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Discussion #39 - Spirituality

Most of us believe in some form of spirituality and after-life, but few 100% agree on exactly what it is (streets of gold, new perfect body, 100% spiritual, reincarnation, etc.). This currently is, always was, and will always be the most dangerous subject on earth to discuss (probably because it's the most important to quite a few). Many feel very strongly that they know what's what in this department. Although I personally adhere to a belief system (Christianity), I am not completely convinced that I (or my system) have it all 100% right. This likely tarnishes my popularity with others in my system, but I personally will not believe something just to fit in. There is always a strong expectation to "go with the flow" or "follow the herd" involved.

Much of the historical accounts and writings (in all faith-based beliefs) are open to interpretation, and even the greatest theologians will normally admit that they do not know for sure what heaven (or hell) are exactly. These facts, combined with the human ego, make this an extremely volatile topic of conversation. Nevertheless, to avoid discussing this topic would be equally ridiculous, as it is the most important on earth to many people.

Globally, there has been a dramatic rise in interest recently on this subject, as many are becoming increasingly forced to see their own mortality. For a variety of reasons which include an aging boomer population, conflict from religious extremism, and numerous environmental issues. Even if all goes extremely well in our lives, we're still only looking at a healthy lifespan of maybe 70 or 80 years. I am currently 50(ish), and I feel like the time has gone by fairly quickly.

Although there are literally thousands of variations or different belief systems on earth, there is one common theme to virtually all of them. It is the idea that there is more to the human soul than just the biological machine that is our body. Love, free will, creativity, original thought and ideas give strong visible evidence to this belief, but many are still not convinced. Many will still attribute this to the subconscious mind and extreme complexity of the human brain. Even Atheism is a belief system (the belief there is no God). Agnostics aren't quite sure one way or the other.

Most of the fascination for spirituality comes from three major motivators. The quest for physical and spiritual health, a desire to be connected to the spiritual world while alive on earth, and the quest for some form of immortality. This in turn adds to our quest for significance. If we believe that we even have a shot at spiritual (or physical) immortality, then this greatly amplifies our sense of personal significance. This in turn feeds our inherently competitive spirit. The entire idea that we may have eternal life and others (who do not believe exactly what we believe) may not, is a very competitive and exclusive way of thinking (even though it may be 100% accurate).

The other elephant in the room is that those who are and do evil in this world, obviously do not deserve to end up in the same after-life as those who do mainly positive things towards others. Every belief system has it's own take on this. Some believe you can just ask for forgiveness each time and the slate is wiped clean, some believe the opposite. Others believe that evil is ok as long as you're on the right mission. My personal belief is that there will be a judgement day, but that none of us will really know for sure all of the exact details, until we actually pass away. When that day comes, it will be a nice little surprise for all of us.

The other main idea that is gaining a lot of traction recently, is that our spiritual health is the biggest contributing factor to our overall physical health. Healthy mind, healthy body (etc.). This is why activities such as meditation and yoga are becoming extremely popular in many countries. Most modern affluent cultures are living fairly stressful and sedentary lifestyles, so many are desperately searching for methods of relaxation. I personally am a big fan of this way of thinking. Although I do not practice yoga or meditation, I do feel that spiritual health leads to physical health as well. It relieves a great deal of strain off of our body, allowing it to heal naturally, or not get sick in the first place. Many turn to substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to relieve their daily stress, but obviously any natural method is a far better idea (light exercise and music are my personal favourites).

Music, culture, and various other forms of art are also very spiritual in nature, and can feed, soothe, or excite the soul in a very major way. There is a reason why some musicians or bands can attract 80,000+ screaming fans to a concert. Hugely successful movies such as "Avatar", "Ghost", "Heaven Is For Real", "If I Stay", and "Star Wars" (the force) are also an indicator of just how big of a deal spirituality is to many people. There is even an element of spirituality in sports that goes beyond the physical, and Ch'i (relating to martial arts). There are also many with a fascination for the occult, witchcraft or psychic mediums, etc. (not my cup of tea).

Whether you believe that our soul is part of a spiritual realm, or simply a product of our subconscious mind, you have to admit it's pretty amazing. I for one would really like to (and do) believe that our soul lives on after the body dies in a realm commonly referred to as heaven (or the other one). What heaven really is remains to be seen for all of us, something to look forward to at the end of our mortal life. If I'm wrong, and the lights just go out, then it was going to happen anyway.

I swore to myself that I would not discuss specific religions in this blog, but there is one historic religious fact that I personally find quite fascinating. Aside from all of the antisemitism that has gone on all over the world, down through the years (or maybe this was the root cause), I find this interesting. Even though Jesus and virtually all of the disciples who wrote the bible were Jewish, the vast majority of all Jewish people (97%) do not believe that he was the Messiah (or any form of deity). This being the core foundation for all of Christianity, I find this very interesting. Essentially, virtually no one who is Jewish is actually a Christian. This despite the common reference to the Jewish people as being God's chosen people.

I personally believe that God has blessed the Jewish race with incredible gifts, abilities, and morality, but I still have always found this to be a bit ironic. In fact, historically in this era, Jews & Gentiles despised and wanted nothing to do with each other. In the Christian Bible, the books of Luke & Acts were written by Luke, who was born a Gentile, but there is suspicion he may have converted to Judaism. Some scholars & theologians interpret Luke as being a Hellenic Jew (a mixture of Jewish religious tradition & elements of Greek culture). Luke is the only author of the Bible who is (possibly) non-Jewish.

Also incredible, is that both Christianity and Islam (Muslim faith) were born from Judaism roughly 2000 and 1400 years ago (respectively). As a result of this, all three belief systems are part of the Abrahamic group of religions. Also interesting, is that roughly 33% of all humans on earth are Christian, 21% are Muslim, and only .2% currently adhere to Judaism. This is likely due to the common notion that one must be born a Jew to truly belong to the Jewish faith. By far the most common line of thinking is that jealousy, pure & simple (and for thousands of years), has been the main underlying reason for most (if not all) of the antisemetic issues down through the centuries. Even the Christian church admits that the Jewish people (even though predominantly non-Christian), are still God's chosen people.

In fact, if you were to travel to the city of Jerusalem in Israel today, you would find an area for Muslims, an area for Christians, but the vast majority of Jerusalem's citizens are of course Jewish (and non-Messianic, which means again non-Christian).

Of course we all as individuals have the ability to choose what we believe, but in reality the vast majority of the world is divided into pockets of religious groups. Few stray from these pockets for fear of being ostracized by the people around us. The original start of all world religions (with a few exceptions such as Hinduism and Shintoism), were the revelations of one or two key individuals or prophets (per religion or denomination). Also interesting is that most major religions (including Islam) acknowledge the existence and reality of Jesus as a prophet, but with varying degrees of significance. Some believe he was the Messiah, and some not. Some believe that he performed miracles, and some not. Also interesting is that globally the entire world uses his birth for the most common referencing of time (BCE, CE, BC and AD). His birth is year 1 (AD) of 2018. There are a few different calenders being used in the world, but the Gregorian is the international standard.

Modern science and creationism have always had a serious conflict when it comes to the chronology of earth and the universe. Science believes earth to be in the neighborhood of 4.5 billion years old, and the universe in the area of 15 billion. The Abrahamic religions believe, mainly from the book of Genesis, that roughly 6,000 years has passed since creation, with Adam & Eve being created on the 6th day (AM 1).

Others believe that modern science and the Hebrew Bible are both right, and view the "6 days" as being less literal, and more allegorical, meaning that each "day" may actually have been over 2 billion years. It's believed that Noah lived, & the flood occurred, around 1600 AM (approx. 2400 BC), or roughly 500 years before Abraham. Since Adam & Eve were monotheistic, humankind drifted towards polytheism, or outright Godlessness, both before & after Noah.

Abraham lived almost 4,000 years ago, and prior to his efforts, humankind basically believed in idol worship & polytheism (multiple gods), a practice that is still extremely common today in The East. In fact, virtually all other major religions in the world are still polytheistic aside from Christianity, Islam, & Judaism. This means that Judaism was the only major monotheistic religion on earth for almost 2,000 years, or until the arrival of Jesus. Muhammad and Islam were born approx. 600 years later.

Abraham had two sons from different women, Isaac, whose descendants later become the Jewish people, and Ishmael, whose descendants formed the Arab nations. This information is indicated in the Bible, the Qur'an, and also in the Torah. Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael, born approx. 2,400 years later. This is the basic outline of how theology has evolved down through the recorded ages in The West.

In The East however, it's a completely different spiritual situation altogether. Buddhism is believed to have originated approx. 1500 years after Abraham (4th or 5th century BC). Hinduism is much older, and originated somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 BC (somewhere in the Neolithic era, or New Stone Age). Hinduism is the only major religion that did not originate with one individual prophet, and therefore it's origins are much tougher to pinpoint.

Another interesting bit of fact, is that for approx. 1,500 years after Jesus' resurrection, there were only 2 major denominations of Christianity; the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It was only approx. 50 years after the Schism (or split) of these 2 groups, that the Crusades began. For the next 200 years or so, these were some of the most violent and bloody conflicts to ever occur in human history.

All Protestant denominations didn't begin until early 1500 AD, from mainly the efforts of a German professor of Theology named Martin Luther. Now, (approx. 500 years later), there are literally thousands of different Protestant denominations being observed in the world, with each main group having originated from it's own prophet. These unique denominations have obviously been at odds with each other ever since the Reformation (some more than others), and it's just been recently (since the 20th century), that a movement of unity has been developing. Increasingly, most Christian denominations are starting to at least have conversations with each other.

One of the toughest things for many to deal with (in most organized religions), is the fundamental theme that God is "everything" in significance, and that (relatively speaking), we are very little. This is an extremely tough pill for most to swallow, as we have a strong and primal drive to increase and/or maintain our own significance in our societies. This is also what the world teaches and promotes at every turn. There is a strong expectation for us to stifle our own ego (self-esteem), and humble ourselves completely. This is asking a lot for most in the more affluent countries. In poorer countries, spiritual wealth and humility are much more common, as mortal survival is far less certain. In these conditions, spirituality generally thrives, and becomes a much more important part of people's lives. In a way, it's odd that we send missionaries there, when they should really be sending them here. In the western world, most adhere mainly to the religion of consumerism. More time and energy is spent on the stuff, and appearing important, than on anything else.

If you have a real relationship with God, you will not NEED other people to validate your own significance. You will LIKE, WANT, and ENJOY relationships with others, but you will not need them. This is how you know. Introverted, extroverted, it doesn't matter. There is also no need to be a religious fanatic, as this is just another form of human ego trip. People get a huge kick out of trying to enforce their will and opinions on others. The reality is that we're all just human, and therefore do not know everything about the spiritual afterlife. This does not mean that it's completely pointless to discuss, just that it's really tricky to do it without stepping on people's toes. We're all going to be there in a relatively short period of time for all eternity, so this kind of makes it the most important subject in the world when you stop and think about it. The fact that we will all argue and debate what happens to our soul (if we even believe in it) while we are alive on earth, does not take anything away from it's ultimate importance.

Relatively speaking, our mortal lifespans are extremely short. Compared to our home planet earth (at roughly the age of 4.5 billion years), our physical lifespans are like fruitflies. For this reason (and the overall fragility of human life), many long for a more permanent existence. This is where all forms of spirituality step in to save the day. For this reason, and for companionship with other spiritual beings. We also long for a more permanent form of love, as human love can often be conditional, fickle, & at times extremely high maintenance. It may be strong one day & gone the next. Love from God, I believe, is unconditional, permanent, & eternal.

If we believe in it, investing some serious time and energy into the spiritual realm is a really good idea. As we all know (but often forget), we take nothing physical from this realm with us when we die (a subject we really don't like to think about all that much). Whenever I hear about a billionaire who passes away, I think wow, all that money just left behind. For those who believe this to be the big deal in life, what a let-down this must be. The entire physical universe, and everything in it, has a lifespan and is temporary. The spiritual realm (if it exists) is not. Time is the king of physical properties, and in the spiritual world, it does not exist. For us to imagine a competely non-physical existence would be difficult, but likely will be the reality for all of us one day, and for all of eternity.

It's my personal opinion that our attitudes and actions toward others are what really count, far more than the rules and rituals, on our judgement day. Mainly because these vary greatly from religion to religion, whereas our "arse factor" or love, respect, and compassion toward others is universal to all religions. Most teach that evidence of being connected to God spiritually are signs of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. In reality, these are references to how we should treat each other, our fellow human beings. This is what God seems to care about the most. What he does NOT want to see is us hating, marginalizing, and killing each other over our differences, as a result of our inherently competitive spirit and often massive egos.

Myself personally, having been a Christian my entire life, I've seen first hand just how vicious the drama can get (even within the same church). It shouldn't be like this, but in a way it makes sense, since the nature of virtually every world religion is fairly exclusive, meaning that we're taught to believe we're pretty much the only ones going to heaven. People of all faiths tend to be fairly opinionated (myself included), and this tends to create more ferocity to the dynamics in these social circles.

Sadly, this very same ferocity may also be what triggers our eventual extinction, as weapons of mass destruction become ever more powerful. There needs to be more of a sense of unity within humanity, or we are all living an increasingly precarious existence on this planet. In many ways we are advancing as a species (Darwin would be proud), but in so many ways, the majority are still so incredibly tribal in this area, sometimes it's hard to believe.

A good example of this passion, is the hotly debated question of whether or not we actually have free will at all. Many in most religions believe that God dictates & controls everything, & others believe that we have true will power, & that we carve out our own destiny (in most areas). I personally believe the latter, but I also believe that if we ask for guidance & assistance, he will likely give it to us. It makes far more sense to me, that God would want to have personal relationships with beings that actually possess free will. We are not robots, running through a pre-programmed destiny, even if God would be the programmer. I'm always amazed at the ferocity at which we Christians will debate this issue, even amongst ourselves. Another good example of these attitudes, would be the Catholics vs. the Protestants in Ireland.

On the other hand, when this ferocity is directed towards building a fired up, energized, vibrant & positive spiritual community, it can help create joy beyond belief! We are spiritual beings, and being part of a healthy, uplifting, warm & loving spiritual environment can be an unbelievably rich way of going through this life! I think a lot of it has to do with our attitudes in this area, as mainly we tend to reap what we sow. While it's extremely rare for people to completely agree with each other on all spiritual issues, there is tremendous power in connecting & having a personal relationship with God in this manner.

A big part of the reason why I personally believe in Jesus, is because of how he promoted humility, unity, & equality to such a degree. He treated the least significant in society with utmost respect, routinely washed others' feet, & was even born to a poor Jewish girl named Mary, in a rural manger (feeding trough). Unfortunately, in our modern society, this fact is far too often forgotten, & we Christians spend much of our time ferociously competing for our own perceived significance.

It's as if God was trying to say, you know what? The point of this life is not to be the biggest shot in the universe, and in fact, the meek shall inherit the earth. Jesus was the definition of humility & compassion, and went out of his way to demonstrate how equal we all are, regardless of our genetics or position in life. Despite this fact, many Christians tend to really struggle with this entire concept, (along with everyone else). The richer the country, the more people tend to struggle.

It seems like everyone wants to be a big shot these days, even some pastors. When we hear about things like megachurch pastors owning fleets of $50 million private jets (paid for by their loyal followers, many of whom are poor), it severely angers people. If Jesus came back today, he may not choose to ride around on a donkey, but it sure as heck won't be a private jet. This sort of thing turns many off of the idea of organized religion altogether, and my sense is that these pastors are doing far more harm than good with these sorts of "prosperity gospel" activities.

While I do personally adhere to a belief system, I also strongly believe that unity within our species is critical for our continued survival on this planet, & also by far the most intelligent way to live. Our own egos are what have been maintaining this compartmentalized & tribal world that we live in. The origins of this were more from sheer geography, but thanks to advancing communication & travel technology, this excuse is fading quickly. We now need to use our God-given will-power to overcome this idiotic behaviour, & begin respecting each other as fellow human beings. There will never be just one world religion, but rather many thousands of different variations (as there are now).

We need to start looking at the bigger picture on spirituality, or this mortal life is going to become one bumpy ride. Not only for us, but also for our descendants. We should be equally concerned about their mortal & immortal futures, as we are about our own immortal afterlife, or it's just pure selfishness.

The bottom line for me, is that I personally believe in a non-tribal God, who loves every human being on Earth equally, regardless of our affluence, our influence, the colour of our skin, the currency we use, or the language we speak. We all need to ignore our ego, which is constantly trying to tell us the opposite, and do our best to make this world a better place (while we are on this side of the dirt).
Discussion #39 - Spirituality

Most of us believe in some form of spirituality and after-life, but few 100% agree on exactly what it is (streets of gold, new perfect body, 100% spiritual, reincarnation, etc.). This currently is, always was, and will always be the most dangerous subject on earth to discuss (probably because it's the most important to quite a few). Many feel very strongly that they know what's what in this department. Although I personally adhere to a belief system (Christianity), I am not completely convinced that I (or my system) have it all 100% right. This likely tarnishes my popularity with others in my system, but I personally will not believe something just to fit in. There is always a strong expectation to "go with the flow" or "follow the herd" involved.

Much of the historical accounts and writings (in all faith-based beliefs) are open to interpretation, and even the greatest theologians will normally admit that they do not know for sure what heaven (or hell) are exactly. These facts, combined with the human ego, make this an extremely volatile topic of conversation. Nevertheless, to avoid discussing this topic would be equally ridiculous, as it is the most important on earth to many people.

Globally, there has been a dramatic rise in interest recently on this subject, as many are becoming increasingly forced to see their own mortality. For a variety of reasons which include an aging boomer population, conflict from religious extremism, and numerous environmental issues. Even if all goes extremely well in our lives, we're still only looking at a healthy lifespan of maybe 70 or 80 years. I am currently 50(ish), and I feel like the time has gone by fairly quickly.

Although there are literally thousands of variations or different belief systems on earth, there is one common theme to virtually all of them. It is the idea that there is more to the human soul than just the biological machine that is our body. Love, free will, creativity, original thought and ideas give strong visible evidence to this belief, but many are still not convinced. Many will still attribute this to the subconscious mind and extreme complexity of the human brain. Even Atheism is a belief system (the belief there is no God). Agnostics aren't quite sure one way or the other.

Most of the fascination for spirituality comes from three major motivators. The quest for physical and spiritual health, a desire to be connected to the spiritual world while alive on earth, and the quest for some form of immortality. This in turn adds to our quest for significance. If we believe that we even have a shot at spiritual (or physical) immortality, then this greatly amplifies our sense of personal significance. This in turn feeds our inherently competitive spirit. The entire idea that we may have eternal life and others (who do not believe exactly what we believe) may not, is a very competitive and exclusive way of thinking (even though it may be 100% accurate).

The other elephant in the room is that those who are and do evil in this world, obviously do not deserve to end up in the same after-life as those who do mainly positive things towards others. Every belief system has it's own take on this. Some believe you can just ask for forgiveness each time and the slate is wiped clean, some believe the opposite. Others believe that evil is ok as long as you're on the right mission. My personal belief is that there will be a judgement day, but that none of us will really know for sure all of the exact details, until we actually pass away. When that day comes, it will be a nice little surprise for all of us.

The other main idea that is gaining a lot of traction recently, is that our spiritual health is the biggest contributing factor to our overall physical health. Healthy mind, healthy body (etc.). This is why activities such as meditation and yoga are becoming extremely popular in many countries. Most modern affluent cultures are living fairly stressful and sedentary lifestyles, so many are desperately searching for methods of relaxation. I personally am a big fan of this way of thinking. Although I do not practice yoga or meditation, I do feel that spiritual health leads to physical health as well. It relieves a great deal of strain off of our body, allowing it to heal naturally, or not get sick in the first place. Many turn to substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to relieve their daily stress, but obviously any natural method is a far better idea (light exercise and music are my personal favourites).

Music, culture, and various other forms of art are also very spiritual in nature, and can feed, soothe, or excite the soul in a very major way. There is a reason why some musicians or bands can attract 80,000+ screaming fans to a concert. Hugely successful movies such as "Avatar", "Ghost", "Heaven Is For Real", "If I Stay", and "Star Wars" (the force) are also an indicator of just how big of a deal spirituality is to many people. There is even an element of spirituality in sports that goes beyond the physical, and Ch'i (relating to martial arts). There are also many with a fascination for the occult, witchcraft or psychic mediums, etc. (not my cup of tea).

Whether you believe that our soul is part of a spiritual realm, or simply a product of our subconscious mind, you have to admit it's pretty amazing. I for one would really like to (and do) believe that our soul lives on after the body dies in a realm commonly referred to as heaven (or the other one). What heaven really is remains to be seen for all of us, something to look forward to at the end of our mortal life. If I'm wrong, and the lights just go out, then it was going to happen anyway.

I swore to myself that I would not discuss specific religions in this blog, but there is one historic religious fact that I personally find quite fascinating. Aside from all of the antisemitism that has gone on all over the world, down through the years (or maybe this was the root cause), I find this interesting. Even though Jesus and virtually all of the disciples who wrote the bible were Jewish, the vast majority of all Jewish people (97%) do not believe that he was the Messiah (or any form of deity). This being the core foundation for all of Christianity, I find this very interesting. Essentially, virtually no one who is Jewish is actually a Christian. This despite the common reference to the Jewish people as being God's chosen people.

I personally believe that God has blessed the Jewish race with incredible gifts, abilities, and morality, but I still have always found this to be a bit ironic. In fact, historically in this era, Jews & Gentiles despised and wanted nothing to do with each other. In the Christian Bible, the books of Luke & Acts were written by Luke, who was born a Gentile, but there is suspicion he may have converted to Judaism. Some scholars & theologians interpret Luke as being a Hellenic Jew (a mixture of Jewish religious tradition & elements of Greek culture). Luke is the only author of the Bible who is (possibly) non-Jewish.

Also incredible, is that both Christianity and Islam (Muslim faith) were born from Judaism roughly 2000 and 1400 years ago (respectively). As a result of this, all three belief systems are part of the Abrahamic group of religions. Also interesting, is that roughly 33% of all humans on earth are Christian, 21% are Muslim, and only .2% currently adhere to Judaism. This is likely due to the common notion that one must be born a Jew to truly belong to the Jewish faith. By far the most common line of thinking is that jealousy, pure & simple (and for thousands of years), has been the main underlying reason for most (if not all) of the antisemetic issues down through the centuries. Even the Christian church admits that the Jewish people (even though predominantly non-Christian), are still God's chosen people.

In fact, if you were to travel to the city of Jerusalem in Israel today, you would find an area for Muslims, an area for Christians, but the vast majority of Jerusalem's citizens are of course Jewish (and non-Messianic, which means again non-Christian).

Of course we all as individuals have the ability to choose what we believe, but in reality the vast majority of the world is divided into pockets of religious groups. Few stray from these pockets for fear of being ostracized by the people around us. The original start of all world religions (with a few exceptions such as Hinduism and Shintoism), were the revelations of one or two key individuals or prophets (per religion or denomination). Also interesting is that most major religions (including Islam) acknowledge the existence and reality of Jesus as a prophet, but with varying degrees of significance. Some believe he was the Messiah, and some not. Some believe that he performed miracles, and some not. Also interesting is that globally the entire world uses his birth for the most common referencing of time (BCE, CE, BC and AD). His birth is year 1 (AD) of 2018. There are a few different calenders being used in the world, but the Gregorian is the international standard.

Modern science and creationism have always had a serious conflict when it comes to the chronology of earth and the universe. Science believes earth to be in the neighborhood of 4.5 billion years old, and the universe in the area of 15 billion. The Abrahamic religions believe, mainly from the book of Genesis, that roughly 6,000 years has passed since creation, with Adam & Eve being created on the 6th day (AM 1).

Others believe that modern science and the Hebrew Bible are both right, and view the "6 days" as being less literal, and more allegorical, meaning that each "day" may actually have been over 2 billion years. It's believed that Noah lived, & the flood occurred, around 1600 AM (approx. 2400 BC), or roughly 500 years before Abraham. Since Adam & Eve were monotheistic, humankind drifted towards polytheism, or outright Godlessness, both before & after Noah.

Abraham lived almost 4,000 years ago, and prior to his efforts, humankind basically believed in idol worship & polytheism (multiple gods), a practice that is still extremely common today in The East. In fact, virtually all other major religions in the world are still polytheistic aside from Christianity, Islam, & Judaism. This means that Judaism was the only major monotheistic religion on earth for almost 2,000 years, or until the arrival of Jesus. Muhammad and Islam were born approx. 600 years later.

Abraham had two sons from different women, Isaac, whose descendants later become the Jewish people, and Ishmael, whose descendants formed the Arab nations. This information is indicated in the Bible, the Qur'an, and also in the Torah. Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael, born approx. 2,400 years later. This is the basic outline of how theology has evolved down through the recorded ages in The West.

In The East however, it's a completely different spiritual situation altogether. Buddhism is believed to have originated approx. 1500 years after Abraham (4th or 5th century BC). Hinduism is much older, and originated somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 BC (somewhere in the Neolithic era, or New Stone Age). Hinduism is the only major religion that did not originate with one individual prophet, and therefore it's origins are much tougher to pinpoint.

Another interesting bit of fact, is that for approx. 1,500 years after Jesus' resurrection, there were only 2 major denominations of Christianity; the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It was only approx. 50 years after the Schism (or split) of these 2 groups, that the Crusades began. For the next 200 years or so, these were some of the most violent and bloody conflicts to ever occur in human history.

All Protestant denominations didn't begin until early 1500 AD, from mainly the efforts of a German professor of Theology named Martin Luther. Now, (approx. 500 years later), there are literally thousands of different Protestant denominations being observed in the world, with each main group having originated from it's own prophet. These unique denominations have obviously been at odds with each other ever since the Reformation (some more than others), and it's just been recently (since the 20th century), that a movement of unity has been developing. Increasingly, most Christian denominations are starting to at least have conversations with each other.

One of the toughest things for many to deal with (in most organized religions), is the fundamental theme that God is "everything" in significance, and that (relatively speaking), we are very little. This is an extremely tough pill for most to swallow, as we have a strong and primal drive to increase and/or maintain our own significance in our societies. This is also what the world teaches and promotes at every turn. There is a strong expectation for us to stifle our own ego (self-esteem), and humble ourselves completely. This is asking a lot for most in the more affluent countries. In poorer countries, spiritual wealth and humility are much more common, as mortal survival is far less certain. In these conditions, spirituality generally thrives, and becomes a much more important part of people's lives. In a way, it's odd that we send missionaries there, when they should really be sending them here. In the western world, most adhere mainly to the religion of consumerism. More time and energy is spent on the stuff, and appearing important, than on anything else.

If you have a real relationship with God, you will not NEED other people to validate your own significance. You will LIKE, WANT, and ENJOY relationships with others, but you will not need them. This is how you know. Introverted, extroverted, it doesn't matter. There is also no need to be a religious fanatic, as this is just another form of human ego trip. People get a huge kick out of trying to enforce their will and opinions on others. The reality is that we're all just human, and therefore do not know everything about the spiritual afterlife. This does not mean that it's completely pointless to discuss, just that it's really tricky to do it without stepping on people's toes. We're all going to be there in a relatively short period of time for all eternity, so this kind of makes it the most important subject in the world when you stop and think about it. The fact that we will all argue and debate what happens to our soul (if we even believe in it) while we are alive on earth, does not take anything away from it's ultimate importance.

Relatively speaking, our mortal lifespans are extremely short. Compared to our home planet earth (at roughly the age of 4.5 billion years), our physical lifespans are like fruitflies. For this reason (and the overall fragility of human life), many long for a more permanent existence. This is where all forms of spirituality step in to save the day. For this reason, and for companionship with other spiritual beings. We also long for a more permanent form of love, as human love can often be conditional, fickle, & at times extremely high maintenance. It may be strong one day & gone the next. Love from God, I believe, is unconditional, permanent, & eternal.

If we believe in it, investing some serious time and energy into the spiritual realm is a really good idea. As we all know (but often forget), we take nothing physical from this realm with us when we die (a subject we really don't like to think about all that much). Whenever I hear about a billionaire who passes away, I think wow, all that money just left behind. For those who believe this to be the big deal in life, what a let-down this must be. The entire physical universe, and everything in it, has a lifespan and is temporary. The spiritual realm (if it exists) is not. Time is the king of physical properties, and in the spiritual world, it does not exist. For us to imagine a competely non-physical existence would be difficult, but likely will be the reality for all of us one day, and for all of eternity.

It's my personal opinion that our attitudes and actions toward others are what really count, far more than the rules and rituals, on our judgement day. Mainly because these vary greatly from religion to religion, whereas our "arse factor" or love, respect, and compassion toward others is universal to all religions. Most teach that evidence of being connected to God spiritually are signs of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. In reality, these are references to how we should treat each other, our fellow human beings. This is what God seems to care about the most. What he does NOT want to see is us hating, marginalizing, and killing each other over our differences, as a result of our inherently competitive spirit and often massive egos.

Myself personally, having been a Christian my entire life, I've seen first hand just how vicious the drama can get (even within the same church). It shouldn't be like this, but in a way it makes sense, since the nature of virtually every world religion is fairly exclusive, meaning that we're taught to believe we're pretty much the only ones going to heaven. People of all faiths tend to be fairly opinionated (myself included), and this tends to create more ferocity to the dynamics in these social circles.

Sadly, this very same ferocity may also be what triggers our eventual extinction, as weapons of mass destruction become ever more powerful. There needs to be more of a sense of unity within humanity, or we are all living an increasingly precarious existence on this planet. In many ways we are advancing as a species (Darwin would be proud), but in so many ways, the majority are still so incredibly tribal in this area, sometimes it's hard to believe.

A good example of this passion, is the hotly debated question of whether or not we actually have free will at all. Many in most religions believe that God dictates & controls everything, & others believe that we have true will power, & that we carve out our own destiny (in most areas). I personally believe the latter, but I also believe that if we ask for guidance & assistance, he will likely give it to us. It makes far more sense to me, that God would want to have personal relationships with beings that actually possess free will. We are not robots, running through a pre-programmed destiny, even if God would be the programmer. I'm always amazed at the ferocity at which we Christians will debate this issue, even amongst ourselves. Another good example of these attitudes, would be the Catholics vs. the Protestants in Ireland.

On the other hand, when this ferocity is directed towards building a fired up, energized, vibrant & positive spiritual community, it can help create joy beyond belief! We are spiritual beings, and being part of a healthy, uplifting, warm & loving spiritual environment can be an unbelievably rich way of going through this life! I think a lot of it has to do with our attitudes in this area, as mainly we tend to reap what we sow. While it's extremely rare for people to completely agree with each other on all spiritual issues, there is tremendous power in connecting & having a personal relationship with God in this manner.

A big part of the reason why I personally believe in Jesus, is because of how he promoted humility, unity, & equality to such a degree. He treated the least significant in society with utmost respect, routinely washed others' feet, & was even born to a poor Jewish girl named Mary, in a rural manger (feeding trough). Unfortunately, in our modern society, this fact is far too often forgotten, & we Christians spend much of our time ferociously competing for our own perceived significance.

It's as if God was trying to say, you know what? The point of this life is not to be the biggest shot in the universe, and in fact, the meek shall inherit the earth. Jesus was the definition of humility & compassion, and went out of his way to demonstrate how equal we all are, regardless of our genetics or position in life. Despite this fact, many Christians tend to really struggle with this entire concept, (along with everyone else). The richer the country, the more people tend to struggle.

It seems like everyone wants to be a big shot these days, even some pastors. When we hear about things like megachurch pastors owning fleets of $50 million private jets (paid for by their loyal followers, many of whom are poor), it severely angers people. If Jesus came back today, he may not choose to ride around on a donkey, but it sure as heck won't be a private jet. This sort of thing turns many off of the idea of organized religion altogether, and my sense is that these pastors are doing far more harm than good with these sorts of "prosperity gospel" activities.

While I do personally adhere to a belief system, I also strongly believe that unity within our species is critical for our continued survival on this planet, & also by far the most intelligent way to live. Our own egos are what have been maintaining this compartmentalized & tribal world that we live in. The origins of this were more from sheer geography, but thanks to advancing communication & travel technology, this excuse is fading quickly. We now need to use our God-given will-power to overcome this idiotic behaviour, & begin respecting each other as fellow human beings. There will never be just one world religion, but rather many thousands of different variations (as there are now).

We need to start looking at the bigger picture on spirituality, or this mortal life is going to become one bumpy ride. Not only for us, but also for our descendants. We should be equally concerned about their mortal & immortal futures, as we are about our own immortal afterlife, or it's just pure selfishness.

The bottom line for me, is that I personally believe in a non-tribal God, who loves every human being on Earth equally, regardless of our affluence, our influence, the colour of our skin, the currency we use, or the language we speak. We all need to ignore our ego, which is constantly trying to tell us the opposite, and do our best to make this world a better place (while we are on this side of the dirt).