Humanity has numerous ideas about how they came to be, what their place is in the Universe, what’s it all about, and other similarly angsty topics. There are a huge number of religions, belief-systems, philosophies, and cop-outs, to deal with these questions, and more are being invented every day, mostly in San Francisco, where crafting a new religion is a pastime right up there with the cross-word puzzle. Outside of the Bay Area, new religions are basically built out of old religions. This is done by applying ridiculous levels of importance to a single, utterly trivial, vague scriptural reference. The fact that the subject was apparently unimportant enough that Almighty God didn’t find it necessary to make his feelings clear on the issue never seems to get brought up.
“Sadly,” commented one southern pastor with evident relish, “While large numbers of people throughout the world think the tenets of Christianity involve faith in the Lord and love for their fellow-men, they run the risk of Damnation to Eternal Hell-Fire for not washing one another’s feet after the example of our Lord!”
There are similar claims made by Christian sects which say that what’s really important to God is Worship on Saturday rather than Sunday, or Baptism by total immersion rather than sprinkling, speaking gibberish, handling venomous snakes, or confession to a Priest prior to death. Apart from Christianity, there are religions that claim you can only attain eternal life by being born into the right ethnic group, and others that claim eternity is reserved for those wearing a full beard, while abstaining from alcohol, oppressing women, and addressing God 5 times a day, on their knees, facing East. Failure to subscribe to the more extreme version of that particular faith is rewarded by death, sometimes administered by rockets, crashing airliners, or by proximity to an exploding member of the faithful wearing a coat lined with C4 (said member gets an immediate pass into heaven, along with the flight-crews of the crashing airliners – the guy firing the rockets has to wait, despite his arguably important addition to the infidel death-toll.)
The above descriptions apply to religions generally accepted as ‘Legitimate’ by the US Government, if not by one another. Other religions, typically referred to as ‘cults’, usually don’t last long enough to attain Governmental acceptance, as their members have an unfortunate tendency to commit mass-suicide on the evening news.
Theological authorities are not, however, the only ones willing to weigh-in on the weighty questions of how and why the Universe came to exist. Increasingly, Scientific authorities are demanding a say in these matters – and seem just as eager to deny the beliefs of one sect or another as any of the theological types. With this addition, the plethora of beliefs, both theological and temporal, essentially amount to two theories: ‘Special Creation’, and ‘Scientific Cosmology’.
In Special Creation, as claimed by 3 of the 5 major religions, a Deity specifically created the world and the human race in all of their current glory, only better. Most of these stories involve people hand-crafted out of dirt, specify the perfection of these adobe people (except that the Male is generally touted as being the somewhat more perfect of the pair), then posit a Fall, where the woman did something stupid, and the man was too busy staring at her breasts to correct her. This results in both getting their asses kicked out of paradise, and, as a result, the entire planet goes from being “Very Good”, in the estimation of the Deity, to “Meh ...” In many of these accounts, not long after this, things go so utterly wrong that the Deity wipes out nearly everyone in a great flood, and starts over, only he kept some of the original dirty people around, so stuff quickly goes to hell again. Subsequently the Deity apologizes for the whole water-damage thing, and appoints rainbows as the visible sign of his commitment to never again trash the world with water. Later on in Holy Writ, it becomes evident that next time he’ll go with fire.
It should be noted that the other two major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, along with Science, espouse a Cosmology which declares that no one can know the exact origin of all things – a creation undeniably took place, but no one has yet claimed responsibility, nor issued any demands. While the religions are content to leave it at that, Science feels it necessary to attempt to explain further.
(I like science. In general, I like scientists. Nevertheless they have this feature in common with theologians and philosophers: ask a scientist a question to which he doesn’t know the answer, or to which there is no answer, then have a look at your watch – the scientist is unlikely to stop talking for at least 15-20 minutes. Sadly, the time is even more extended if you attempt this experiment with a Theologian – and, if you try it with a Philosopher, you should bring food, a toothbrush, and a change of clothing.)
Scientific Cosmology takes a ‘rational’, ‘reasoned’ approach – an approach based on observation, experimentation, and hard, provable facts. In this view, the Universe just happens to happen, because it happened, ok, and, though one of its fundamental laws is the idea of causality, when scientists are pressed as to just WHY it all happened, they typically say “It just did! Ok? If it didn’t, we’d need a God to kick things off and we can’t have that!”
They describe a tumultuous Big Bang, originating at an indescribably tiny spec into which all the matter and energy of the known Universe was squeezed. Or maybe rubbed. The explosion resembled an orgasm, which many of these people have never come by honestly, and things have been coasting along ever since – presumably there are cigarettes, and pillow-talk going on somewhere, most likely hidden from view behind the postulated Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which absolutely cannot be detected, but which makes up about 80% of the known Universe. They think. But, hey, they aren’t asking anyone to take it on faith, except that, yes they are.
“Look,” an irritated cosmologist explained, “The Math is really complex, ok, and we haven’t, uh, completely worked everything out. Just trust us, and try not to call that faith. Because we have math. And stuff.”
It should be fairly clear by the above that neither Religion nor Science adequately describes things, and both are in a perpetual war for funding. Or the souls of mankind. If those exist.
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