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Monotheists insist there’s only one.

I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.”

– And why would this be of any interest?
– All current civilizations are off-springs of an Weltanschauung built on ‘monotheism’, aren’t they?
– Really?!? How about India? China? The Buddhist countries?
– Have you noticed the scare quotes? In my book, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism are all forms of monotheism. Atheism also qualifies as such.
– ?!?
– I’ll make that point a little later.

Then, if monotheists insist there’s only one God, which one of them is the ‘real McCoy’?

“The real McCoy” was the inventor Elijah McCoy, born in Canada in 1844. He had many different inventions including an ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. Other companies copied his devices, but these never worked as well as Elijah’s so people would say, “I want a… , and make sure it’s a real McCoy.”

When humans had first became conscious, as in aware of their own frailty, they needed a way to assuage their new acquired scares:
‘What would happen if the Sun will not come up tomorrow morning? If spring will never come back? If Mother Deer will not allow me to hunt another of her children?’Mother
So they started to raise prayers towards the Sun God. And towards other various agents held responsible with diverse aspects of human existence. Nowadays known as ‘totemic figures’.
Please note that each totemic figure was simultaneously responsible for one aspect of the human existence and the ‘founding father’ of a certain group of people.

After the advent of agriculture had transformed everything – including human social arrangements, things dully changed.
Agriculture gave birth to private property. Individuals needed to know which was their land and who owned the harvest. Otherwise, why bother?
Private property needs to be protected. Which demands a certain social structure. A hierarchy of social roles.

Around the Mediterranean Sea – due to geographic conditions, the ‘top brass’ were never that far removed from the ‘bottom’ as to make them ‘impervious’ to the social reality. Hence the hierarchy of Gods. Belonging to successive generations. Very similar to the succession of the dynasties which ruled the ‘land under the sky’.
At the opposite end of the Euro-Asian continent, were the emperor was further removed from the vulgus, things took a different path. Since no communication was any longer possible – between the ordinary people and the rulers/gods, gods and rulers were melted into one. Confucianism mandated that people cherish their ‘elders’.
Meanwhile Buddhism made away altogether with gods. And rulers.
The most interesting situation had evolved in India. Due to the high density of population – coupled with the diversity of languages/subcultures, the local leaders continued to be in touch with the general population while the highers up were equally insulated as their Chinese equivalents. Hence the survival of the plethora of Indian gods coupled with the advent of karma. The concept of individual responsibility for ones own fate.

The individuals’ responsibility for their own fates…
This being the common place between all ‘monotheistic’ religions. The way I see it, anyway. All three ‘sisters’ relying on the Holy Book, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism… Atheism…

So, then again, how many Gods are out there?

Or, more likely, how many images of the same God – a.k.a. ‘reality’, have we, humans, carved out? Out of the before mentioned reality?
How many faces of the single reality available have we been able to identify? According to the prevalent local circumstances?

And how much more time do we need? To understand that we live under the same umbrella? According to the same set of broad rules?
Which makes us all members of the same family?
Children of the same God?

What we currently call ‘science’ is both an activity and an attitude. Something some of us do and the way in which some of us see the world.

In current lingo, those who ‘do science’ are involved in ‘technology’ while those who see the world ‘scientifically’ partake in a certain philosophical tradition.
If we look at things in this way, it becomes obvious that doing science and thinking scientifically might not be the same thing.

Science, as an attitude, had sprung up in Ancient Greece, been kept alive by the early Islamic scholars, rekindled by the Medieval Catholic theologians, come of age during the Renaissance and ‘exploded’ after the Enlightenment.
Technology, on the other hand, is way older. And had been developed mainly elsewhere than the scientific attitude. China and India had been technological powerhouses and thriving civilizations in times when Europe was still learning to wash its hands before dinner.

‘Modern’ science – what we have now, appeared only after technological prowess had been married to the right attitude. 

It is easy to accept that technology, the more widely distributed part of ‘science’, had appeared as a consequence of mere necessity. People needed things in order to survive, then wanted things in order to increase their comfort… things which had to be produced… as efficiently as possible… hence people had put their minds to it and … voila!
But what had driven some of those around the Mediterranean Sea to develop the scientific attitude?

The same thing which drives us?
The attempt to find out the future, one second earlier than it really happens?
Because they thought, like we do, that reality is unique and that man is meant to master it?

Man, the guy who was made by God in His own image and who was told to rule the world?

Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, Occam,  Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Georges Lemaitre… some of them might have been persecuted by the church – personally or had their their ideas ‘challenged’, but they all had been raised in the Christian tradition and had been active members of their religious communities. Even Galileo, the only one among these who had been ‘physically’ affected by the way in which his ideas had been received by his contemporaries, had a more or less ‘functional’ relationship with the heads of the Church… he had died in his own bed, arrested in his own villa, not at the stake …

Christians call it fate while Buddhists call it karma.
Christians’ main goal is called salvation while Buddhists’ is called nirvana.

And no, these are not exactly the same thing.
Not different enough to separate them easily, not similar enough to consider them the same thing.

Fate depends on what God has in mind for you while karma depends exclusively on what you have decided all along your life.

Salvation is even more complicated.
Catholics believe that each individual can obtain it, regardless of what they had done until that moment, by simply acknowledging ones sins and by repenting before God/priest. Protestants, on the other hand, believe that individual salvation is entirely at God’s mercy. Mortal individuals can do nothing more than putting their faith in God’s all encompassing love and waiting for it.
Meanwhile, since Buddhists don’t have a God, they believe that accomplishing nirvana is the responsibility of each individual… All somebody has to do in order to achieve this goal is to transform their inner self. There is no outside, objective (?!?) benchmark to be reached here… no other arbiter to please…

Yet fate and karma are not that different either… Life experience in Asia may be different from that in Europe but the differences aren’t huge enough to consider them two different things. Not to mention the growing number of Buddhists living in the Euro-Atlantic region and the burgeoning number of Christian converts in Asia….

As for salvation versus nirvana… the man made Catholic one is almost similar – even if a lot easier to obtain, to the Buddhist nirvana while the Protestant one is just as dis-similar from it’s Catholic equivalent as it is from the Buddhist nirvana.
Yet, again, is it really possible for peace of mind to be that different on the opposing ends of EurAsia? Peace of mind experienced by very similar human individuals…. The only difference between them being the culture they have grown into….

Which brings us to chance.

Rationally minded people – scientists, economists, etc., are convinced that any decision can be perfect… If  only people were diligent enough to educate themselves properly, to think with their brains instead of allowing their hearts to take over…

‘Rationally minded people…’
But how rational is to expect a human being – an animal, first and foremost, to behave in a perfectly rational manner?
How rational is to expect a human being to overcome all emotion AND all biases? Known and unknown….
How rational is even to expect a human being to ‘diligently’ research all available data before making a decision? How much time would that take? When should someone be satisfied enough with the information gathered about a particular subject?

How much is each of us indebted to Lady Luck about the place we’ve born into?
Christian Europe or Buddhist Asia?
About the time of our birth? Before any of Christ/Buddha had preached or after?
How much is each of us indebted to Lady Luck about the amount of opportunity each of us have had to decide about during our lives?

My last question was a tricky one, indeed.
OK, Lady Luck is responsible for many things. For the place and time of our birth. For the fortunes of the families we’ve been born into and for the mental and physical each of us enjoys. Or lacks…

Only we do share in the final responsibility for our fate/salvation/karma/nirvana!

Our decisions are equally shaped by the circumstances in which we’ve reached those decisions AND by our diligence in making them.
Each of our decisions opens up some new doors and shuts down others. Or, at least, turns our heads towards new openings and away from others.

‘And your point is?’

Don’t blame others for your bad decisions and don’t praise yourself too much for your good ones.
Don’t blame others for their bad decisions. Are you sure they had a real alternative for the situations you found them in? Mind you, not whether there was a real alternative! Did THEY had access to that alternative?
Extend a helping hand. You’re not responsible for saving everybody else but to see somebody in need and not offer your help sets the stage for you needing help and everybody else passing by without noticing you.
Don’t overdo it. When you see someone drowning, get them out to safety. That’s enough. Don’t lecture them about the dangers of getting into water. Firstly, you don’t know how they got in and, secondly, if they are not able to figure this out by themselves you’re wasting your time.
Don’t prevent everybody else from getting in simply because somebody had (nearly) drowned. You’re not God. You don’t know everything. You just happened to be there when somebody was drowning and you was strong and brave enough enough to save them. That’s all there is to it.

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