Seeing Is Believing - But Not in Every Case
Religion is a critical factor in the daily lives of most of Earth's inhabitants and a strong influence in the behavior of mankind.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, religion is the catalyst that creates wars and conflicts in general.
Were it not for the extreme interpretations of our Maker, we might indeed have peace on earth. Attempts at amalgamating religious beliefs, or at least tolerating and accepting them, such as the Bahai movement, have generally failed.
Personally, I was born in a Methodist family where my grandfather was an important figure in his church, teaching Sunday school a few months before he died at age 91. My parents and siblings abandoned the Methodist church in spite of my grandfather's close connection and we became Episcopalians, whose culture seemed less concerned about smoking and drinking. Not that this was the only stimulus for converting. One of my Sunday school teachers was Max Morath, who became famous as a ragtime pianist.
As I became more familiar with Judaism, Buddhism and other religions I decided that Christianity was just another set of beliefs that taught that there was only one way to salvation. I still don't believe that Christ is the only path to redemption, salvation and the Promised Land. I don't go to church anymore.
I am not sure there is life after death, and I am a firm believer in evolutionary theory as opposed to creationism. Too much evidence supports us being developed over time rather than descending from Adam and Eve.
I've always believed that Jesus Christ was really a person and a powerful messenger of God but have doubted sometimes that he was truly the son of God.
Recently, however, I visited the Holy Land, including Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem, where actual mysteries and miracles are described in the Holy Bible. I passed through Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. I have a hard time with this one.
At another site on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus created enough fish and bread for everyone. Hmm.
I saw the house where Mary lived and the spring a fair distance away where she was approached by the angel Gabriel while fetching water. It was there Gabriel told her of her imminent pregnancy with baby Jesus. Her house was actually a stone cave, and Catholic church services are performed there daily. I say actually, but who really knows?
A visit to the Gardens of Gethsemane following a stop at the top of the Mount of Olives provided a surreal background for the vision we have of Christ's Last Supper and acceptance of his imminent death and betrayal by his disciples. The imagination works overtime here. All in one place, one can see the sites of Jesus' sentencing, crucifixion, burial and ascension.
Other parts of the Bible, to me, are folk tales of the times and not necessarily documented facts.
The Wailing Wall is an essential experience when in Jerusalem and, while not central to Christendom, is important to Jews because of its nearness to the Holy Ark. It is truly a spectacle, in a positive sense, because of the range of prayerful and traditional activities that go on there.
After these two days of absorbing biblical history and witnessing the venues of so many New and Old Testament events, I must say that my religious outlook has changed in a positive way. I even picked up a Bible and started reading some of the verses relating to the things and places I saw.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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