All in the Mind (2)

5 02 2008

The human mind is indeed a strange thing. Scientists speak of electric charges running around this lump that fills our skull. All we know is that we speak of consciousness – awareness of being. We speak of intellect, the ability to know, to reason and to understand. We also refer to our mind, the seat of consciousness, thought, volition and feeling, but it is still all a mystery.  
What is an even bigger mystery is how this ‘mind’ of ours comes up with beliefs, things we take as truths about life. History shows us that beliefs are no guarantee of rightness. Once upon a time men believed that the earth was flat. I don’t know who said it, but one of my favourite quotations is, “The one thing that history teaches us is that history teaches us nothing.”  History is littered with ideas (beliefs) that had to be discarded. It is also littered with so many lessons about life that you wonder why we have learnt so little along the way.  
World religions are the peak of strange beliefs. Why do people still believe some of the things the major religions espouse? For many, I am certain, it is a cultural thing. The religion goes to the core of everyday life (culture) and if you removed it that life would be utterly different. I once read one commentator suggesting that if only the West would concentrate on ensuring that every man woman and child in Islamic nations were lifted out of poverty, the very religion would be completely undermined. This commentator based his suggestion on the belief that that particular world religion was so entwined with culture of the Middle East, and so often a culture of poverty, that if you removed the poverty you would remove the reason for being. It is perhaps a debatable point.  
Fear, I am also convinced, is also a driving force for much religion, superstitious fear that is based on no more than a ‘feeling’. I used to wonder why it was that with such a book as the Bible in existence, there is anyone left believing in this superstitious God of fear. Of course the answer is that considerable numbers of people have never read it, many who have read it have only read bits, and many others have only ever heard others expounding it, and expounding a version that is more a reflection of their distorted view of life in general than the truth of what is written.
I was led down this path of thinking the other day when I found myself reading the account of God coming to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre (Gen 18:1).  I observed that there was something quite significant there in the light of the world religions’ propensity to want us to do religious or spiritual things to be able to somehow make contact with God who otherwise is unapproachable, as they see it. God comes to Abraham without any fanfare and certainly without Abraham doing anything to win His favour. Abraham is just relaxing at home. This speaks of a personal God who comes to us and who doesn’t need appeasing (because He’s already sorted it!) and who obviously enjoys people.
Now within that paragraph there are a whole set of beliefs revealed through that one incident that run utterly counter to the beliefs of millions upon millions of people in the world. Granted there are other incidents in the Bible where God appears with a greater sense of awesomeness, but it struck me that that incident reveals a picture of God that takes away all fears. Yes, He is holy, yes He is righteous and yes He does frown on sin, but for those who come with simple open hearts, desiring Him, they find One who draws near, makes His presence known and reveals His love.  
Read through the Gospels and observe Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as he moves among sinners and loves and accepts them and we begin to catch something of the wonder of the love of God. Read the whole of the Old Testament and you start to realise that He was there in all those years of history, just the same. There were not two Gods as some cults have supposed as a result of their careless reading of the Bible. Why, I sometimes wonder, do the critics of the Bible not read it with an open mind and see what is genuinely there. Perhaps that is asking too much. Many Christians don’t even do that, so why should the non-Christian sceptics have a greater integrity?  The mind is a funny thing!





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