In the increasingly anti-religious West, many search for the meaning of life but fail to reach inner awakening and peace. The spiritual knowledge that once was embedded in the culture is no longer there. Many are denied even the most basic knowledge of spiritual wisdom, and only search for meaning in material wealth.
In the increasingly de-Christianized West, man is considered to only be a physical body, with no regard for his soul or spirit. A state if deep spiritual poverty is the result, writes Hanne Herland.
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The deep-rooted essence of religion rests on the fact that man is created by, and profoundly dependent on God’s benevolence to exist.
It is God, outside time and space and the narrow scope of understanding the universe that has created man. It is He that establishes the premises for life.
Man is to consider this carefully as well as choose the right path and examine the way he lives to ensure that he may have a rewardingly fruitful life on earth, as well as reach a better place after death.
The idea is that God knows man far better than man knows himself. The Spiritual World offers to guide man through the complicated landscapes of life in a best, possible way, giving man supernatural strength to withstand trials and tribulations.
This is why man ought to listen to His advice, as presented to him through his conscience and inner life, spiritual priests and teachers, as well as the body of religious texts that have withstood the test of time.
Holy books have lasted thousands of years. “Modern science” as an atheist project is a discipline that is only around two hundred years old. Man needs to be humble, willing to learn, stretching his consciousness beyond the shortcomings of this world and reaching for the stars of God.
The French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously stated that morality is our following a voice of nature within us. This voice is often drowned out by passions or pride, thus the path to moral redemption becomes to turn back to the intimate moral contact with oneself.
This same view penetrates several of the world religions, the essence is to try to bring man closer to the spiritual realm where man will be able to find a deep sense of inner balance, satisfaction and peace. The point being that the inner balance is to be used to the betterment of human kind.
Balance brings more peace as the fellowship of men grows stronger as balanced individuals strive to bring more peace to their communities. Selfishness is the enemy of love.
The message is that the world is, whether we like it or not, governed by quite remarkably specific principles.
It doesn’t matter if you belong to Hinduism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, or atheism – which may be defined as the religion of those who believe in the abilities of Mankind alone and that man is able to solve the problems in the world without help from any spiritual realm. These laws apply to everyone, whether they believe in them or not.
The nontheistic religion of Buddhism speaks, for example of the Four Truths, namely that all things are temporary and unsatisfying, though still we cling to them. Once we stop greedily craving the things of this world and follow the right inner path, we may end or lessen our suffering.
The arise of cravings is the proximate cause of the rise of suffering. The point is that the right way of living will help end the suffering of life. This is a quite fascinating view that correlates to Christian teachings in a unique way.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus’ teachings have often wrongfully been twisted to voice support for hedonism and a selfish persuit of pleasure. When examining Epicurus, it becomes clear that he takes it for granted that humans strife for minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure.
His goal seems to have been to strive for the absence of pain and suffering in order to acquire a more pleasurable tranquil life in peace with others, enjoying life in freedom from fear of the gods.
Presisely the ability to chose to endure some pain in the now, by refraining from doing something that seems pleasurable, but that one knows in the long run will produce even more pain, this ability helps one to do that which is the better choice. This choice, in the long run, will lead to even greater benefits. This, exactly, is the same goal as in religions, which also seek to advice man as to what is the best path towards a life in as little suffering as possible.
Epicurus has been accused of not fearing the gods, adhering to a nihilist world view, but as we see, this is twisting his teachings into almost the opposite of what he actually speaks about.
His words about not fearing death, seems to connect to his thinking that in death, there is no pain, nor pleasure, as he does not deny the existence of the gods. Epicurus actually warned extensively against overendulgence, as he stated that it would lead to even more pain.
Buddhism also speaks at length about the poisons of the mind: envy, greed, sexual greed, gluttony, bias, hatred, arrogance and more. The point is that the life that is destroyed is your own, when you allow these qualities to prosper.
Likewise, Christianity warns of the effects of the seven deadly sins, found in the book of Proverbs 6. Haughty eyes that look down on others in a condescending way and thinks too highly of oneself in pride instead of humility, a lying tongue that makes a person impossible to trust as that which he says is not true and cannot be relied upon, or hands that shed the blood of the innocent.
Billy Graham speaks of pride quite harshly in one of his famous speeches at the Madison Square Garden in 1957, saying that “more people stay out of the Kingdom of God because of pride than any other sin. You are too proud, you don’t want to humble yourself, so you rebel. It is a humbling thing to come to the foot of the cross and repent of your sins and receive Christ, but no man shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he comes.
There must be a self-emptying, a self-crucifixion. Yet, we don’t like to do it, because we are egocentric, we don’t like to humble ourselves, we don’t like to say we are wrong, we don’t like to confess that we are sinners, but God says you must do it before you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Graham points out that “the only remedy that the Christian faith prescribes is to give one’s life to Christ for him to place in it a new heart. He demands that you deny self, take up the cross, take up His unpopularity, take your place with him in suffering. In turn, he will make you a new man.”
As we celebrate Easter, precisely this is the message: God’s love for human kind and His search for human kind.
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