In my previous post, we learned there are two fundamental principles of oneness – stasis and change. We also learned the principle of change is what is responsible for “creating” energy, or the “stuff” we see and observe in the world every day. In truth nothing is actually ever “created,” but only changed from one form to another since all is truly One, divided into countless forms which are endlessly evolving and constantly changing. Throughout “The Mystical Voice” we have together explored, from several different angles, the indisputable fact all is truly One – that there is no such thing as “separate” and “independent” existence. As we have also discovered, the implications of this fact are enormously profound and far-reaching. What Oneness ultimately means is the fact there is no such thing as the permanent, separate “self,” or ego. Since all is truly One, divided endlessly into countless forms, then the notion of “independent,” “eternal,” “separate beings” is an illusion. This means all “beings” we imagine such as “God,” the “saints,” eternal “souls,” “Satan,” etc., are all illusions as well. Of course, without these concepts, all ego-centric theologies such as those of Christianity and Islam are immediately invalidated. For these theologies to work, the ego, the self, the “I,” must be a permanent reality. Once it is proven all dualistic concepts are ultimately not true, as was proven in “Contradictions and Double-Standards,” the ego and all notions of “permanent” forms are rendered illusory, leaving us only with the mind-numbing fact and the truth of what we actually are – ever-changing forms which are impermanent.
This fact presents an enormous existential problem for the ego, whose survival instinct compels it to deny the indisputable evidence, and proceed to lie to itself by inventing notions to promote the idea the ego’s impermanence is somehow “an illusion,” and “not true.” While it is true the ego itself is an illusion, the idea the ego is somehow not temporary is the ultimate lie and illusion we tell ourselves in the profoundly disturbing realization of the fact of impermanence. Instead of accepting the truth of impermanence, we pretend when we die the “just” go to “a better place,” while the “unjust” go to a place of “eternal torment.” I just received yet one more dosage of this absurd theology yesterday in yet another sermon on the afterlife, and in particular on the question of whether or not we get a “second chance.” What this pastor fails to see is the fact the entire question is invalid because the self is an illusion to begin with, rendering all notions of “Heaven” and “Hell,” irrelevant. Since there is no “self” – no “thing,” no “soul” to “save,” then there is no “damnation” or “salvation,” as both concepts are dualistic notions born from the illusion of self.
Even though we can very easily disprove all of these dualistic ideological and religious fantasies, the fact is, we create them because as we have also discovered before, our emotions tend to virtually always be in the driver’s seat of our lives – dictating to us how we tend to behave and what we tend to believe – not our logical, rational mind which can discern illusion from truth. We create these fantasies of “eternal life” because we do want to live forever, because we don’t want to believe our “selves” are merely passing illusions, just like every other manifested form. It is not enough to honestly admit we invent meaning and purpose to help motivate us to get up out of bed every day. We need to believe our life’s “meaning” and “purpose” are “objective realities” which come from a God in his Heaven who created us “for a purpose.” In other words, we need to believe our purpose is real, meaning it is not merely our invention, but some “objective reality” created by a God outside ourselves who made us “for a purpose.”
We cannot accept the fact our egos are illusions – real as a dream is real, but not Reality, just the same as a dream is not Reality. On a subconscious level, we are all aware of this disturbing Truth, but most of us choose in this profoundly upsetting realization to lie to ourselves so we never actually see it on a conscious level. This is the purpose of all ideologies and religions – to relieve our cognitive dissonance between what we want to believe is true, and what is actually true – to prevent the Truth from coming to the surface of our conscious awareness so we can put the question of existence out of our minds, and enable us to live with “meaning” and “purpose” while never actually admitting to ourselves the fact our “meaning” and “purpose” we live for are all inventions of our ego – whether these “purposes” are “religious” or “worldly.” It makes no difference how we label these things, as they are all self-made inventions to help us get up out of bed every day. This is exactly the reason why we compartmentalize our religious beliefs – why we put them in a separate “box” from everything else in our lives, and why we hold them to a double-standard – calling them “sacred,” and “transcendent.” We create these artificial notions of the “sacredness” of our religious beliefs so we do not have to actually examine them and see them for the self-created illusions they are. In doing this, we keep the Truth our “meaning” and “purpose” are self-created out of our conscious awareness, enabling us to continue living in the ignorant bliss our lives have some objective “meaning” dictated by God. This is why the religious will never dare open their “religious box” – their “religious compartment,” to subject their faith to critical thinking – to logical, rational thought that is free of contradiction. We use our critical thinking skills in order to see the truth about most everything else in our lives, but not our religious beliefs because if we dared to do so, our faith would be exposed for the truth of what it actually is – a self-contradictory illusion. The fact we subject most everything else to critical thinking to discern whether or not it is true, but not religious belief, clearly demonstrates we don’t want to know the truth of our religious beliefs because if we dared to question them, we would actually see the Truth our life has no objective “meaning” beyond what we assign it. This also explains why the religious tend to be quite threatened and defensive when questioned or challenged to think critically, honestly, and analytically about their faith.
This fact of our impermanence and the ultimate objective “meaninglessness” of life is of course, extraordinarily difficult for many of us to accept. The fact all of our “purpose” and “meaning” is ultimately an illusion is something which brings extreme cognitive dissonance to our minds because while we all inherently want to know and accept the truth, we also have a very hard time actually accepting the truth our ego-based “reality” is ultimately an illusion. To accept we invent “reason,” “purpose,” and “meaning” for the sake of motivating us to live for tomorrow is a place very few people ever reach. I for one am consciously aware I invent meaning and purpose for my life, and that it has no objective “meaning” beyond what it means to me. I am okay with this now, but there was a time in my life I was not at all accepting of it, which is why I continued to cling to the traditional concepts of “God” and the afterlife. This is in truth why all who cling to faith do so, whether we are aware of this or not.
Still, when it comes down to the bottom line, on a practical everyday level, we must ultimately find a way to live with awareness of Truth. The ultimate question is, how can we live with the Truth? How can we live with the knowledge our life has no “meaning” beyond what we assign it, that there is no afterlife, no God in his Heaven watching over us, and no “fairytale” ending to our lives in which we live on in eternal bliss after death with our family and friends and everyone “gets what they deserve?” It was astonishing how the pastor yesterday explained that to go to Hell, all a person has to do is absolutely nothing. In other words, just because we “inherit” a “sinful nature,” due to Adam and Eve’s “original sin,” we are guilty by association, and deserving of damnation for all eternity. If we are sensible and rational human beings, this idea alone should give us immense pause, as this would be like a judge sentencing a person to death because of the sins of their great, great, great, great grandfather, even if they themselves had not committed a crime. We would never consider this action “just,” but somehow, some way, we believe it is “okay” for God to impose this exact same injustice on all of humanity. This is yet another example of the way we justify our religious beliefs by accepting an absurd double-standard in our ideas about God. While it is the common opinion of many that as long as we are “good enough,” we will get into Heaven, Christian theology teaches we must be perfect to get into Heaven. The problem is, we cannot be perfect due to our sinful nature. Therefore we must submit ourselves to the unquestioned authority of the only “perfect” one – Jesus Christ, in order to avoid eternal Hell. A death sentence is merciful in comparison to eternal Hellfire for doing absolutely nothing and/or for being less than perfect. Only a cruelly unjust God would do this. This is blatantly obvious to anyone who looks at this honestly, objectively and rationally. The fact Christians worship a God who can demonstrate this level of cruelty and injustice, not to mention the requirement of unquestioning submission to an authority to be “saved,” reveal the extent and the depth of just how desperately we want to believe in that which justify our egos and make us feel better about ourselves – no matter what the price. We are even willing to believe in imaginary brutal and cruel existential “realities” just to convince ourselves of the illusion we are not mortal. It is a striking testament to the depth and the extent of our lust for egotistical survival.
This profound willingness to tolerate remarkable injustice and cruelty from our concepts of God, just as a child accepts, justifies, and continues to love their physically and/or emotionally abusive parent shows just how strongly we need acceptance and confirmation of our value as individuals. While it is completely understandable we want and need this, we take it to the point of accepting unjust, contradictory, and cruel concepts of God simply because we refuse to accept the fact we are impermanent egos, just as every other form in the universe is also impermanent. Instead of being honest, and facing this truth like grown adults, Christian theology tries to get around this by saying human beings are somehow “special” and “different” from other life forms, reasoning God made us for a specific “special purpose” with a “soul,” unlike and different from other creatures. While our desire to never die is understandable, there is not a single shred of credible evidence or sound, non-contradictory logic to back up this belief.
It is amazingly hypocritical that religion, while purporting to be about “truth” and “selflessness,” is in fact about lying to oneself to justify the idea of the permanent me at the same time. No matter what religion we examine, whether it is Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., each one includes some kind of special “payoff” for the ego. Even Buddhism, which comes closest to telling the truth of the illusion of the ego, and the non-existence of any real “self,” and “transcendental being” like God since all is One, still contains the idea of “rebirth” in which our consciousness is “reborn” into another form. While it is true all forms constantly “transform” if you will, into “something else,” as our bodies decay and “transform” into its constituent components after death, the idea there is some “continuum of karma,” or “continuum of consciousness,” which “transforms” into “something else” is incorrect. Since there is no self, there can be no “rebirth,” because there is no thing to be reborn. Buddhist doctrine tries to get around this by saying it is not a fixed self which is “reborn,” but this “continuum of karma,” or “continuum of consciousness” which manifests itself in other forms, in which this consciousness is neither the same as before nor completely different than before. This idea makes no sense because to have a “continuum of karma” based on the actions of a “past life,” or some “continuum of consciousness” without a “self” is a contradiction. The karmic continuum must be tied to a self if it is based on “past lives” as Buddhist doctrine purports, because that is precisely what a life is – a self-conscious form of energy – in other words – a self. A “life” and a “self” are one and the same. Past lives equal past selves.
If this “continuum of karma/consciousness” does not “belong” to a “unit” – an “I,” a “me,” a self, as Buddhist doctrine tries to purport, then the very notion of the afterlife is meaningless, because the concept of the afterlife is not about selfless action and consequence without personal accountability, or an unending continuum of our impersonal, decomposing material components after death. The afterlife is about personal, egotistical survival of death and the “punishments” and “rewards” which result from how we lived our lives on Earth as individual selves with “free will.” That is precisely the reason for the afterlife’s appeal – it purports the survival of our selves – our egos, with its requisite “rewards” and “punishments.” That is why without the self, the afterlife has no meaning. While it is true there is continuity since we are all a part of an unending continuum, there is no thing – no self which survives in that continuum, since there is only action and consequence which “belongs” to nothing and nobody. In other words, there is no “unit of a continuum of karma/consciousness” as Buddhism purports because in truth, consciousness, “karma,” belongs to nobody since the self is ultimately an illusion to begin with.
Since we live our lives in identity with our temporary and illusory, relative egos, we therefore also accept the ideas of “personal accountability” and “free-will” that come with this identification, making it necessary to therefore have to deal with the consequences of “our” actions. While accountability, responsibility, and “ownership” of consequences are real in our relative lives as egos, they too – like our egos, are also not Reality, since they are all a part of this single notion of the illusory ego, and are therefore ultimately illusions as well. The bottom line is, there are no “eternal personal consequences” for our actions as virtually all religions purport, since the self is an impermanent illusion to begin with. Buddhism is truthful on many levels, but its clever trick of trying to maintain the idea of some “continuum of karma/consciousness” which is “reborn” in its quest to continually evolve to the point of liberation or “enlightenment,” while maintaining a “no-self” paradigm simultaneously simply does not work, as it is a logical contradiction and is therefore impossible.
The reason why all religions do this – why all religions ultimately contradict the fact and the Truth of Oneness by accepting the idea of a permanent “self,” or at least throw a bone to the ego as Buddhism does, is because those who create and promote these religions know they cannot have a large following without pacifying the ego. If a religion is not about me, then it has no relevance and does not sell. If it does not contain some sort or “eternal personal accountability,” then it also does not sell. The concepts of ego and with it, “free will,” self-permanence, and “justice” are extremely important to people – perhaps the most important primal concepts to human beings since we evolved into a creature who could create concepts. Since the concept the afterlife in all its forms conveniently fulfills all of these ego needs perfectly, it is no wonder why the concept of the afterlife exists in one form or another within all major religions. While many people do not want to admit it, the fact is, religion is just another business like any other business. If there is no “sugar,” no “sexiness,” no “me,” it does not sell. Secular salespeople know this when promoting their products, and those who create and promote religions are also very aware of this aspect of human nature. Actual truth never sells, especially when that truth is the non-existence of any real and true self. No religion ever tells the whole Truth, because if they did, it would never sell.
Still, there must be some middle ground between accepting conscious or subconscious lies of individual “permanence” to pacify our egos, or living a life in depression over the ultimate objective meaninglessness of it all. One of the biggest problems for atheists or those who challenge traditional concepts of religion is while they frequently offer sound and convincing arguments against traditional religious concepts, they offer few or no practical alternatives of how we can actually live in this world as non-believers. The majority of the world has no awareness of Oneness and are “believers” in one god or another, putting non-believers in the minority. How can we live practically in the real world with awareness of Oneness? We have to somehow find a way to deal with our emotional needs without the illusions of religion – how to deal and cope with life without God. If we have come from a lifetime of fervent religious belief and convert to non-belief, this can be extremely disorienting and uncomfortable. How do we cope emotionally with the death of a loved one, and our own inevitable demise? How do we relate socially to others, believers as well as non-believers? How do we deal with our profound feelings of injustice, grief, loss, and insecurity? How do we deal with the senselessness of natural disasters, as well as the cruelty and horrible brutality we see time and time again throughout the world? One of the advantages to being a non-believer is these facts of life make more sense to believe there is no separate God in control of all events because if there were, it is hard to rationalize how a so-called “good,” “just,” and “loving” God could allow the miserable things to go on in this world without intervention if God is as Christian theology says he is. To say all will one day be “made right” in the “afterlife” is also an absurdity, and is nothing more than a way of pacifying us with an illusion that has absolutely no credible evidence for such a claim, just the same as the claim for the concept of “original sin.” Being a non-believer releases us of the need to endlessly justify the myriad contradictions of faith and its unreasonable, irrational claims such as claims for the afterlife and “original sin,” which is in and of itself, remarkably freeing.
It is much more sensible and rational to believe things really do not happen as a result of some “divine” purpose, “plan,” or reason – especially “bad” things. Not only is it in some ways more emotionally satisfying to believe this because at least no being is “out to get us,” but this is also backed up by evidence as well, not to mention logical, rational thought that is free of contradiction. Where this belief is not so satisfying is when contemplating the “good” aspects of life. It is much more emotionally satisfying to believe “good” things happen in our lives because we are in “God’s favor,” or because we are being “blessed” by God. Again, we can blatantly see these concepts depend on some personal “specialness.” These are again purely egotistical notions, which reveal the actual reason for these beliefs – to validate our egos. It is quite sobering to discover through simple, critical examination just how selfish Christian theology actually is. If we are rational and reasonable human beings, these facts should give us pause to contemplate the profound depths of what this actually means, and ponder the remarkable contradiction of how a religion which purports to be about “God” and “selflessness” is in actual fact, all about me.
Nevertheless, we do have real pain, real sadness, and real challenges in our lives. Ironically enough, perhaps the best advice of all for how we might best live in this world is to follow the golden rule Jesus taught for us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If we really took the time to seriously consider this carefully, perhaps we would think more and act less ignorantly and hurtfully toward ourselves and others. As for dealing with the pain of losing our loved ones and dealing with our own inevitable death, perhaps we can let the knowledge of the limit of our lives inspire us with unprecedented passion to love and care for others as if there is no tomorrow because tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Perhaps instead of being hypocritically motivated by the fear and coercion of religious belief through reward and punishment, we could instead do for others because we realize just how precious our lives and their lives are – precisely because they are impermanent. And if we do live each day with everything we have – if we “leave it all on the field” of life as it were, without regret for how we lived, how we loved, how we found the time for a child or made a day in the life of a stranger or a loved one all the happier because we know just how precious they are, perhaps then we would know what it means to find the true Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. This is the part many of the religious miss. By assigning “Heaven” to some “otherworldly realm” to which we “go” after we die in “righteousness,” we miss the point of maximizing life in the here and now – to recognize its incredibly precious fragility and transience, and in that awareness to live each day – each moment, as if it were the only moment of our lives.
Listen to the audio version of “Life Without God?”