Post Ed. There were 6 Canadian soldiers killed over in Afghanistan today. My thoughts and prayers go out for them and their families.
This is an interesting time of year because it highlights the histories and mysteries of the Christian church, and the messages of Jesus the man. Among his teachings He preached that people should be forgiving, and not self-centered. That actually has many important implications for how nations and diverse groups relate. Imagine if everyone were actually like that, you could expect to see much less fighting, more empathy, less greed and more sharing. For religious people this certainly makes sense, but it can for non-religious people as well. If Jesus were here today He might not care if you were a "religious" person, or a church-goer, but that you lived honestly, were caring, not hurtful, empathetic and forgiving. Those attributes can cover many problems, and prevent many as well. It is based on reason. How one lives is what counts.
On religion in general, there are many kinds of it, lots of variety in rituals, prayers, songs, and beliefs. For the entrepreneurial types, it is merely a vehicle for making profits, for others the whole bible is to be taken outrightly as literal. In any case, there still remains much mystery about Jesus. Most of his life is not documented but the last couple of years that were is what changed the world.
Today people from every walk of life have varying philosophical viewpoints on life. Some conceive individual philosophies to try and understand life, while again others from every walk of life choose churches of different faiths to guide their spirituality. There you will find highly educated, deep thinking, traditional believers, sporadic church goers, people who believe in some teachings of the church but not all, people who believe in it all but don't live by it, and people who are the most decent, kind, caring and loving people.
Since science broke out of the religious grip centuries ago and was no longer seen as heretical, there became a divide between science based on reason and evidence, and religion. Today the view is that there is hardly an estrangement between the two. For example, the Director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins, is a scientist and a believer in God. He sees no discrepancy between believing in evolution and God. He was an atheist for many years while working as a surgeon. There he was faced with life and death all the time and began wondering more philosophically of how the world began and what happened after we die.
Creation is indeed the ultimate mystery. Let's go back 13.5 billion years to when our universe first began. In reference to the big bang theory a small unimaginably dense amount of matter exploded, and at millions of miles per second, with material, gases, particles, going in every direction, expanded into what we now know as the universe. If that's how the universe started, then the ultimate question is, well how did the matter get there in the first place. This is the point in which Dr. Collins thought, there had to be a creator, "God", who did this. But even more mysterious, is if God created the matter which made the universe, of which the planets, life and eventually we as humans eventually evolved, then where did God come from? It's an impossible question to answer because how can you conceive of nothing creating something? How can someone have always existed? So while we try to figure that one out, Jesus, whether you believe He was the son of God or not, did leave important teachings to live by. Then again, other religions did too, like the Buddhist Eightfold Path, similiar to the Ten Commandments. You will likely find many good lines to live by in many world religions, and also from many non-religious people and groups.
While there are people who predictably but subtly like to equate religion with non-intellectualism or not being open-minded, perhaps some of their treasured lines to live by are very similiar to teachings from Jesus and other religious doctrines. It is valuable to find more of what people have in common, i.e., their beliefs, to build bridges to communication instead of walls of prejudice and understanding.
I personally am not a big church goer, and have lots of questions about events 2000 years ago, but I see much goodness in people I know who do believe in God and Jesus very much. I can't help but admire and respect them. It is sad when others try to belittle that which is so meaningful to people like this. Then again, nobody's perfect. Happy Easter to you.