Monday, May 26, 2008

You and I in the Grand Scheme of Things

Reviewing a previous post, "God's Awesome Power", reminded me of an internal concept I've had of our place in the Universe. In that post I gave you some very elementary statistics about our Universe, both near and far, yet the numbers are almost incomprehensible.

For instance, our tiny corner of the Universe - the Milky Way galaxy - is 100,000 light years across. At six trillion miles per light year, that equates to 600,000,000,000,000,000 miles in diameter, which is 600 quadrillion miles. It's important to note that this number is tiny in comparison to the Universe - infinitesimally small. Then we can zoom in to our solar system within the galaxy, and then our planet within the solar system, and finally to each of our little plots on the planet. Now, I don't know about you, but those kind of figures really make me feel small - not insignificant, but small.

It makes me realize how unimaginably great God is - truly, ineffably grand. I believe God exists, not in spite of this vastness, but because of it. I don't resent my smallness in the Universe, I am inspired by it. In no greater way do I believe the Universe could exist, except by God.

I don't believe any human has ever spoken to God, as this would be paramount to communication greater then the Universe. I don't believe any human has seen God, as this would be paramount to vision greater then the Universe. I don't believe I can comprehend God, nor can anyone else, but I can certainly recognize His work.

One Deist Φ

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pick a Prophet, Follow a Faith

I have come to the conclusion that the success of any given "revealed" religion is merely a popularity contest. It's whatever is in vogue or fashionable for a given period of time in human history. Problem is, we humans have always taken our beliefs so seriously - so fervently - that we often massacre anyone who doesn't follow the fashion.

No question there has been tremendous sincerity in our various religions. Every sect believes their religion is the only true and righteous way, and they want to make sure you and I are a part of it. Their beliefs are the only way to bring good fortune, live a holy life, and be saved in the afterlife.

Our perception of God has dramatically changed throughout history. No longer do we think Emperors and Pharaohs are God. Few if any people still believe a volcano, the sun, or an animal is God. No longer do we make human sacrifices to the Gods as some cultures did. But I'm certain the people who once believed these things knew they were being Holy and doing the right thing. They were simply living in the culture of their time - these things were in vogue. Would we consider them Holy now? Would we think they were (or are) heaven-bound? Well, eventually someone comes along and says, "Hold on folks. You have it all wrong."

Here's a not so little list I unashamedly borrowed from Wikipedia. It shows many of the religions throughout history and who founded them. (Please don't hold it against me if there are issues with the data. It's purpose is only to demonstrate an idea for this post.)

Prophet or FounderReligion or BeliefEra
AkhenatenAtenism~1300 BCE
ZoroasterZoroastrianism~1200 BCE
MosesJudaism~1200 BCE
Numa PompiliusCodified and organized Roman religion717-673BCE
LaoziTaoism~600 BCE
Siddhārtha GautamaBuddhism563-483BCE
PythagorasPythagoreanism520 BCE
MahaviraJainism~500 BCE
LeucippusAtomism440 BCE
PlatoPlatonic Realism427-347BCE
EpicurusEpicureanism307 BCE
Zeno of CitiumStoicism333-264BCE
PatanjaliRaja Yoga~100 BCE
Jesus of NazarethEarly Christianity6BCE-27 CE
Paul of TarsusPauline Christianity~50 CE
Simon PeterPetrine Christianity~50 CE
Judah haNasiTalmudic Judaism~100 CE
NagarjunaMadhyamaka150 - 250
PlotinusNeoplatonism205 - 270
Marcion of SinopeMarcionism110 - 160
ManiManichaeism210 - 276
AriusArianism250 - 336
NestoriusNestorianism386 - 451
EutychesMonophysitism380 - 456
MazdakMazdakism~500 CE
BodhidharmaZen~500 CE
MuhammadIslam570 - 632
Songtsän GampoTibetan Buddhism~600 CE
PadmasambhavaNyingma~700 CE
Adi ShankaraAdvaita Vedanta~800 CE
KūkaiShingon~800 CE
Ad-DaraziDruze~1000 CE
BasavaLingayatism~1100 CE
MadhvacharyaDvaita1238 - 1317
RamanandaSant Mat Vaishnavism~1400 CE
KabirKabir Panth, see Sikhism1440 - 1518
Srimanta SankardevaMahapuruxiya Dharma1449 - 1568
Guru Nanak DevSikhism1469 - 1539
Baba Sri ChandUdasi1494 - 1629
Vallabha AcharyaShuddhadvaita1479 - 1531
Martin LutherLutheranism1483 - 1546
Chaitanya MahaprabhuAchintya Bheda Abheda1486 - 1534
Henry VIII of EnglandAnglicanism1491 - 1547
Conrad GrebelSwiss Brethren, Anabaptism1498 - 1526
John CalvinCalvinism1509 - 1564
Akbar the GreatDin-i-Ilahi1542 - 1605
George FoxReligious Society of Friends1624 - 1691
Raja Ram Mohan RoyBrahmo Samaj1772 - 1833
Ghanshyam PandeSwaminarayan1781 - 1830
Nakayama MikiTenrikyo1798 - 1887
Allan KardecSpiritism1804 - 1869
Joseph Smith, Jr.Latter Day Saints1805 - 1844
Jamgon KongtrulRime movement1813 - 1899
BábBábí Faith1819 - 1850
Bahá'u'lláhBahá'í Faith1817 - 1892
Ellen G. WhiteSeventh-day Adventist Church1827 - 1915
Madame BlavatskyTheosophy1831 - 1891
Mirza Ghulam AhmadAhmadiyya1835 - 1908
Swami VivekanandaRamakrishna Mission1863 - 1902
Aleister CrowleyThelema1875 - 1947
Gerald GardnerWicca1884 - 1964
Mary Baker EddyChristian Science1821 - 1910
Swami Dayananda SaraswatiArya Samaj1824 - 1883
Guido von ListArmanism (Germanic Mysticism)1848 - 1919
Sri AurobindoIntegral Yoga1872 - 1950
Charles Fox ParhamPentecostalism1873 - 1929
Ngô Văn ChiêuCao Dai1878 - 1926
Ernest HolmesReligious Science1887 - 1960
Wallace Fard MuhammadNation of Islam1891
Paramahansa YoganandaSelf-Realization Fellowship1893 - 1952
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami PrabhupadaInternational Society for Krishna Consciousness1896 - 1977
Zélio Fernandino de MoraesUmbanda~1900 CE
L. Ron HubbardChurch of Scientology1911 - 1986
Maharishi Mahesh YogiTranscendental Meditation1917 - 2008
Sun Myung MoonUnification Church1920
Prabhat Ranjan SarkarAnanda Marga1921 - 1990
Mestre GabrielUnião do Vegetal1922 - 1971
Nirmala SrivastavaSahaja Yoga1923
Sveinbjörn BeinteinssonÁsatrú1924 - 1993
Sathya Sai BabaSathya Sai Organization1926
Anton Szandor LaVeyChurch of Satan1930 - 1997
OshoOsho movement1931 - 1990
Sri Sri Ravi ShankarArt of Living Foundation1956
VissarionChurch of the Last Testament1961
Tamara SiudaKemetic Orthodoxy1969

Here's the point: Not a single faith on this list was founded by God. Not a single one. Every religion and sect was formed by - you guessed it - man! Sure, these men may say they are chosen; they may say they are a prophet; they may say God spoke to them; they may even say they are God. Wow, man sure says a lot! Imagine the number of people who have believed these delusions and fantasies throughout history, even to the death.

Well, I'm not God, nor prophet, nor chosen - I'm just a man. Using God's gift of Reason, this I say:
Believe in God. Have faith in yourself.

One Deist Φ

Saturday, May 3, 2008

God's Awesome Power

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One of the best ways to be completely awed by God's work, is to take just a peek at the science of the solar system and universe. I'm not talking String Theory here. (Although my favorite physicist, Michio Kaku, makes that sound easy too.) No, I'm merely referring to basic facts and trivia. Keep in mind that some of these facts are from memory, some are verified, and some are estimates which are hotly debated.

Our solar system now officially (International Astronomical Union) has one sun, eight planets, and three dwarf planets. Pluto was demoted in 2006, now classified as a dwarf planet along with Ceres and Eris. Some of the planets have moons which are larger then the smaller planets.

Jupiter is a gas giant – its composition is primarily gaseous material. It's so large that 10 Earths could fit in the eye of that big storm alone, and its actual mass is about 320 times that of the Earth – that's a lot of gas.

Most of us know that a planet's rotation on axis makes a day, and a complete revolution around the sun makes a year. Well, Venus rotates so slowly on axis that it's day is much longer then it's year.

Our sun is big – really big! On average it is two to three times larger then the average size of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Its actual mass is about 333,000 times that of the Earth. The sun, and hence our solar system, is about half way out from the center of our galaxy, about 26,000 light years. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter, but only about 12,000 light years in thickness (A light year is how far light travels in a year – about 6 trillion miles.) Our solar system rotates around our spiral galaxy, similar to the way our planet rotates around the sun, and completes one revolution approximately every 250 million years.

Let's really crunch some numbers. Did you know that every single star you see with the unaided eye is from our own galaxy? It is estimated that the Milky Way has about 300 billion stars – many of them much smaller then our sun – and this is only the tiniest fraction of stars in the universe.

How many galaxies and stars in the universe? According to the National Maritime Museum in the UK, the universe probably contains more than 100 billion galaxies. And best estimates suggest that there are at least 70 thousand million million million (70 sextillion) stars in the universe.

Now, who wants to tell me that God couldn't communicate directly with each and every one of us – at the same moment – if there were a need to tell us something?

One Deist Φ