our logical, rational thinking mind which can discern illusion from Truth. Our emotions power and drive our actions and motivations, not our logic. That is why we can ignore all evidence, all logic, and simply “believe” whatever validates our egos and makes us feel better about ourselves. This is also why we can bully and even kill others who threaten our beliefs. We experience a threat to our beliefs as a threat to ourselves, because as far as the ego is concerned, we are our beliefs. They are one and the same. We therefore feel perfectly justified to “defend ourselves” when our beliefs are threatened. This is ultimately the maker of all conflict and war, and why all wars are “religious wars.” This is why those who claim to be “defenders of the faith,” are not defending “God,” as they claim, but themselves. We create God and gods, not the other way around. It is often said that God made humankind, but humankind made religion. Humankind made both, as they are one and the same. The fact our justifications for God are always justifications for our beliefs about God – our religious views, which is nothing more than an extension of ourselves, prove this fact.
It is an amazing fact that our society tacitly approves and shields this institutionally backed self-deception by not outwardly criticizing or calling out religious beliefs for the superstitions and irrational imaginings they are. It is left for minority rational-minded groups and individuals to do this thankless job. It is also a striking fact in our modern American society that an admitted atheist could never get elected to public office, and could furthermore only get elected if they publicly acknowledged belief in an invisible, prayer-answering “God.” This fact in our modern, diverse, and supposedly “free” and “democratic” society should give us pause. However, one of the reasons we tend to go easy on irrational religious beliefs, is because we all know deep down that one way or another, for all that our society and modern technology and scientific understanding has done to overcome obstacles to our comfort and well-being, as well as their strength to answer many of the questions of existence and the universe that used to be “answered” by religion, death is still the one fact we not only cannot deny, but also cannot overcome, and so we tacitly allow ourselves this indulgence of delusion, like drugs or alcohol to cover over the pain of reality. Karl Marx aptly described religion as “the opium of the people,” as it is the tacit “society-approved” last bastion for this indulgence of delusion – something that is tacitly approved because the majority believes even subconsciously, we need to deceive ourselves without wanting to outwardly admit it, if only for a moment on Sunday mornings or at funerals because we cannot handle the truth. While some serious thinkers and scientists believe we may one day overcome death by having our brains offloaded on to hard drives of the future or some other means of technological life extension, it is simply not practical to believe we will one day destroy death altogether because death and life are one. Death therefore cannot be “overcome” since it cannot ever be separated from life itself. The very fight over the acceptance of this fact is the whole issue to begin with – not death. We must therefore accept reality and not fight it if we are to experience any genuine peace. This brings to mind Sam Harris’ brilliant lecture on death, in which he described such technological efforts to overcome death as “science-enabled religion.” The defense of self is the essence of all war, and whether we are doing this though religion or science, the bottom line is, we are doing nothing to accept reality, leading to a more violent and war-mongering society.
The only “solution” to this entire dilemma of conflict and violence is to come to terms with the fact and the truth of who and what we are as impermanent forms within the timelessness of All. If we want to live our lives with less conflict and violence, we must accept the fact of our impermanence and the limits of our lives with grace and humility, instead of trying to endlessly pacify our egos with childish fantasies of immortality. Everything else we do in response to this dilemma besides true acceptance of the fact of our impermanence is nothing more than denial and escape, which are the makers of more violence and war.