"Believing as I do in the theory of rebirth, I live in the hope that if not in this birth, in some other birth I shall be able to hug all humanity in friendly embrace."
- Mohandas D. Gandhi
There is no learning, except through experience. To learn in the mind is only a theory. Through experience is the growth, and so theory is only a tool; no more, no less. The nature of reincarnation, why one can in fact live so many lifetimes - hundreds and thousands - is because experience is the greater teacher.
Upon return [from the Near Death Experience - NDE], the persons who "died" are never the same. They embrace life to its fullest and express the belief that love and knowledge are the most important of all things because they are the only things you can take with you.
Millennia ago, most people understandably had a very difficult time comprehending the vastness of life. They did the best they could, but had only their five senses with which to collect data. As such, they had a very narrow view of reality. They made up stories in an attempt to understand what was going on. Those stories were passed down through the ages.
Scary events suchs as droughts, famines, illness and death were thought to be controlled by powerful beings in the sky. Every effort was made to placate these gods in hopes of avoiding more bad things.
Elaborate rituals and belief systems were devised in an attempt to figure out how to have good weather, victory over enemies, good health, and survival of death. Interestingly, some of their archaic beliefs are still held today by those with uninquiring minds.
Connect with the tangible and sometimes instant benefits that accompany a deeper understanding of your eternal nature. Benefits include:
Once through the tunnel, the person usually meets beings of light. These beings aren't composed of ordinary light. They glow with a beautiful and intense luminescence that seems to permeate everything and fill the person with love. In fact, one person who went through this experience said, "I could describe this as 'light' o:r 'love' and it would mean the same thing."
They also describe this light as being much brighter than anything we experience on earth. But still, despite its brilliant intensity, it doesn't hurt the eyes. Instead, it's warm, vibrant, and alive.
After meeting several beings in light, the individual experiencing the Near-Death-Experience usually meets a supreme Being of Light. People with a Christian background often describe Him as God or Jesus. Those with other religious backgrounds may call him Buddha or Allah. But some have said that it's neither God nor Jesus, but someone bery holy nonetheless.
Whoever [this entity is], the Being radiates total love and understanding. So much so , that most people want to be with it forever.
But they can't. At this point there are told, usually by the Being of Light, that they have to return to their earthly body. But fires it's his job to take them on a life review.
All of the people who go through [an NDE] come away believing that the most important thing in their life is love.
For most of them, the second most important thing in life is knowledge. As they see life scenes in which they are learning things, the Being points out that one of the things they can take with them at [physical] death is knowledge. The other is love.
For many people, the NDE is such a pleasant evebnt that they don't want to return. As a result, they are frequently very angry at their doctors for bringing them back [regardless of what may have been going on with their lives here].
Two physician friends of mine first discovered NDEs for themselves when patients they saved became hostile.
One of them was resuscitating another physician who had just had a cardiac arrest. When the stricken man revived, he said angrily: "Carl, don't you ever do that to me again."
Carl was bewildered as to why this anger should arise. But later the revived physician took him aside and apologized for his behavior and explained his experience. "I was mad because you brought me back to death instead of life.
"It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not 'die,' but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
One NDEer I spoke to had been a minister of the fire and brinstome variety. It wasn't infrequent, he said, for him to tell his congregation that if they didn't believe the Bible in a certain way, they would be condemned to burn eternally.
When he went through his NDE, he said the being of light told him not to speak to his congregation like this anymore. But it was done in a nondemanding way. The being just implied that what he was doing was making the lives of his congregation miserable. When this precher returned to the pulpit, he did so with a message of love, not fear.
The first thing I saw when I awoke in the hospital was a flower, and I cried. Believe it or not, I had never really seen a flower until I came back from death. One big thing that I learned when I died was that we are all part of one big, li ving universe. If we thing we can hurt another person or another living thing without hurting ourselves, we are sadly mistaken. I look at a forestor a flower or a bird now, and say, "That is me, part of me." We are connected with all things an if we send love along those connections, then we are happy.
Once you've experience a spiritual paradise, wouldn't returning to the world be a drag for anyone?
Over two thousand years ago, Plato addressed this syndrome in The Republic. In his book, he invites us to imagine a subterranean world in which prisoners are held from birth, manacled and facing the back wall of a cavern, so that they can see only shadows from objects that move in front of the blazing fire behind them.
Suppose, he reasons, one of these prisoners was freed from his bonds and drawn upward, out of the cave entirely, into our world and its beauty. If he was then forced down into the world of shadows, Plato says, he would be ridiculed and derided by the prisoners who had never left the cave when he told them of his experiences. On top of such ridicule, he would have trouble conforming to the dogma of a now more restrictive world.
The naysayers, doubters, and disbelivers then kill him.
Liberal Christian theologian Marcus Borg enjoins us to focus our attention not only on contributing to charity but also on pressing for reforms to bring about more just structural systems:
"Charity is always good and will always be necessary, but historically Christians have been long on [charity] and sjort on [structural justice]. One reason is that charity never offends; a passion for justice often does."
To paraphrase Roman Catholic bishop Dom Helder Camara from Brazil:
"When I gave food to the poor, they called me a saint; when I asked why there were so many poor, they called me a communist" (Borg 2003, 201).
The Bible seems so conditioned by the ideas of the times in which it was written and to me bears no evidence of divine authorship. Must I be eternally damned because I can't believe that Samson, under the influence of your Spirit, avenged himself on his personal enemies by killing 1,000 of them with the jawbone of a donkey? Or because I see inconsistencies in the accounts and viewpoints of the biblical authors, such as whether Jehu was justified in killing the household of Ahab (Kings) or no (Hosea)? Or because I see many of the ethics of the Bible (for example, polygamy, taking virgins as war captives and slaughtering the rest, and slavery) as objectionable? Or because I see innumerable parallels between the myths of the Ancient Near East and those of the Bible, leading me to believe that they are in fact mere myths. Or that I can't see why you couldn't just forgive truly penitent people for their sins without requiring a blood sacrifice, just as humans forgive wach others? Or that I can't see any fundamental reason to choose Christianity over Islam except for evangelical Christianity's emphasis on a personal relationship with you (but there are sects withing Islam and other relitions that do emphasize sucn a relationship)?
In short, it seems quite clear to me that Christianity is just another religion like the others, perhaps a little more advanced thatn others, but a human creation nonetheless.
Thomas Paine championed human rights, fought slavery, and arguable more than any other individual shape dthe colonialists' vision of American independence from England and the nature of the ensuing government. Though he rejected the Bible and Christianity, he was a firm believer in God.
Paine was not a biblical scholar and some of his assertions were speculative and intemperate, many of his arguments were quite poignant, particularly the following:
If these account be true, [Moses] was the wretch that first began and carried on wars on the score or on the pretence of religion; and under that mask, or that infatuation, committed the most unexampled atrocities that are to be found in the history of any nation Of which I will sate only one instance:
When the Jewish army returned from one of their plundering and murdering excursions, the account goes on as follows (Numbers xxxi, 13 [KJV]):
"And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet then without the camp; and Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle; and Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women-children that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."
Among the detestable villains that in any period of the world have disgraced the name of man, it is impossible to find [anyone] greater than Moses, if this account be true. Here is an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers, and debauch the daughters.