The belief that human life is subordinate to God, that we are responsible for our own actions and will be judged by the Creator, is simply an unbearable thought for the non-believer.
In the film version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings”, directed by Peter Jackson, two of the main characters have the following conversation just prior to a dramatic battle:
– “I didn’t think that life would end like this.”
– “End? The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just a new path. One everyone must travel … towards the white beaches below. There lies a fertile country and a new sunrise.”
The most important thing is for man to grasp this most profound meaning of life, which is the salvation of the soul, he says.
When man opens his mind to the metaphysical reality of God, he connects to another sphere of existence than the purely materialistic and tangible dimension. He thereby begins to understand the vanity of this present life, what really matters the few years we are here, and he prepares for death as a passing to the next dimension of reality – the afterlife.
The Metaphysical World: Literature is full of statements that illustrate how critical the question of life after death is to the living. To reflect on the meaning of life and how man, if possible, may live as content as possible in this life and after that in the next, is a major concern of religion that also touches moral philosophy.
In Western civilization, religion has throughout history been intertwined with philosophy, arts, literature, architecture, music, the social sciences and a range of other disciplines.
The leading political scientist and atheist, Jürgen Habermas interestingly points out that when post-metaphysical thought reflects on its own history, it refers not only to Western philosophy’s metaphysical heritage but also to the origin of classical Greek philosophy, about 500 years BC.
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According to Habermas, religions that have their roots in this particular period of time have managed the leap from a structure of mythical tales to a discourse that distinguishes between essence and form in a manner similar to Greek philosophy.
Since the Church Council of Nicaea in 325, philosophy has followed and assimilated many religious motives and concepts of redemption, especially those from the story of salvation.
Sociologist Max Weber has identified quite a number of common characteristics between religions. They all deal with the problem of evil, suffering and the righteousness of God, which he calls theodicy.
Religion attempts to create a basis for moral actions that will profit man, as man’s actions are interlinked with consequences in the afterlife. If there is a life after death, it becomes important to avoid its punishment and receive its rewards.
This transpires a basic need to understand how God’s justice functions, since He, according to the Christian religion, provides compensation for the injustice experienced in this life with rewards in the next. He sees the evil done to the innocent. Moreover, He will, on the last day, place His judgment upon those who trespass against others.
The concept of Judgment Day involves a belief in the apocalypse where the world as we know it will be destroyed and the dead will be resurrected in order to face the Almighty on a final day of judgment. Each person’s life will be shown to him, rolled out like a scroll, or a film in review.
Man should, therefore, use his freedom of choice not to only do what he wants to, but what he ought to.
The Metaphysical World: Ultimately, to do what gives selfish pleasure and well-being is not the goal, but rather to do that which benefits the betterment of human kind, – “love thy God and love thy neighbor.”
Religions suggest remedies to the ills of this world and seek to show a way out of pain and suffering. Since faith in the supernatural explains how people should deal with suffering and how to avoid it, religion may provide one of the keys to understanding people’s actions.
According to Weber, the human psyche has inherent needs that extend beyond the observable. Man is driven to think deeply about ethical and religious questions, not just because he searches for the golden mean to achieve a satisfactory life, but also because he has an inner desire to understand the world as a meaningful place.
Man needs to know why he is here and the purpose of living.