God, Ghosts and Guesswork

The Question of Belief

Religion and Belief

There are many successful religions in this world and, though atheism and agnosticism appear to be on the increase, there are many thousands of believers, belonging to one or other of the world faiths ~ or perhaps to smaller movements.

God and religion appear to go hand-in-hand. However, there is no real need to attach oneself to any organised religion, simply because one believes in God.

Humans are sociable creatures, and often 'spiritual', too. They are drawn to wonderful music and exquisite art. They are made happy by special moments of beauty and emotion. They feel love. They feel ecstasy. They seem to need ritual. New life feels like a miracle and brings overwhelming joy.

Religions are societies, of sorts, and they certainly offer rites and rituals. They can offer love, ecstasy, miracles and joy. They fill a need ~ especially in those who feel alone or lost in the world.

Religions have existed for hundreds of years and, for whatever reason, humans seem to be automatically disposed to belong to one or other of them.

There is even evidence of a spiritual side to Neanderthal people. The remains of flowers have been found in a grave. Burial and flowers indicate ritual and, perhaps, even a belief in an afterlife.

In some societies, religious freedom is considered more acceptable than in others.

Organised religion has become a major part of society, over so many years that some people barely consider whether it reflects truth, or not. Belief is embedded in many people, from the cradle, and reinforced by preachers and teachers over the years.

We seem to be wired to believe.

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'Did Neanderthals Believe in an Afterlife?'
http://news.discovery.com/history/neanderthal-burial-ground-afterlife-110420.html

'Neandertals had funeral ceremonies, burying their dead with flowers'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanidar_1

Shanidar Cave - The First Signs of Human (Neanderthal) Spiritual Ritual?

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Erbil_governorate_shanidar_cave.jpg
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Erbil_governorate_shanidar_cave.jpg | Source

Personal Ideas and Copyright

Personally, I am not impressed by much that I see of organised religion and, as an agnostic, I am not certain of the existence of God.

However, I believe that, provided no-one is hurt in the process, people should be free to believe as they wish and to belong to any religion they wish. People should also be free not to believe.

I respect the rights of believers to believe.

I also think that those, who don't do so, already, should give serious consideration to the reasons why they believe ~ and why they believe as they do. For example, why do Christians believe in God / Jesus, as opposed to Odin and Thor?

Having thought much about this subject, it seems fairly clear to me why we have developed like this. Maybe others have suggested similar ideas? That is possible.

You may or may not approve of my theory, but I hope that you will find it thought-provoking.

Please note that these musings are not intended to upset anyone!

As I said, provided that they cause no-one any harm, I respect everyone's right to their own choice of beliefs, or lack thereof.

This article simply sets out my thoughts on this ~ admittedly emotive ~ topic.

I hope that I have been able to express my ideas clearly enough.

I am currently agnostic. I don't know. I have an open mind about most things, but I admit that I see no real reason to accept Bible stories as truth, any more willingly than I would accept Greek, Roman, Egyptian, or any other, mythology.

In my childhood and early teens, I considered myself to be a Christian. I have thought about religion, the soul, the supernatural, etc, etc, since I was a young child, and, by the time that I had reached twelve years of age, the doubts and questions were starting to arrive, thick and fast.

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Article Copyright Tricia Mason.

All Rights Reserved.

Mysteries

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Thunder, Lightning and the Mysterious Unknown

In times gone by, people were ignorant of the science behind rainbows; thunder and lightning; volcanoes and earthquakes. Sometimes these unexplained happenings could be terrifying. Why did they occur?

For cultures, who believed in gods, it must have seemed quite clear that it was the gods who were behind it all ~ eclipses, meteor showers, tsunamis; all the terrifying and unexplained aspects of life and nature.

How could the strange events of our dreams be explained?

Why did some people seem to have been re-incarnated?

Where did babies come from? Why were some women fertile while others were barren?

What, exactly, was death? Where did a person's essence go to when he died?

The gods must have been in control of all of it!

Indeed, where did we come from and why were we here? ~ Again, the answer had to be the gods.

How did the gods do it all?

Human imagination can fill in the gaps in all of the stories.

Thor made thunder with his hammer.

Yahweh made people out of clay ~ and then he breathed life into them.

Where, exactly, were these gods?

Did they live in caves? Or on mountains?

Were they up in the sky?

Could the stars and planets be gods and goddesses?

Solar Eclipse

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God in the Gaps

As time passed by, mankind became less ignorant and more knowledgeable.

Science began to explain some of life's mysteries.

It could explain rainbows, thunder and lightning, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamies, eclipses and meteor showers, and where babies came from.

It could even explain the evolution of life.

But it could not explain the origins of life. It still cannot. Not yet.

This gap in man's knowledge was ~ is ~ yet to be filled.

Scientists are toiling to discover the answer.

Believers are not. They are sure that they already have the answers.

As in the past, they are content to let God fill the gaps.

Life began with God. God was the original life form, and he created all life on Earth ~ including mankind (in his own image, according to the Bible).

Ancient tribes, who were far more ignorant than we are, had many gaps. God filled them all.

Nowadays, though there are fewer gaps, some people still hang on to the old ideas.

In effect, they will not allow the various sciences to do their job.

Geology and evolutionary science are rejected by some, who prefer to cling to the 'God is responsible for it all' and 'it only happened relatively recently' trains of thought.

God still fills a lot of their gaps ~ even though some of the gaps are no longer really there to be filled.

However, there is still that one important gap ~ where did life come from?

How did it begin?

We are not sure ~ not yet.

Logic should tell us that, since many of the unexplained mysteries of the past have now been explained, quite rationally, without further reference to superstition, then the mysteries that still exist should someday be explained rationally, too.

So, for some, mysteries have logical solutions that we simply have not yet discovered.

While, for others, the only answer is God.

And, of course, we may eventually discover that God will fit into a rational explanation for the world. We don't have all of the answers, yet, so we cannot know for sure.

Lightning

Public Domain - 1882. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lightning_1882.jpg
Public Domain - 1882. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lightning_1882.jpg

Children and their 'Imaginary Friends' - Ghosts, Mysterious Voices, and Other Planes

Why do cultures point to God, as their answer to life's mysteries?

Two reasons:

~ Mysteries exist

~ People may have experienced something supernatural and, apparently, 'godly'.

We have already looked at some of the mysteries ~ now let us move on to the mysterious and godly.

Many children see people who, apparently, are not there.

I have heard of numerous examples of young children, who see, and even interact with, their deceased grandparents. I have also heard of those with 'imaginary friends'; friends, who don't seem so much imaginary, as invisible. One such 'individual' told her friend about how she had died ~ by drowning!

Have you seen a ghost? ~ Many people have.

Or they have heard voices.

What is the explanation for these strange experiences? Are they products of our own imaginations; or electro-magnetic phenomena; or the essences of real people, whose bodies have long gone?

We may not have explanations for, or answers to, these phenomena ~ and many may not even believe in them. However, believe in them, or not; rational explanation, or not ~ the phenomena exist ~ somehow.

Can mediums contact the dead? ~ Whether they can or not, I do not know ~ but some do appear to be able to.

What about miraculous recoveries? ~ They seem to happen, too.

And prophetic dreams. People claim to have them.

The truth is that many 'supernatural' occurrances seem to go on around us.

Are they real? ~ Who knows? I don't ~ and I am not convinced that anyone does.

But while these mysteries exist, it is as well to acknowledge that we do not have all of the answers and that they still lead people to believe in the supernatural.

Indeed, while these mysteries do exist, they allow for belief in some form of life on another plane ~ the plane, which the mediums seem to plug into, where the voices, ghosts and imaginary friends seem to live.

This is the plane that Christians and other Believers call Heaven or Paradise. Valhalla (Norse mythology) is another such name. Nirvana is also related.

Is there is a special place, where dead loved-ones live happily?

Does 'Heaven' exist?

If it does, then this mysterious plane must also be the home of the miraculous deities, who control thunder, rainbows, life and death.

That would explain everything.

Imaginary Friends

Amazing Imagination

Returning to children. They do seem to be blessed with an extraordinary gift, when it comes to the imagination. They love make-believe lands.

Do we cease to believe in 'Wonderland', when we become adults? - Is Heaven a 'Wonderland'? Is 'Eden'? We Love 'Narnia' and 'Middle Earth'. Are they versions of Heaven? Or is Heaven one of our make-believe lands?

The ability to imagine, and to believe in the products of that imagination, must surely be another reason for man's willingness, and ability, to believe in God?

Should we grow out of God, though, as we grow out of 'Santa Claus' and 'The Tooth Fairy'?

Make-Believe? - We Can Believe in the Unbelievable

Narnian world map - Re: Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - By David Bedell - 1976 - licensed under the Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Narnian.world.map.jpg Paradiso Canto - Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest
Narnian world map - Re: Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - By David Bedell - 1976 - licensed under the Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Narnian.world.map.jpg Paradiso Canto - Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest

Visions and Apparitions; Near Death Experiences and Astral Travel

Another reason why people may believe in God and ~ depending upon their religions ~ in saints, angels, etc, etc, is that some are convinced that they have seen, or heard, God, or God's messengers.

What could be the explanation for this?

It could be that they have experienced a religious wonder.

It could be that, like others, they have experienced apparent 'ghosts'' and / or incorporeal voices.

It could be that they are in a state of trance or hysteria.

It could be that they are in altered states, owing to drugs or poisons in their bodies ~ possibly caused by ingesting ergot of rye, for example.

It is difficult to explain this phenomenon. Some people may be easily led; some may be liars; some may be deluded ~ some may be telling the truth.

It matters not, whether the apparitions were actually 'real'. If they felt real, and if the people believed that they had experienced them, then, for them, they were, indeed, real ~ and they will have had a huge effect on their lives, and on their belief patterns.

Experiences, like these, will, of course, cause many people to believe in a supernatural realm.

One wonders whether UFO sightings, and the like, should be classed with these 'visions'.

It is likely that some experiences of apparent demons probably belong here.

I have written a number of hubs on Marian, and other 'saintly', visions, which occurred in Medieval / Renaissance 'Spain'.

'Near Death Experiences', and the 'Astral Travel' which often accompanies this phenomenon, are very intriguing, and usually have a huge effect on the persons who have experienced them. This sort of thing may also affect religious beliefs.

Scientists have given explanations ~ but are they satisfactory? Certainly, many see these phenomena as evidence ~ if not proof ~ of an afterlife; even of Heaven ~ even of God.

No doubt these strange personal experiences have been going on for thousands of years ~ back into the mists of time.

Meetings With Mary

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Agnostics Don't Know

Yes God and Heaven explain everything ~ provided one does not ask too many questions.

Does God really control thunder and lightning?

Did he ever?

It once seemed that he did, because mankind knew no different ~ no better.

But now we do know better.

We know that mysteries existed then, which are mysteries no more.

We should gather from this, that the mysteries which still exist may also be explained, in due course, without resorting to 'God'.

God fills the gaps in our knowledge.

Without the gaps, we could find that there is no need ~ no place ~ for God.

The question is, though, does God exist, independent of our need for something to fill the mysterious gaps?

Is God 'there'?

I don't know!

Being 'agnostic' (agnostos is from the Greek) means being in a state of not knowing.

Does anyone really know ~ for certain?

Would we come up with the idea of God today, if these ideas was not already planted in our brains?

It is strange, is it not, that mysteries used to exist, where 'God' settled man's need for a solution ~ and now God, himself, has become the mystery?

We no longer wonder about thunder, rainbows and earthquakes ~ we wonder about God.

Agnostics do not know about God and the supernatural ~ and tend to think that it is impossible to know. Yet, ironically, most agnostics tend also to be seekers after knowledge and truth.

It is usually only by seeking and learning that we can discover new information and develop new ideas.

Scientific study enables us to learn more about our world and to understand it so much better than the people of the past did. Presumably, the people of the future will have more knowledge, and a better understanding, than we have.

'Moses' - Christians Believe In Moses, God, Jesus, The Ten Commandments And all that the Bible has to Offer!

Source

Cruel Acts Have Been Executed In The Name of Religion - Christianity Included: The Spanish Inquisition

Believers Think That they Know

The point is that, if someone, past or present, hears voices, or sees people, when no-one is there, then they are likely to believe in some kind of parallel universe. Once they believe in the parallel universe, they are 'prepared' to believe in God.

This would have happened, quite naturally, in the ancient past ~ and, gradually, shamans and priests, and society in general, would ensure that these beliefs became part and parcel of mankind's very make up.

The stories and ideas seemed to be true.

They helped people to understand their world.

People came to rely on the gods; to love, fear and respect them; because all that was good or bad or frightening was ultimately their decision.

The children were taught that this was the truth.

But this was still being taught as truth, even when its 'truth' became questionable ~ even after many of the mysteries had been cleared up.

Why is this?

Without the presence of these gods, mankind would be alone, in a huge and frightening universe. Some people felt, and still feel, that they could not cope with this.

And, anyway, believers 'know' that it really is true. God really is there. Some still believe that he deliberately uses floods, and other natural disasters, to punish the wicked ~ just as the Biblical flood supposedly punished the wicked of early times.

It is intriguing that God still exists in mens minds, even when we no longer need him to fill many gaps. (Or do we?)

May believers even be correct?

Believers think that God created us in his image, and that he is omnipotent and omnipresent, but it is far more likely that mankind created 'God' in our image, and that 'God' can do whatever we can do, or can imagine doing, or wish that we could do.

It seems that 'God' might once have been a convenient invention, but what if 'God' actually exists, and resides somewhere 'other'? This has to be a possible ~ but how, or why, or in what form, I don't know.

Believers think that they know. Many of them seem to think that they know a lot about God, how God feels, what God wants, etc, etc.

But they do not know. How can they?

One very devout Christian once said that, no matter how strongly she believed in God and Jesus ~ and she was certainly a convinced and passionate follower ~ she had to admit that, really, we are all agnostics. Some agnostics believe; some do not; some admit to just not knowing.

The Bible

Source

Atheists Also Think That they Know

Interestingly, atheists are as certain about 'God' as are believers.

Believers 'know' that he definitely exists.

Atheists 'know' that he definitely does not exist.

Atheists seem to think that, because they can work out how and why 'gods' may / must have been invented, they also know that there is no real god.

But how can they really know ~ for certain?

After all, the pre-requisites for belief still exist.

People still see ghosts; still hear voices; still experience miracles, etc, etc.

Our brains still seem to be 'wired' for belief.

The strange experiences are what enabled man to conceive of another world ~ a world where God(s) lived ~ in the first place. And these phenomena still exist. They have not, yet, been fully explained.

Some may scoff and disbelieve, but something is happening ~ and it is happening to a lot of people.

Man may understand the science of vulcanology and geology and biology and even astro-physics, but he cannot explain ghosts, etc. He can attempt to explain them away ~ but he cannot actually explain them.

So, while there is the possibility that souls live on beyond death, we have to allow for other spirits living in their world ~ including, perhaps, the Holy Spirit.

Atheists may be correct ~ but, if so, there is still a lot to be explained.

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Magicians and Atheists

Some famous atheists include Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who are very intelligent, and whose ideas are fascinating to consider.

Their conclusions are very logical, but, to me, these men are unable to 'explain away' the mysteries that people experience, regularly ~ and which would come under the umbrella of 'the supernatural'.

Derren Brown is an amazing 'magician', 'illusionist' and more. He can work apparent miracles. He does not believe in the supernatural ~ not in mediums and not in God.

Since he is able to perform mind-blowing 'magic', Brown knows how miracles and mediums work ~ and he knows not to believe in them. When one watches him at work, one can see how anyone might be convinced that miracles are real; one can see how people's hearts and minds could be won over.

I have no doubt that talented artists in illusion, suggestion, etc ~ artists such as Derren Brown ~ could easily begin their own religion, if they so wished. They could claim to be prophets, spiritual mediums, etc, etc. They are incredibly convincing. Indeed, those who would have us believe that they can perform miracles may simply have received the same education as these artistes in 'magic'.

Certain religious beliefs may be based on this kind of 'magic'.

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See videos

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Read a review of Christopher Hitchens' book 'God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything' and Richard Dawkins' book: 'The God Delusion' ~ by Jeffrey Stueber

http://lutheranscience.org/2008-HitchensAndDawkins.html

Christianity and Other Religions Have Members Across the Globe

York Minster ~ Copyright Tricia Mason
York Minster ~ Copyright Tricia Mason

The Bible and Other Ancient Texts

We can surmise how and why mankind came to believe in gods.

We can guess that each tribe had their god, which evolved as time went by.

We know about Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, Indian, etc, etc, mythologies. They tell of the gods of these cultures. The stories exist in ancient texts.

Judeo-Christian stories still exist in ancient texts, too, but for some reason, they are not classed as ancient mythologies; they are still accepted as truth, by millions, today.

The Bible is still considered holy. Many still believe that it contains the very word of God. Many believe that its content is completely true.

Why should that be?

Why should this set of ancient religious stories be considered any more true than any other religious stories?

Why not believe in Odin and Thor?

Or Zeus and Apollo?

It may be possible that there is a power, or force, or intelligence, behind the Universe, which we could call 'God'.

He may be responsible for some ~ or all ~ of life's mysteries, but why should he be as described in the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament?

What are the chances, really, that they got it right?

There is no real logical reason to believe that they did.

Egyptian Mythology

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More Questions Than Answers

Man has an enquiring mind.

Even the Bible refers to it, when saying that Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

People want to know. We have brains and minds. We think. We ask questions.

And, in our huge universe, every new answer is likely to bring a new question.

Every unanswered question is a mystery.

Every mystery is a gap where God might reside.

Life itself is a mystery.

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How did life begin?

Does our essence simply die at death?

What was at the beginning of the Universe?

What is at the end of the Universe?

Is it possible to imagine infinity?

What could be at the end of infinity?

Is it possible to imagine nothingness?

If the Universe wasn't here, could 'nothing' be here?

Is God Only In The Gaps? - Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel_ceiling Source: Wikimedia Commons / Michelangelo Buonarroti Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel_ceiling Source: Wikimedia Commons / Michelangelo Buonarroti Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512

Science Pointing to 'God'?

While we question, our experts can only provide us with so many answers.

Our universe seems to be so miraculous, and our earth so finely tuned for us, that, for many, this is proof that God is there, and that he made our world especially for us.

Thus, the old mysteries and questions ~ the ones that could be explained quite simply ~ are being replaced by more sophisticated ones.

Many Believers think that the fact that our world fits mankind so well, points to a God, who designed it all.

There is some logic to this. Just a few changes and we could not exist.

However, just a few changes and something else could exist instead.

We evolved to suit our environment ~ self-evidently, that is why we suit it.

Evolution is logical.

A suitable world does not indicate a designer; it indicates survival of the most suited ~ or the most fitting; ie. 'the fittest'.

Venus von Willendorf - An Early religious 'Icon'.

Venus von Willendorf - Oke -  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wien_NHM_Venus_von_Willendorf.jpg
Venus von Willendorf - Oke - Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wien_NHM_Venus_von_Willendorf.jpg | Source

Ghouls and Ghosts, God and Guesswork

Imagine that you are walking through a forest, or across a desert, in ancient times. It is beginning to get dark. You can hear the wild animals. You live alongside them. Maybe an eclipse causes complete blackness. Life is mysterious and frightening.

What if you saw a ghost or heard voices ~ or just thought that you did ~ as many people do today. You would be terrified ~ and you might assume that other people existed somewhere near, but far ~ somewhere mysterious and unknown.

If a child is afraid, then it turns to its parents. If something is terrorising a tribe, then the menfolk, under the tribal chief's leadership, will attempt to protect the others. If they are all afraid of the mysterious unknown ~ supernatural or otherwise ~ then they will need a 'super leader'; a 'super-parent'; a 'supernatural friend', to guard and protect them against unknown forces. They will evolve a need for an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, ever-loyal, leader / father / God.

If your tribal leaders then told you that there was indeed a spiritual leader, living on another plane, both helping and punishing your people, as necessary, then you would probably believe it.

Of course, children often look first to their mothers ~ and it would appear that very early people often revered female 'icons', rather than male ones. However, male social dominance would ensure that the ultimate God would eventually become male.

This sort of thing must have been happening within various tribes, in various places, at various times.

The result was a number of similar, but not identical, religions ~ mostly believing in a sky god; a type of father figure.

Belief derived from what was, in effect, guesswork.

And, where belief still exists, it is still the result of a combination of factors: real mysteries, supernatural mysteries and guesswork.

We still do not fully understand the origins of life.

People still see ghosts and feel that their homes are haunted.

Many Believers still conclude ~ or guess ~ that God must be responsible for the world being so perfect ~ often because they have not fully studied or understood the science and the evidence.

Of course, many intelligent and educated Believers still believe, despite having studied the evidence. This may be because it just feels right and makes sense to them. But they cannot possibly 'know' for sure ~ even if they 'feel' that they know. It is still glorified guesswork.

Maybe God(s) Dwelled By Sacred Springs?

Copyright Tricia Mason
Copyright Tricia Mason

Do Gods and Angels Inhabit The Skies? - Past Believers Thought So!

Source

A Theory of God, Heaven and Hell

God may or may not exist. I do not know. I am agnostic.

For any 'being', worthy of being called a god, to exist, he or she would have to be way beyond anything of which our brains could possibly conceive. God should be beyond our understanding. God should not be petty. God should be magestic in all ways ~ omnipotent; omnipresent; omniscient; eternal; unchanging.

And maybe 'he' is.

Or maybe 'he' isn't.

But why, or how, would anyone believe that God existed in the first place?

Perhaps they might see or hear him ...

But we don't see him, today, so why would ancient people be able to see God?

Some people still claim to hear God, but it is never conclusive.

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I believe that ancient people believed in God for the reasons that I have already mentioned.

Then, as now, they had 'spooky' experiences, which led them to believe in other realms, or planes, where 'ghosts', etc. might live.

Then, as now, they probably wondered about ~ and possibly feared ~ death. It must have felt as though life's essence / energy should live on ~ especially since some people had seen ghosts and others had heard voices. If they could believe that their loved-ones were residing in a parallel universe, where they would, one day, meet up again, then they would feel more contented ~ and safer.

Many cultures have believed in the place where the dead reside. (There would need to be another place for the bad people, though ~ ie. for their enemies.)

Scientific knowledge of 'Nature' was very much in its infancy ~ they needed explanations. Maybe a superior being resided on that parallel plane, and he was responsible for all of the mysteries ~ the eclipses and thunderbolts, etc.

Maybe the 'superior being' was also looking after their deceased loved-ones. Maybe he would look out for them, if they asked him to ~ ie if they prayed. He could help and support

If the tradition continued and the shamans / priests and leaders took it on board, then the 'beliefs' would become 'truths'; they would become part of the culture; they would be passed on from generation to generation. The stories and beliefs would, eventually, be recorded in sacred texts.

A belief in God, Heaven, Hell, etc, would have been born out of needs, wants, ignorance and superstition.

That is where the belief may have come from.

It does not say whether God exists or not.

It does not explain all the mysteries, which resulted in the beliefs.

We do not know where 'ghosts' come from.

We do not know whether or not we might live on after death.

We do not know if other planes exist.

We do not know whether life, the universe and everything began with something, or someone, whom we might term 'God'.

There is much that we humans do not yet know.

And there is much that we do know.

Don't dismiss the knowledge that we have.

Don't assume that we have all of the answers.

And don't dismiss the possibilities.

God may or may not exist ~ but, even if he doesn't, man would have invented him ~ created him in his own image.

God and Adam - Michelangelo

Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hands_of_God_and_Adam.jpg
Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hands_of_God_and_Adam.jpg

The Ever Fascinating Topic

Religion ~ including all of its aspects ~ is a fascinating topic.

There are so many questions.

Why are there so many religions?

Why are there so many denominations simply of Christianity?

Why do people reject some belief systems, but accept others?

Why is the Bible considered to be true by so many people?

Why has so much harm been done, either by 'religious' people, or in the name of religion?

Would the world be better off without religion?

Why do some believers strongly reject evolutionary theory?

Why do they think that there is more logic to Eve being moulded from Adam's rib than to humans evolving from apes?

Why do some Christians condone the evils, attributed to God, by the Old Testament ~ and why do they believe that he did them?

Are the various apparitions of Mary actually real?

Are 'near-death experiences' proof of the existence of Heaven?

The questions are endless ~ and I have addressed some of them in my hubs.

Mother and Child in Religious Representation: Isis and Horus. Mary and Jesus

Isis + Horus: Wikimedia Commons / Guillaume Blanchard / Louvre  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Egypte_louvre_029.jpg Mary + Jesus - Wikimedia Commons
Isis + Horus: Wikimedia Commons / Guillaume Blanchard / Louvre See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Egypte_louvre_029.jpg Mary + Jesus - Wikimedia Commons | Source

Just A Few Of The Books That Have Informed My Thinking

The Lost Gods of England ~ Brian Branston

Who Was Jesus? ~ Don Cupitt and Peter Armstrong

The God Delusion ~ Richard Dawkins

Jesus: The Evidence ~ Ian Wilson

Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets ~ Mike Baillie

Thoughts and Conclusions

Many documentaries and books, debates and discussions, and much time spent in thought, have resulted in these conclusions.

This is a huge topic, No doubt I have forgotten some issues, and omitted some points. Perhaps they will show up, later, in edits or in comments.

Although almost all religions, and aspects of religious belief, intrigue me, like most other people, I am most comfortable discussing what I am most familiar with. In my case, that would be Christianity.

I have added some interesting and relevant quotes and comments, at the end of this item.

I Have written a number of articles, published on Hub Pages, relating to various aspects of religion. All are related to the ideas and issues mentioned in this hub. Links to these items are at the end of the piece.

I apologise for the length of this article.

Some Books

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Book Covers

Lewis Wolpert - 'Impossible Things'

Quote: "As Lewis Wolpert sees it ......... We exceed all other animals in our capacity to believe things for which there is no rational evidence — a category that, in Wolpert’s reckoning, includes all the world’s religions, and every species of paranormal and supernatural belief ...."

John Carey, reviewing Lewis Wolpert's 'Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief '

The title relates to the White Queen (in Lewis Carroll's 'Alice Through the Looking Glass') who practised believing unbelievable things and "sometimes .. believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

From 'The Sunday Times' ~ March 19, 2006

See: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article741335.ece

'Evolved Credulity'

Quote: 'The human brain is hard-wired to be susceptible to supernatural beliefs as a result of tens of thousands of years of evolution ... Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive, in spite of a lack of evidence and the advance of science, because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational in their daily lives, according to Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol.'

Quote continues: 'This evolved credulity suggests that it will be impossible to root out belief in ideas such as creationism and paranormal phenomena, even though they have been refuted by evidence and are held as a matter of faith alone.'

Mark Henderson, Science Editor ~ The Times ~ Times Online ~ September 4, 2006

Is It Any More Logical To Believe In Angels Rather than Fairies?

Carl Heinrich Bloch - Angel comforting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane - 1865-1879 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gethsemane_Carl_Bloch.jpg Guido Reni - Archangel Michael - 1636 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Guido_Reni_031.jpg William-Adolph
Carl Heinrich Bloch - Angel comforting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane - 1865-1879 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gethsemane_Carl_Bloch.jpg Guido Reni - Archangel Michael - 1636 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Guido_Reni_031.jpg William-Adolph | Source

Hard-Wired To Believe

Quote: 'Humans are programmed to believe in God because it gives them a better chance of survival, researchers claim. ....... The findings of Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University, suggest that magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth, and that religions are therefore tapping into a powerful psychological force.'

Arthur Martin ~ Daily Mail ~ 7th September 2009

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1211511/Why-born-believe-God-Its-wired-brain-says-psychologist.html#ixzz1UUjelnG7

Programmed to Believe

'Supernatural Beliefs'

Quote:

'ATHEISM really may be fighting against nature: humans have been hardwired by evolution to believe in God, scientists have suggested. ..... They suggest that during evolution groups of humans with religious tendencies began to benefit from their beliefs .....

'The findings challenge campaigners against organised religion, such as Richard Dawkins ..... He has long argued that religious beliefs result from poor education and childhood “indoctrination”.

'Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University, believes the picture is more complex. “Our research shows children have a natural, intuitive way of reasoning that leads them to all kinds of supernatural beliefs .... As they grow up they overlay these beliefs with more rational approaches, but the tendency to illogical supernatural beliefs remains as religion” .'

Jonathan Leake and Andrew Sniderman ~ From The Sunday Times ~ Times Online September 6, 2009

See: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6823229.ece

Rational?

Conundrum: God a Delusion?


Quote:

'Richard Dawkins argues that God is a delusion. But .. isn't 'evangelical atheism' an article of faith in itself?

'Here’s a conundrum, of sorts, for evangelical atheists. Richard Dawkins has ... written a book ... against the existence of a divine being — called The God Delusion.

'As a scientist ... Dawkins is canny enough to know that, by the lights of his own methodology, it is impossible to state with certainty that there is no God.

So he quietly concedes, early on, that God is “improbable”.

'Yet the rest of the book burns with a fervent faith that God is a childish construct of our imaginations; that He never existed and was a delusion.'

*

Rod Liddle ~ From The Sunday Times ~ Times Online ~ October 8, 2006

See: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article659793.ece

Christopher Hitchens vs Tony Blair Debate: Is Religion A Force For Good In The World?

Steven Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein

Sam Harris

What Do You Think About the Origins of Belief In God?

What Do You Think About the Origins of Belief In God?

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Comments 46 comments

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I will vote up. One thing I have noticed about past sightings of the virgin Mary is that she is often seen by the person as that particular culture would see her. In other words a cultural bias to her appearance. If one of these people were to say she looked Jewish in physical appearance and dress I would sit up and take notice.

I do believe in ghosts but I am definitely an agnostic if being an agnostic can be considered definite.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Rod, :)

Thank you!

Yes, that would, indeed, be interesting! But we, and they, see the world through biased eyes :)

To me, it seems clear how belief must have developed, and, if everyone accepted this, then maybe there would be less inter-religious hatred.

Or maybe not :(


writeronline 5 years ago

Hi Trish, another deep and intense piece from you. Do you ever sleep? :)

I'm intrigued by a number of your observations, all the questions you pose, and as always, impressed by the intellect and humanity behind them - but unfortunately, not so intrigued as to feel the need to explore any. Sorry.

To me, too much money, time, energy and emotion, (and much if not most of that, confrontational and overly superior)is wasted on something that either 'is', or 'is not' and which therefore is outside our ability as humans to influence, certainly not alter; instead of being expended on constructive endeavours that would actually advance the 'state of being (human)'. Like achieving world peace, eliminating hunger, stopping child sex trafficking, to name just three.

To explain my point:

If God 'is', then he got there before and without us, and will no doubt make his own call as to when or if, he wants to drop in for an actual visitation.

If God 'is not', then all the praying and adulating and wishing and hoping for a second coming, will have no effect - he ain't there to hear.

That's not to say for a moment that I don't think there's a whole lot more going on spiritually, than we can comprehend, whether within this world, the next world, the previous world, or the parallel world.

I believe there must be. Too many unexplained events tend to prove that. Just because we're not evolved enough to understand, (if in fact that's necessary anyway...) things we 'see' and 'sense' and 'experience', doesn't make them impossible.

But, as you say, why / how do any of these unanswered questions somehow automatically demand the existence, or invention, of something called 'God'?

I think we'd have been better to have invented a completely different 'grab-bag' and given it a name that sits equally with believers and non-believers.

Like "Wonder":

If you believe, you live in a state of perpetual and adulatory wonder.

If you don't believe, you just, wonder.

You certainly do force me to think, Trish. :)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello writeronline :)

Thanks for your comments.

And, yes, I think that you have summed it all up!

I agree with you. And you did it more briefly than I did :) :)

I don't even think that the questions I pose need exploring; just to be acknowledged by interested parties.

Plus, I find the subject fascinating ~ probably because of my love of history.

I wouldn't suggest expending too much money, time or emotion on the subject, unless one is simply interested, or, more importantly, if one is attempting to bridge some gaps between cultures.

Many Believers are willing to look at questions and consider and discuss them in a friendly, positive manner. I enjoy their company; I enjoy the conversations.

But some Believers are convinced that they are right, and that the doubters and disbelievers are wrong. The outcome of a discussion is, then, usually less satisfactory.

If we could all acknowledge that our belief systems developed from ignorance and fear, and that they have simply evolved to be different, then maybe we could try for a more peaceful world.

Or maybe not! We humans all originated as one family, in Africa, who have simply evolved to be different, but we still can't all get on. Mega-family fall-outs!

Anyway, I just wanted to set out my own thoughts and, also, to challenge some assumptions.

I like what you said about 'wonder' ~ but, actually, I think that the doubters often live in a state of wonder, too. The believers don't have a monopoly on such emotions, even if some of them think that they do :) :)

Thanks, again, writeronline, for reading and for giving your thoughts ~ much appreciated !!


diogenes 5 years ago

Another of your magisterial articles. I agree with writeronline, though, "It either is or it isn't," etc.

I find it difficult to believe there is such a thing as an agnostic. It's like being a little queer! Most agnostics I meet are really believers who don't want to leave their comfort zone but who want to sound real swish. It's hard. Saying, screw you, god, you just aint there, takes some doing and you always upset someone's feelings.

And it doesn't matter, does it? In my days of tequila and peyote in Mexico, i used to say i believed in the Sun as my God - like the Aztecs, etc. At least it was something all powerful and benign, at least for the moment. In fact that's why we rarely see Him in the UK; he gives us rain instead because we are such a lousy society.

Bobx


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Diogenes :)

Thanks for reading and for your comments! :)

To me, agnosticism is the only sensible option.

Yes, I do absolutely agree that it is hard, after being brought up in a Christian nation, to say that God isn't there.

I also agree that the sun is a good enough god to acknowledge :)

But, I have not yet had phenomena, such as ghosts, near death experiences, etc, etc, explained to my satisfaction.

I, personally, have experienced some strange events, which seemed to be supernatural. I am not saying that they were, just that I don't have explanations for them.

What if there is another plane, where our spirits go when we die? Is that so ludicrous or impossible? There is much that we do not yet know. We don't even know where life came from.

I believe in possibilities, but I do not know which of these possibilities may be true.

As for God, I certainly do not believe in the Biblical stories ~ or any other such ancient stories ~ but I cannot possibly say, for sure, that nothing exists, which we might possibly term 'God'.

I cannot say that there is no God, because I don't know and because there are other unexplained mysteries.

I cannot say that God does exist, because I have no evidence to say that he does.

I am agnostic. It makes complete sense to me :)

I don't know how much it matters. I find the subject very interesting. Others consider it to be absolutely central to their lives.


Highvoltagewriter profile image

Highvoltagewriter 5 years ago from Savannah GA.

Wow Trish, this hub is truly a marvel and I love the fact that you have a humble side to you that freely admits "I don't know." The problem is that people become to arrogant in there "knowing" what truth is. This is a problem with religion and science, because in BOTH views of life people can get lazy once they think they resolved a certain mystery. I mean how does science know for sure that they have come to a conclusion about something?

For often in life the more we seek we will find and there are many layers to a certain subject that we may have not considered. An example of this could be something like lightening which science may THINK they have all the information about but MAYBE they might not know the full depth of the question in the first place!

I am now working on a hub about how some scientist are doing a study on speaking in tongues and how it effects the brain. The evidence seems to point to this form of prayer being able to quite the activity in the frontal lobe of the brain while other forms of prayer and meditations seems to stimulates it!

On my latest hub on evolution I have a reader who has allowed himself to get caught up in profiling creationist in certain categories that is just plane untrue and limited. However, let a Christian do the same thing and the atheist will go nuts!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Thank you for your kind words, Highvoltagewriter.

I do think that it is a good idea to keep an open mind on certain matters.

Scientists should and, I think, many do ~ but some may get bogged down in things, and become blinkered.


Highvoltagewriter profile image

Highvoltagewriter 5 years ago from Savannah GA.

For a lot of Christians this a thin line, for if one is too open minded some claim that your faith is wavering. For me, I have turned over so many stones in my quest for what was true, that now I finally have a pretty clear perspective on what I believe. Even so I must consider the view point of others. I do not think I have to agree with them, just try to understand why they think the way they do!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Yes, Highvoltagewriter 1, that makes sense :)


Talisker profile image

Talisker 5 years ago from UK

A thorough and engaging hub. I think as humans we have a need to find solace in something, be it art, music or a God. I too am agnostic and would rather leave questions open than close them with the answer 'God'

I look forward to delving into more of your hubs.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Talisker :)

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Yes, agnosticism seems to be the only real answer. Sometimes I find that my agnosticism seems to become closer to atheism, but even many of the most ardent atheists acknowledge that they cannot discount 'something' ~ and that is because we just don't know everything :)


Kerry43 4 years ago

Hi :) I love that you continued to ask questions throughout your hub. I also appreciated that you said "I respect the rights of believers to believe." which I think, is what sets atheists apart from agnostics.

Most atheists I have met report that they don't believe, because they were wronged by someone, or something bad happened to them in the past, which is an irony considering most have possibly made up with that offending person, but continue to blame God for their continual misfortune.

I am always left wondering why they blame an entity they claim does not exist. I think atheism is more a mental state of confusion one suffers when they are unable to confess "I don't know." People hate to admit when they don't have the answers.

Excellent read, thanks for sharing with us :)

Kerry


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Kerry :)

Thank you very much for reading and for taking the time to respond.

Belief is a strange and interesting subject.

I actually feel that I am drawing closer and closer to atheism, but those mysteries keep me agnostic.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 24 months ago

Hiya Trish,

I'm not positing a so-called "God of the gaps," to explain gaps in our scientific knowledge. Rather, my argument is based upon the best of what we do know in science. The premise that the universe began to exist is not a religious declaration nor a theological one. You can find that statement in any contemporary textbook on astrophysics or cosmology. And it is supported, as we've seen, by the vast majority of cosmologists today.

So I'm simply saying that the best scientific evidence we have today supports the truth of that premise. And from that, the rest of this deductive argument follows:http://bit.ly/SSsy8x . So in no way is this an appeal to ignorance, to try to punt to God to explain what we don't understand. It is a natural conclusion from the logical validity of the preceding premisses. In other words, it's simple, mundane logic.

As Physicist and Mathematician James Clerk Maxwell put it, “Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.”


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 24 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Joseph,

Of course the universe exists and we do not yet know exactly how it began. I'm not saying anything different from that.

But that does not mean that it was created by God. By introducing God into this 'mystery' you are automatically introducing a 'God of the gaps'. It's a possible answer but that does not mean that it is the correct one.

As for that article, I can't take anything seriously that begins with :

"... something can't come from nothing. .... If it could ... Why aren't we afraid of elephants suddenly popping into existence and crushing us as they fall from the sky?"

This is as silly as the argument against evolution that asks why monkeys don't wake up one day as humans or give birth to baby humans. It's just daft.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 24 months ago

I'm glad you found it to be silly, that was the point! :)

It's a reductio ad absurdum argument showing the hamartias in the teachings of Hawking, Krauss and their disciples. These foolishly claim that the universe did in fact come from nothing by nothing for nothing ...


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 24 months ago

(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

(2) The space-time universe began to exist 13.70 billion years ago.

(3) Therefore, the space-time universe has a cause.

(4) The cause of the universe is a transcendent, beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent good personal being.

(5) A transcendent, beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent good personal being is the definition of God.

(6) Therefore, God caused the universe to exist 13.70 billion years ago.

http://bit.ly/SSsy8x


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 24 months ago from The English Midlands Author

I don't think that Hawking is silly. I don't think that his high intellect has anything in common with that silly article.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 24 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Joseph, You have misunderstood me again.

I think that the argument used in that article is silly. I disagree with the author. I cannot take his argument seriously because I find it ridiculous.

*

Our universe began to exist billions of years ago.

We humans do not know how it came into being but some scientists have some theories on the matter.

It is generally believed that if something comes into existence, then it must have had a cause, but humans are still learning and we don't really know if our beginning had a cause or what that cause might have been. It is a mystery to us.

Since there is a gap in our knowledge and understanding, some people do what people have always done when faced with a mystery; they put God into the gap.

Therefore, some people assume, without any reason other than ignorance of what actually happened, that God caused the universe to exist 13.70 billion years ago.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 24 months ago

Are you suggesting that God did not nor could not have caused the existence of our universe?


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 24 months ago from The English Midlands Author

I am suggesting that 'we humans do not know how it came into being'.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 24 months ago

The Bible explains that all of reality was created by God :)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 24 months ago from The English Midlands Author

The Bible is a set of old documents. Other old books say similar or different things. Do you believe them all or just the Bible?


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 24 months ago

The Bible is so much more than that for it is the Inspired Word of God: http://bit.ly/1d0Y82v


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 23 months ago from The English Midlands Author

I really don't think that the Bible is ' the Inspired Word of God'. why would it be?


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

For many, many reasons: http://bit.ly/1d0Y82v


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 23 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Joseph,

Why do you refer me to so many other pages?

Why don't you just say what you, yourself, think.

I'm not interested in Biblical propaganda.

There is absolutely no reason to think that the Bible is 'the Inspired Word of God'. There really isn't.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

Hiya Trish,

Because I don't want to be accused of publishing Biblical propaganda on your Hub :)

If you want the evidence, it's all right there. There is absolutely no reason for me to reinvent the proverbial wheel :)


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 23 months ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

If the Bible is the inspired word of God then how can it change? If it is written for all time then people shouldn't be monkeying around with it. Yet that has happened and no doubt will happen in the future.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 23 months ago from The English Midlands Author

The Bible is full of violence, for example, and full of contradictions. This couldn't possibly be the work of an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient superbeing.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 23 months ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

But again I ask how can you possibly make changes to something that is holy and have it remain so? And yes the bible is full of violence and contradictions. One film maker had a bit of fun over the way Judas dies in the bible. The fellow had to be stoned, hung and fall off a cliff. The film maker managed to fit it all in.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

If you'd permit me I'd be more than happy to clarify any apparent contradictions in the Bible :)


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

@Rod

Were you aware that there are literally ** thousands ** of ancient Bible manuscripts - in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine - available today in museums the world over? In fact, no other ancient writings are as well attested to as the Bible's. When you compare these manuscripts to modern Bibles it's unmistakable how accurately these render the ancient texts. As such, any fears of tampering or errata are unwarranted.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 23 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Just out of interest, Joseph, do you feel the same way about both testaments?


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

Indeed.

Btw, are you going to take me up on my offer? :)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 23 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Re the contradictions?

If so, I wanted to check, first, how you felt about the 'New Testament'


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 23 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Happy Christmas, Joseph - and everyone else :)


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 23 months ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

So Judas was stoned to death while being hung while falling off a cliff? Hmmm! One film maker did work out how that could be done. It wasn't all that convincing. But it could be done. Okay. Merry Christmas to all.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

Thank you :)

If you're asking how I feel about the New Testament in terms of its textual integrity I'd say that, like the Hebrew Scriptures, we have no reason to fear any tampering or errata. What we have today is essentially what was written by the Bible amanuensis almost two thousand years ago.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

@Marsden

"According to Matthew 27:5, Judas hanged himself. But Acts 1:18 says, “pitching head foremost he noisily burst in his midst and all his intestines were poured out.” Matthew seems to deal with the mode of the attempted suicide, while Acts describes the result. Combining the two accounts, it appears that Judas tried to hang himself over some cliff, but the rope or tree limb broke so that he plunged down and burst open on the rocks below. The topography around Jerusalem makes such an event conceivable."


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 23 months ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Okay...There's also an account of stones being chucked at Judas. I suppose that works out alright too. Fair enough.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

@Rod

What passage are you referring to?


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 23 months ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

It was mentioned in a documentary. It made sense. Stoning is more likely to be the way Judas would have bought the farm when you think about the customs of the day.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 23 months ago

@Rod

But do you recall what passage they referenced?


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 23 months ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Sorry. They did mention a passage but I don't remember it.

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