The fantasy that rules the world …

    This article by Mark Owen originally appeared on PiperPost.

    How did it come about that a large part of the earth’s population believes in fantasy? The chief fantasy – GOD – and the lesser extensions of that one – angels, devils, spirits, the ‘other world’?

    If – bear with me, just for a moment (and I realize I am in a minority here) – we start with the proposition that what can be seen, heard, felt or measured by us is all that exists then where did our knowledge of the ‘other’ come from?

    Clearly it must have come from somewhere. It did, or so the religions tell us. Information about the ‘other world’ came to us through specially favoured human individuals – prophets, teachers, shamans. Zarathustra, the Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, St Paul and the others, all announcing to their fellows that they are channels of this amazing knowledge.

    But how do we know if these claims are authentic? I have not examined all of them but those that I have leave much to be desired in this regard. Moses, for instance, came down from the mountain (and which mountain is a matter for conjecture, as the ‘holy scriptures’ specify two different mountains!) and told the people they would see God – Yahweh as the Jewish deity was called. But Moses seems to have deceived the people for in the event Yahweh did not put in the scheduled appearance.

    St Paul reported on the ‘other world’ – having been in contact, so he said, with Jesus, allegedly risen from the dead. But if we read his own report we find there are two conflicting accounts of this supposed encounter with Jesus. As for the others, well, we only have Muhammad’s word that he encountered the angel Jibral (Gabriel) in his cave. Or that Zarathustra encountered Ahura Mazda in the temple.

    Since the days of these ancient conduits of divine knowledge there have been hundreds and thousands more. Are any of these others more authentic? Joseph Smith with his magic plates? Or any of the hundreds of self-appointed prophets of cults like the Moonies or the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints?

    All of this seems to me to be a shaky foundation upon which to build a vast system of belief. The objects of faith are surely built not on reality but on pure fantasy, strengthened by certain tricks of the human mind. Voices heard where there really are no voices. Things seen where there is nothing to see. The scientific understanding of maladies such as schizophrenia and our increasingly detailed knowledge of the workings of the human brain are uncovering the origins of our supra-sensory experiences. To feel a sense of mystery in the bush at night is not evidence of another world but of simply being human.

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