Monday, January 10, 2011

On History and Religion, part one

Our history defines who we are and where we are going, and yet our history is shrouded in mystery.

Recent history is illuminated fairly well, thanks to modern record keeping and the culture having evolved but not changed so much that people from three hundred years ago are alien to us. It is easy to understand what they did, how they did it and why they did it. Looking back farther, though, things become less and less clear. Factors affecting this include the distance in time, difference in culture, and possibly even some deliberate obscurity to facts. Still, events and daily life of medieval times are far more clear to us than BC life.

I consider the concept that if it didn't happen within my lifetime or in a place where I was not present, then for me it is not real. Now I realize that events happen whether or not I am there or alive, but I can't tell anyone for certain that those events happened because I did not directly witness them. It is reasonable to increase the scope to events witnessed by people you know, other people alive at the same time as you, and people you've met from generations previous who experienced events prior to your own birth.

Where I am at currently in my life, this means that I cannot vouch for events that occured prior to 1904 (earliest DOB for a great-grandparent) or outside the area of Pennsylvania/Maryland and at times most of the eastern coast of the US. Compared to all of time and space, that is a miniscule amount of occurance for which I can personally vouch and say it is in fact part of the history of the world.

As for everything else, I must determine whether or not I trust the source (or that information from that source hasn't been altered or degraded over time) and add it to what I believe is part of actual human history.

In this way of thinking, everything becomes questionable.

Applying this to certain areas of history brings about more questions than it could possibly answer. For example, at what point did the Bible go from being considered actual written history to being a solely religious novel considered by most to be parable and metaphor? We only recently have had the instantaneous global communication, travel, and internet, so it is harder for us to immediately grasp the idea that all those writings had to be collected and grouped together into one book, and that along the way anyone could have had their way with those writings. Once the book was collected, it had to travel and make its way to wide spread areas, and again it would have been open season to make it out to be whatever the person holding it wanted.

In India, it is widely accepted and believed that the Vedas are books of historical fact rather than myth. There is no question to those believers that Vimana were real flying machines that were used in daily life on this planet. Because there has been no physical evidence of them found, they are widely accepted elsewere to be yet another religious text that teaches proper ways of living through metaphor and myth.

I have a different take on the writings held to be myth or solely religious in nature, and one of reasons for my belief is that most of these texts refer to the same events and even roughly the same timeline.

I will discuss these similarities in part two tomorrow.

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