When I was sixteen, a boyfriend said during one of our many debates on the existence or not of God: “What if we decided not to believe, and woke up one day to realise we were wrong all along. We’d feel a goon. Maybe we should hedge our bets just in case.” I tried to do that, but I was the original “Doubting Thomas“. I went through periods of believing in a higher being; then sometimes my belief would evaporate like the morning dew, just as quickly as it had appeared. Now I realise that “the truth” might be outside our limited human understanding. I like the introduction to the following trailer, but would take issue with it as it progresses. The conclusions are very depressing. It speaks to the head, and not to the heart, as it draws to its dark conclusions. It is not recommended that you watch the complete video, unless, of course, that you agree with its premises.
I find the conclusions of the video (above) too simplistic, in that it claims that religions are the cause of most of the conflict in the world today and in the past. But would things have been even worse without spiritual concepts to guide and nurture people? And isn’t religion often masking other grievances, such as those to do with territory?
I now see our time here on Earth, as a sort of education, like in a college or university, where we learn how to overcome our handicaps, and make progress towards our next incarnation. Some of us will have to fight physical illness, or deal with that of close relatives. Others of us will need to overcome psychological (emotional) handicaps, either from trauma or from endogenous dysfunction, or from losing friends or loved ones to sickness and to death. Inability to cope with physical issues often results in the burden of psychological illness, such as depression or debilitating anxiety.
I was always shy. In childhood this is quite normal between the ages of four and seven. But some of us get stuck at around that age—often through traumatic events—and are left with residual fear and anxiety that can develop into social phobia later on. This is more likely to happen in adolescence, when hormones are swirling around in the body and mind.
I remember being terribly afraid of the dark when I was little. Once I woke up screaming about a dark shape underneath the bed. Dad came running in. He flashed a torch under my bed. This didn’t help, as it gave credence to my fears. What would have helped would have been if he’d let me climb into bed and snuggle up between him and Mum. Later on, I was afraid of going to the dentist. But I’ve learnt as an adult to relax and am no longer afraid. It took longer to overcome a fear of flying, but in the end I succeeded there too.
Fear of giving speeches in front of a large audience is a common fear worse than death for many people. I also suffered from this, despite having been a teacher for many years.
Until quite recently I was afraid of death. Bit by bit I came to realise that my fear might be linked to an inability to believe strongly in an afterlife, or at least in a continuation of consciousness after death. I made a conscious decision, then, to believe, not in God “out there”, but in something “other” that exists, quite possibly within, rather than without. I’d been studying Tibetan Buddhism and had learnt how to meditate. As a sort of experiment at the time, I took an action akin to jumping from a cliff into the void: I became a believer. With that decision my fear began to subside little by little. Today I am no longer afraid of death. Just what I believe in I’m not so sure… Perhaps it is/was a necessary fiction? But I think not.
A psychologist friend recommended recently that I watch the video from which the above trailer is taken. The underlying assumption of the film is that we, as consciously aware animals, all fear death and take part in rituals that attempt to sublimate or help us to rise above the knowledge that we must die.
If I’d watched this film at an earlier date, my belief system would have been shaken to the core. I’d have run with the premise of the film and agreed that the existence of multiple religions is proof of our thirst for immortality and our knowledge that we must die.
However, now I strive to hold together the two sides of the paradox: Yes, we must all die, but No, we continue to exist…