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IS ANYONE HOME? - MY SEARCH FOR A GOD.

God is not going away. His existence is questioned by many, but despite vigorous assaults from science and historical research a majority of people continue to believe in him. Religion shapes the everyday lives of billions of people from the unsophisticated masses of Asia and Africa to the powerful and educated elite of developed nations.  God is major factor in modern society, shaping how people and countries regard themselves, and treat each other.

Ralph Spinks has always wondered why this is so. Why do so many hold onto beliefs that by any rational analysis are just plain weird? He has set out to answer this question, and to conduct his own search for God, that all powerful supernatural force who, believers say, created the universe, monitors our lives, then judges if our souls will live forever more in heavenly bliss or the tortures of hell.

The search traverses the history of religions and their sacred texts – the Hindu Vedas, the Jewish and Christian Bibles, and the Koran. Is there evidence for God here, or is it all about faith? It then looks for God from a different direction. Do the scientifically accepted theories of biological evolution and cosmology dispense with God, or instead demand a place for him? Can science explain the Big Bang, the start of life, and man’s presence on earth, or was this the hand of God?

This book will make those who say God is real, as well as those who dismiss him as an outmoded concept re-examine their beliefs in the light of modern evidence.      

In Store Price: $28.95 
Online Price:   $23.95

ISBN: 978-1-921574-73-3    
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 308
Genre: Non Fiction
 

 


 

Author: Ralph Spinks
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIO 

Ralph Spinks was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1945. He has lived in and visited many countries and out-of-the-way corners of the world while working as an engineer in the oil and gas industry.  

He has no background or training in religion, nor is he skilled in the physics or higher mathematics required to understand with scientific rigour the latest theories of the origin of the universe. However, in his many travels he has been able to observe first hand a wide variety of cultures and lifestyles. He has worked in the extremes of nature, from the North Sea in winter, to the jungles of Indonesia, the deserts of Africa and the Australian Outback. Although he holds mostly atheist beliefs, he has always been interested in the subject of God and in why so many people hold deep religious convictions in the face of the ever-increasing contradictory evidence that science is providing.  

He lives with his wife Margie on the Gold Coast, trying to keep up with their growing brood of grandchildren. 

PREFACE  

Does God exist, or is he merely a figment of mankind’s fertile imagination? Most people have opinions about the reality and nature of God, opinions ranging in intensity from mild curiosity to brutally strong conviction. For some, God is everything, the most meaningful, relevant theme in their lives who guides every decision they make. For others, God is a nonsensical concept to be totally rejected, not needed or wanted in any shape or form. Then there are opinions falling in all shades of grey between these two extremes.

Does God exist, and if he does, what is he like? Does he know I am here, does he take an interest in what I do each day? Do I have a spirit or soul that will live on after I die to be judged by God? Why do so many people believe in him, and why is religion such an enduring and important element of modern society? I have written this book to delve into these questions. I am not immodest enough to think I have generated any great original thoughts on the subject of God and religion, or reached conclusions important to others, or humanity in general. However, I am confident I have clarified the concept of God in my mind, and have some answers on his importance to me personally.

 That then is the purpose of this book. It is for me. My aims are to search for a God who is meaningful to me. I have no intent or desire to tell others what they should or should not believe about God and religion. If others read this book and it makes them think and agree or disagree with what I say, or gain knowledge or new personal insights, that is a bonus.

I do not have specific skills or training in the huge and multifaceted subject of God and religion. I was brought up in the Church of England, christened and confirmed, attending Sunday School and Church on a regular basis. As a teenager I lost interest; there was no crisis of faith, just an instinctive disbelief and a lack of relevance in the message I was hearing. With no parental or peer pressure I drifted away, never to return. I was trained in the sciences, and have earned my living as an engineer drilling oil and gas wells, thus developing a strong and practical belief in the scientific method. But the subject of religion, and why people believe what they do, has always fascinated me. Why do so many people accept the murky concept of faith, and take on strange beliefs so wholeheartedly? I still do not know for sure, but have developed some insights that make sense to me.

I am amazed with the progress of science and how far our understanding of the universe has evolved in the last few hundred years, as well as the stunning insights of very recent years. I am no less amazed by the bewildering complexities of life on earth, the vastness of our universe as I observe and learn more, and witness science challenging with ever-increasing skill and resources the boundaries of human knowledge. Although a practising engineer, my mathematical skills and ability to understand the complex physical laws that govern our universe are rudimentary. But I do understand the methodology, and believe the scientific-based theories that arrive at common answers, and demonstrate such impressive predictive powers, are providing truths about God. Yes, there do remain big and basic questions that hover to frustrate the scientific world. Maybe science will one day provide all the answers, and maybe not.

The God question is relevant in the world today. Religion is an important element in the lives of more than half of the world’s six billion people. It is a driving important factor in world affairs, influencing how many countries act internally, and treat each other. Belief in different gods and creeds provides fuel to the fires of nationalism and the quest for moral and economic advantage. Much of the Western world is becoming more secular in its thinking, but the developing world is becoming more religious. Fundamentalist religion is winning over more moderate faiths, sometimes with violent outcomes. The world needs the religious tolerance that would flow from a better understanding by all, not only of their own beliefs, but also those of competing faiths and gods. It is not happening, and religion continues to divide the world as it has done throughout history.

Science in particular, and historical research to an important but lesser degree, have caused religious turmoil in the last hundred years. How should the modern process of science relate to religion? There are various theories about the correct approach. One thesis says there will be perpetual conflict until either science or religion is obliterated. This battle is typified by authors such as Richard Dawkins taking on Christian fundamentalists. Both sides are strong and tenacious, and the fight will continue.

A second line of thinking says science and religion are fundamentally different, and seeks answers to different questions. Religion asks why, and science asks how, so the theory goes. No scientist can tell us why the universe and life on earth came to be, and no theologian can compete with modern scientists to explain how the universe and life evolved. This demarcation line is fraying under the assault of science, but is holding in some areas.

Thirdly, some try to integrate the cultures of religion and science into a consistent world view, which can only be done if scientists fudge in some areas, and a liberal view of religion is embraced. But more and more, science raises critical questions about belief in any sort of God, and theologians and scientists are finding their common grounds eroding unless they have fertile imaginations, creative interpretations of their craft, and a strong will to resolve their differences, as some still do.

I have not consciously followed any prescribed lines of thinking to search for God, but have examined religion, history and science as dispassionately as I can, and let the chips fall where they may. I have tried to be open minded and take on new ideas if they made sense to me, but have not found much to change the preconceived notions about God and religion I had before beginning this work. Rather, I think my mostly atheistic beliefs have been bolstered, but certainly I have been forced to think about them, and justify them again to myself. Importantly, however, I have found some areas of knowledge where mystery still pervades, and where mystery lingers there is room for supernatural explanations, and so for God.

I need to define some of the topics I will be writing about. Firstly, who or what is this elusive thing called ‘God’ that I am searching for? Throughout history there have been thousands upon thousands, or even millions of gods. Almost every civilisation had at least one, and more often a multitude of them. They have been worshiped in every imaginable way including human and animal sacrifice, performance of prayers and rituals and building magnificent statues, temples and cathedrals.

One common trait of gods is their supernatural quality. The God we are familiar with is beyond human experience, the Supreme Being, the eternal and infinite Spirit, perfect, all knowing and all powerful. Millions of words have been penned describing him but in many ways he is indefinable in human terms. His other defining attribute is he made everything; he is the Creator, the originator of the universe. Most who believe in him also have the specific conviction that he created mankind, and all other life on earth.

Then comes an important division in how we define God. Is this supernatural creator of the universe a personal God? Does he have an ongoing relationship with each and every one of us, know our every thought, and listen to and answer our prayers? Will he judge us, and send us to heaven or hell when we die? The major monotheistic religions of the world, and certainly Christianity, say yes, God is a personal God who does all these things and accordingly make God the principal object of their faith and worship.

Or is God just a creator? Having done his work, does he retreat or disappear, not knowing or caring what we do with our lives, and not judging us when we die? This is a different God, with a limited but still crucial role, but since he does not know us personally he is not venerated and worshiped to the same degree as a personal God.

Religion is the worship of a god or gods. It is expressed through prayers and rituals centred on moral concepts about life, which yields a set of religious laws to be followed by believers. Religion also encompasses traditions, writings, history, and mythology. Since God is supernatural, to believe in religion one must believe in and accept the supernatural.

The supernatural means a force outside the natural laws of science that govern the universe. One must believe other forces can control events, so allowing miracles to happen. The ‘virgin birth’ and Christ ‘rising from the dead’ are examples of supernatural events. Science says such things cannot and do not happen.

A ‘revelation’ is a communication believed to come from God, giving divinely inspired knowledge to the recipient. Science says revelations are psychosis or fraud, and those reporting they have experienced revelations are mentally unbalanced or dishonest.

At the top of the religious believer’s scale are theists, who believe in a personal God who created the universe and is still here to oversee the fate of his creation, intervening from time to time with miraculous events. This God enters into personal relationships with humans who are in his image, and is all knowing and answers individual prayers. Strong Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus are theists.

A deist believes in a God or some form of supernatural intelligence, but one whose activities are confined to setting up the physical laws that govern the universe. This is belief in God the Creator. Deists reject the idea of miracles and do not believe God has a personal relationship with individuals or mankind in general. They believe God can only be known by applying human reason, and the concept of faith is rejected. Although deism is not accepted in theological circles it is widespread at the popular level and the scientific world. It is a halfway house between full-blown religious belief in a personal God, and atheism.

Agnostics say it is beyond human capabilities to know if God in any form exists. They admit to defeat in trying to answer the question, and are often called fence sitters. Then, at the end of the disbelief scale atheists reject any belief in a supernatural being, be he a personal God or God the Creator. They are sure he does not exist in any shape or form.

About 350 years ago the French mathematician Blaise Pascal formulated his pragmatic argument for belief in God. It runs as follows: ‘God is, or he is not. But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here … you have two things to lose … the true and the good … Let us weigh the gain and loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate the two chances. If you gain you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.’

Then we have the words of George Bernard Shaw: … the fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober man.’

How do I decide between these two points of view in my search for God? I must discern what is true in the myriad of information at my disposal, and separate facts and reality from fiction, wishful thinking and unsubstantiated myth. My general method has been to see what the history of religion tells me, to discover how religion started and what has driven it forward. I have confined my work to the five great religions of the world, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There is more discussion on Christianity as I know more about it, and it is more relevant to my life. I have addressed the religious texts, and particularly the Bible, to form an opinion on their accuracy and credibility. I have then researched the history and findings of the biological evolution of life and astronomy, these being the aspects of science that particularly impact religion and have the most to say about the possibilities for God’s existence.

The insights and knowledge drawn from these works form the basis for my beliefs and conclusions about the existence of God. I have used the facts of history and science to determine the relevance and nature of God to me. My search is as wide as I can make it. I am looking for a personal God or for one whose work is limited to creating the universe. This may sound like an exercise in futility to some, but I have found it exciting, fascinating and illuminating.

 

HINDUISM - read a part sample

 

Hinduism is the world’s oldest living religion, so investigating this ancient set of beliefs is a good place to start searching for God. The main differentiating feature of Hinduism compared to other modern religions is belief in a multitude of gods. There are thousands of gods, or according to some believers, they number in the tens of thousands, or even millions.

There are 900 million Hindus in the world today, with the majority living in India. Hinduism is the religion of India, and in many ways defines the country.  

History

The earliest Hindu text, the Rig Veda, was compiled starting about 1200 BC. These written records were based on oral stories and myths, so the birth of Hinduism predates the written texts and probably goes as far back as 1500 BC. By 1100 BC the term ‘Hindu’ had emerged, meaning literally ‘what Indians do’. The religion dominated India by 700 BC and has done so ever since, giving it the most enduring influence of any of the world’s religions, spanning over 3000 years.

The Hindu religion had competition in India from other faiths and creeds throughout history. Buddhism emerged about 450 BC and flourished, but died out in the country of its birth and lost most of its adherents in India by 1200 AD. Buddhism was exported to other parts of the world where it has many followers today, as we shall see later.

In the year 950 Muslims first penetrated into the Ganges Valley from the north. Then in 1526, Babur, a descendant of Genghis Khan, defeated the Hindu Sultanate of Delhi and became the first Muslim ruler of a substantial part of India. The great age of the Moghul rulers commenced, and lasted for over 200 years. During this time, Muslim and Hindu religions coexisted, not always peacefully, and each dominated in different parts of India.

By 1764 the Mogul Indian Empire was in the British East India Company’s hands and for the next 200 years the British controlled India, with continued co-existence of the Hindu and Muslim religions. As the pressures for an independent India increased, Muslim concerns of Hindu domination in the absence of the British escalated. The solution imposed by the British was to create two countries, Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, and in 1947 the two became independent nations.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to draw arbitrary borders without trapping millions of Hindus in Pakistan, and millions of Muslims in India and so began one of the great human migrations of all time. With religious-based violence rampant and spreading, Hindus and Muslims fled their homes if they were on the wrong side of the border. Some 14 million people were displaced, and one million died with immense suffering and hardship.

Today the Hindu religion rules supreme in India, along with Muslim minorities in many parts of the country. On the surface life is peaceful, but there are tensions. When a crisis focuses religious and cultural beliefs, violence emerges spontaneously, with bloody and fatal results. The crocodiles of religious violence lie in wait beneath the seemingly tranquil surface of the seething humanity of India.

Beliefs   

Hinduism does not have one central belief. It has evolved slowly over time, drawing in ideas from other religions. There are numerous versions of Hinduism and many ways to be a Hindu.

Most Hindus believe they have four aims in life. The first, dharma, is to live a good life by being kind to others and telling the truth. The second, artha, is to be wealthy and prosperous. Thirdly, kama is to enjoy pleasure, and lastly mosksha to be freed from the world and its desires.

Hindus further believe they pass through four stages in life – student, householder, thinker, then ascetic. Not everyone achieves these four stages, but if they do they will be reincarnated, or reborn into a better life. For Hindus this eternal cycle of life, death then rebirth is central to their beliefs, and the present condition of an individual is not a matter of chance, but a consequence of good or evil actions in previous lives.

The caste system regulates this process of slow advancement through a series of lives. There are four main castes – four is a favourite number – priests, merchants, artisans and labourers and below the castes are the ‘untouchables’, who hold the menial and dirty jobs such as sweepers and latrine cleaners. The whole religious concept would be meaningless if individuals were allowed to move from the caste they were born in, since the Hindu faith says they were born into that life not by accident, but by virtue of a divine plan. The caste system is a social order deeply rooted in the religious beliefs of the people. It is weaker than in former ages, but still wielding considerable power particularly in rural areas.

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