One day I had dinner with a friend. We were talking about career, life, present, past, and future, the usual chat. One question came up about plans for the future and what we hope to achieve. He told me that his plan for his life is to retire when he is 64. After that, he would work on his farm growing cattle and enjoying a peaceful life. At the age of 72, he will be sick, and die at 74. I laughed, and asked him how does he know that he is going to die at 74. He answered me with a: "Don't you know statistics? Statistics say that men live until they are 74." He was convinced that he was going to live until 74. A few days later, my daughter came to tell me that one of her colleagues from high school died in a car accident. He was 21. I remembered my friend, and I said statistics do not mean a thing if it is about life and death. Even if statistics shows that 99% of the men die at 74, that is not a guarantee for anyone that he will live that long. He simply could be among the remaining 1%.
How little we know. Scientists tell us that this whole universe started 8, 15, or 20 billion years ago, and these days, each person lives for 1, 20, 70, or 90 years. Life span is very small compared to that of our universe. We live our lives in constant trials to improve our way of living. However, we are not sure if we are going to succeed or fail in those trials. But, only one thing is certain and that is everyone is going to die. As a matter of fact, we are born with a sentence of death. Now imagine that our life started in a courtroom when the judge announces that we are sentenced to death. Then our whole life is just like waiting for the judge to announce when, where, and how we are going to die. This is not an attempt to paint a gloomy picture on life. This is an honest attempt to put life in its real perspective, because this concept of living in a prison waiting the decision of the judge can actually improve life, set our priorities in order, and project a sense of humility in our life.
One time, I had problems with the air conditioning unit in my car during a hot summer. My priority at that time was to find an honest car mechanic to fix the car. I had so many troubles finding one. Few days later, I went to my physician to have a physical examination. He told me that he suspected cancer. Now, you can imagine what happened to my car problem! The cancer turned out to be a false alarm, and I am grateful to God for giving me more time.
How many times does a "healthy" person visit a doctor for a routine physical examination to be told that he is terminally ill and has few months to live? How many times does someone driving his car, get involved in a fatal car accident? How many times do people die in a natural catastrophe? The fact is we do not know when, where, and how we will die, and probably we do not want to think about death. However, the first step to understand many facts should start by believing the only shocking fact in our lives: death. To approach that, take the following priority test:
What would you do if you were told that?
You have 20 years to live?
You have 1 year to live?
You have 6 months to live?
You have one month to live?
You may die at any moment?
These are not the kind of questions that you read in a book, only to continue reading the next sentence. Ask yourself these questions, and stop here and think. Try to write your answers. When it comes to the possibility of knowing that you have only one month to live, very many things will change in your life. Your priorities will turn upside down. Things that used to bother you before will loose their significance. And other things that you used to ignore will become important.
The 15 Minutes Criterion
Now, try something else. Imagine yourself laying down in bed, and you are in your final moments. Actually, your final 15 minutes in this life. What are you going to be thinking of? How are you going to evaluate your life? Is there something that you wanted to do and kept postponing it? Did you actually live your life the way you wanted?
Remembering death could be a very positive experience in our lives. You can use "The 15 Minutes Criterion" to overcome many frustrations in life. When you face many of the disappointing situations in your life, you can judge the importance of that frustration by whether or not you will think about it during your last 15 minutes before death. Next time you have a frustrating experience, remember the 15 minutes criterion, and put that experience in its real magnitude.
People who encountered a near death situation tell us that their priorities changed drastically. They say that they started appreciating flowers, human relations, etc. Some even start thinking about God. The question is why should we have to wait for a near death experience to think or feel. And are we going to have a second chance of life or are we not going to have a chance at all.
One day I attended a very interesting speech by Dr. Nizam Peerrwani, the medical examiner of Fort Worth, Texas, about death from a scientific point of view. The following is an extract from his speech:
"Medically, death is only an abstract noun which is meaningful to laymen, lawyers, philosophers and the clergy but which is very inadequate as a biological description. It is, however, a useful and convenient term to describe death as a disintegrating biological process in which we may recognize a beginning and an end, with striking changes in between. Although legally and religiously, there is a precise moment of death, there is really no moment in time at which it occurs. We die in bits and pieces, hence medically, we can only state with reasonable certainty that death occurs when it can be demonstrated that an irreversible disintegrating process has started.
We recognize that there are three independent systems necessary for the maintenance of life, namely respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems. Failure of any one system leads to the failure of the other two, and thus death occurs. Since the precise moment of death is a legal definition, there had to be some legal criteria based upon medical understanding of the process of death. Death was defined by the simple criteria of the failure of either the cardiac or the respiratory system. No mention, thus far, was made of the nervous system. In the 1960s, the advent of human organ transplantation caused scrutiny to be directed towards the definition of death. Tissues such as heart valves, bone, skin, cornea, and tendon can be used from a non-heart-beating donor. Other organs such as hearts, kidneys, livers etc. can only be used from heart-beating donors. Committees were formed to examine the exact definition of death, tens of whom were physicians representing various medical specialties such as anesthesiology, neurology, pathology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, general surgery, and internal medicine, as well as lawyers, theologians, and historians of science. The purpose of these committees is to try to distinguish true brain death with irreversible termination of brain function from vegetative state in which a patient in a coma may exhibit spontaneous respiration upon removal of life support systems or may have brain stem reflexes. There is no complete agreement on the exact moment of death, and any existing criteria of death may be challenged in courts. The conclusion is that we do not understand fully the only common fact in our lives. And the irony is there are those who claim relentlessly that they know all the facts in the universe."
How can anyone be arrogant after knowing what is going to happen after being pronounced dead. Medically, body changes become evident in the first and subsequent hours after death. These changes include four steps:
1. Body cooling: body begins to lose its temperature at approximately 1/2 - 1 degrees each hour until it reaches that of the environment, provided that the environment is colder than that of the body.
2. Body stiffening: shortly after death, within 3 - 4 hours, the body begins to stiffen. By the 12th hour after death, the entire body is stiff. Once the body begins to decompose, it then begins to lack firmness.
3. Gravitation of blood: with the termination of the heartbeat, blood begins to collect in the dependent portions of the body after death. Within 8 - 10 hours after death, blood is pooled in all these areas and cannot be displaced if the body is turned over.
4. Decomposition: decomposition involves different processes, which may occur singly or in combination. Decomposition of a body includes the following:
Breakdown of cells and organs caused by slow down of chemical processes by lack of heat.
Bacterial growth in the tissues generally arises from the large bowel where they reside in large numbers during life. Bacterial growth affects the tissues by changing their color, producing multiple different gases, and resulting in gradual softening of the tissues.
Mummification when bodies are buried in dry or warm soil due to dehydration.
Some of the fatty tissues are transformed into a soap-like substance.
Thus the human being decomposes to chemicals worth approximately 5 dollars buried in the ground, while some humans, throughout their lives, have pride worth a million dollars. Death transforms the life of a human being from a state of action without knowledge to a state of knowledge without action. If we truly know that we are going to die, how can we be arrogant or stubborn? Arrogance is the main reason why we do not think straight. If you search for one human trait that produced so much pain and suffering, that took humanity in wrong directions, and that started wars: it is arrogance. Hitler started the Second World War because he believed in the supremacy of the German race. History tells us of pharaohs and kings who placed themselves above everyone else to the extent of making themselves gods. Arrogance is the one single character that destroys peace and security that everyone is trying to achieve. After all, it is the original sin of Satan.
Humans start life weak and helpless and end life the same way. But somehow in between, people acquire some power and knowledge and that is when most people acquire varied degrees of arrogance. In many cases, in different professions, you find people that think of themselves as the elite or the chiefs. They think that they know everything, and they have an answer to every problem. They have a complete vision of how this whole world should be run, and how people should think or live. Tyrants and dictators think the same way.
Somehow, humans tend to think that they are immortal and invulnerable. When we attend a funeral, and see a dead body laying in the ground, we feel sad for a while. But then life goes on, and we convince ourselves that it is the other person who died and not we. As a matter of fact, we may convince ourselves that we still have a long way to go. We may even blame the deceased for his death, because he did not know how to protect himself from diseases. But we are smart enough to defend ourselves against viruses and bacteria, and we will do a much better job in protecting ourselves. When someone is paralyzed for life or dies in an airplane or car accident, we may tend to blame the pilot or the car driver for not being careful enough. We do not think for a moment that a car accident may happen because the driver lost his concentration for a split second, as many of us often do. We simply believe that we are invulnerable. One of the effective ways of acquiring humility is to constantly remind ourselves that we are vulnerable, and anything may happen to us on this very day. It is particularly helpful if you start your day by reminding yourself with your vulnerability to any kind of accident or catastrophe, without being paranoid.
I added the last disclaimer "without being paranoid" to avoid the casual use of the "Yes-But" rule of speech as a comment on the last paragraph. Someone may comment: "Yes I will remind myself with my vulnerability, but I don’t have to live in fear." Quite frequently when two persons are discussing a subject, and one presents a point of view, the other uses this rule by saying "Yes" you are right in your statement, "But" you are wrong because you failed to add so and so, or you ignored this or that fact! Watch this rule during conversation, and you will be amazed how much is revealed about the arrogance of the person using this rule!
During the Renaissance in Europe, the rise of science resulted in the healthy and much needed function of freeing Europeans from the stifling grip of the church’s control. This intellectual movement produced great scientists like Isaac Newton who developed the gravitational theory that was very effective in explaining the dynamics of the universe. However, Newton understood his limitations and the limitations of one of the great scientific achievement in history. Newton acknowledged:
"To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age."
He had special trouble trying to understand the actual nature of gravity. While his theory predicted the effects of gravity quite accurately, it said nothing about the mechanism by which gravity acts. Newton was a devout believer. In fact, he believed that gravity is a divine action; in effect, a stone fell because God’s finger was pushing it down. It is interesting to know that hundreds of years later, scientists still do not understand the exact nature of gravity. All what we know about gravity that it exists and it works according to Newton’s theory. But we do not know why it works. Newton was ranked number 2 in "THE 100 a ranking of the most influential persons in history" book by Michael Hart. Jesus was ranked number 3 in that book. I will keep you guessing of who ranked number one in this book, but you will know him near the end of this book.
On the other hand, the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) developed the sociology as a separate social science. He wanted to get rid of traditional deities. To satisfy the needs of the unsophisticated masses, Comte proposed a new church presided by scientists, not priests, as saints. Comte suggested that he would be willing to serve as Pope of the scientists. However, he became increasingly grandiose and died insane.
Newton and Comte represent scientists with two completely opposite approaches. The former knew his limitations and the limitations of his work, while the latter failed to realize his limitations and did not know when to stop. Throughout history, science has provided answers for questions that start with "how", but has never been able to answer who or why. Religion is the only logical way to provide answers to who and why. The answer is consistently: "God, and He wants it this way."
Humans should be grateful to God for having limited senses, because our lives would be really hell if we had unlimited vision and hearing. Can you imagine yourself having unlimited vision and your eyes having the power of electron microscope? How can you move if you want to avoid all the viruses and bacteria in the air, and they exist by the millions around you? How can you pick up a glass of water to drink if you see all the atoms in the glass and water is mixed with viruses and bacteria? How can you eat if you see every cell, alive or dead, in your favorite meal? Now suppose that your ears have the power of hearing every sound on earth with the same intensity. This would be like having millions of radios with each one tuned to one radio station on the planet earth. All of those radio stations are turned up at the same time. If someone has unlimited vision and hearing, one may not last for 10 minutes before going totally insane. It is therefore a mercy from God that humans have limited senses.
In our time, some scientists treat hypothesis as facts and realities. When some scientists and educators assert that evolution without God is undisputed fact, and imply that only the ignorant refuses to believe it, how many laymen are going to challenge them? When a scientist hosts a TV show explaining discovery of bits and pieces of ancient bones and claims that as proof that we descended from apes, how can laymen argue with him? When a scientist describes the universe and its galaxies and implies that serious modern scientists do not see evidence of God, how many unbelievers or semi believers contradict him? And if one questions their scientific arguments, one would be accused of not being serious or modern or scientific. This sheer weight of authority is brought to the defense of evolution and atheism. Moreover, books, magazine articles, movies, and TV programs treat evolution as an established fact. Often times, we hear or read a sentence like "when man evolved from the lower animals" or "millions of years ago when life started in the oceans."
Some people are therefore programmed and brain washed to accept evolution as a fact, and the contrary evidence passes unnoticed. It is the arrogance of some scientists that prevents them from admitting that there is a possibility that they are wrong. Some scientists do not always base their conclusions on facts. They are also people and much is at stake, for there are decorated prizes in the form of fame, research grants, and publicity. Sometimes science is powered by individual ambitions and is very susceptible to preconceived ideas. The scientist, whose 1992 study linking high voltage power lines to cancer, stirred public fear. In 1999, he was found to have faked his data by using only 7% of his samples to substantiate his conclusion. This scientist received over three million dollars in federal grants for his research.
Some people reject the concept of God because they feel, as it has been said, "seeing is believing." However, in their daily life they acknowledge the existence of many things that cannot be seen, such as air, gravity, radio or television waves, electricity, magnetism, and the Big Bang. We have not seen the Big Bang, but there are evidences that it happened. We have not seen radio waves, but there are evidences that they exist. Similarly, there is no physical way to see or subject God to human analysis, but there are overwhelming evidences that He exists. The irony is that some people accept the existence of the unseen waves or electricity based upon evidences, but they refuse to apply the same standard to God. When it comes to the concept of God, some people prefer to see Him as an old man smoking cigars as in the Hollywood movie "Oh God."
Consider two living beings such as a tiny ant and a huge elephant, do you think that the ant can see or measure the size of the elephant. Does the ant have any way of knowing exactly what the elephant is doing all the time? Even if the ant knows what the elephant is doing at one time, does it know why? It is the arrogance of some people that prevents them from admitting that they are so tiny with limited senses and knowledge. The ant may realize that it is limited to comprehend the existence and size of the elephant, but some people think that they have unlimited senses that they have to see or measure God to believe. This example should be referred to when we are stuck with something that we cannot hope to understand.
Another factor that helps keeping God away from our life is the school systems. In some countries, religion is forbidden from being taught in schools. Other countries, that allow teaching religion in schools, give religious classes the lowest priority after science, history, and languages. In some Islamic countries, religion is the last class when students are tired from school and they are ready to go home. Also, Physics teachers never mention the sentence "praise God" when, for example, they explain gravity. They never mention what Newton himself thought about gravity, or say that we really do not know how it works and ask the students to think about it as a miracle from God. Some biology teachers fail to mention that we do not fully understand the complex chemical processes in the cell or what exactly is the origin of energy required for life and how it works. Teaching in schools does not encourage intellectual or spiritual concepts. Some teachers have their subjects ready to be spilled out upon the students, and that is the end of it.
An additional reason leading to human’s confusion is the failure of the men of religion to convince the masses that they are good examples to follow. The scandals and corruption of the TV Evangelists are a reason for people to think about the religious record of hypocrisy. When one religious leader is found to be a hypocrite, the unreasonable approach, of condemning all religions with hypocrisy, prevails. Moreover, people think that religious institutions have turned into a big show business. They observe religious programs on TV, where the host sings, cries, screams, and dances in a way that competes with the best actor in Hollywood. People have observed clergy support for murderous dictators. They know that people of the same religion have killed one another by the millions in war, with the clergy backing each side. People after that tend to condemn the religion itself and every one that tries to talk about religion.
In the second century, the philosopher Praxeas promoted the idea that God, the father, and God, the son, were so completely unified that both the father and the son were crucified and died on the cross. "God is dead" became a slogan used by several theologians and philosophers. The strong wave of atheism started in the beginning of the nineteenth century using that slogan. The advances in science and technology created a strong drive of atheism and freedom from religion. This was a direct consequence of the doctrines and control of the western church. On one hand Christianity defines itself as a monotheistic religion. On the other hand it is based on the polytheistic concept of Trinity. Also, the crucifixion of Jesus helped fueling the notion that "God is dead."
The nineteenth century was the century in which controversial figures such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud introduced atheistic ideas and philosophies. Their ideas affected most of the human aspects of life such as the origin of life, the economical and political systems, the philosophy, and the human behavior. In the present time, a group of so called scientists and philosophers, adopted the approach of promoting Darwinism more than Darwin, Marxism more than Marx, and Freudism more than Freud. This group considers themselves the elite of the society, and they are using every available means to promote their ideas of atheism.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist. He wrote his book The Origin of Species in 1856, where he formulated his theory of evolution. In this book he addressed the origin of life, a subject that sparks curiosity for all humans. Charles Darwin was the grandson of the eccentric evolutionist Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802). He was appointed as a naturalist on HM Beagle to survey wildlife in South America. In 1871, he published The Descent of Man. In this book, he advocated that humans were the products of biological evolution, and that they descended from primitive animals. He believed that both humans and apes were descendants of a common primitive ancestor. Religious people from all religions considered the evolution a notion contrary to the basic belief of creation by an omnipotent God. The work of Darwin is regarded the most anti-religious and most materialistic propaganda in history. The third chapter of this book will analyze the evolution hypothesis, and will prove that it is a fraud.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German political philosopher and economist. He founded the communism based upon a materialistic explanation of history. Marx considered the religion as "the opium of people" that produced humans incapable of efficient production. His theory of "historical materialism" advocated that social and political changes were heavily influenced by the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeois. God, religion, and spirituality were dismissed from his materialistic system. He suggested that God could not help the human suffering of the oppressed and the poor. He advocated that religion and God were tools in the hands of the Church and the bourgeois to control the masses. The ideas of Marx started the Soviet revolution, and established the Soviet empire that failed miserably in just 70 years. No other empire in history lasted such a short time. The effect of Darwin on Marx is interesting. When Marx read Darwin's book, the Origin of Species, he admired the materialistic and the atheistic concepts of the book. Marx found the material needed to dismantle all religious belief and promote his materialistic approach. The founders of the Soviet Union established a science museum in Moscow, which shows the fossils of ancient species, for the purpose of eliminating religion with the support of scientific data!
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher. In 1882, he adopted the ideas of Praxeas when he proclaimed that God was dead. He wrote, "Where has God gone? I tell you - we have killed him, you and I - we all are his murderers... God is dead. God will remain dead." He believed that eliminating God from the human life would improve the quality of life. He was also plagued throughout his life by poor eyesight, and migraine headaches. He was driven to madness by the complete rejection of his contemporaries to his ideas. The more he was ignored, the more he combated Christianity and its moral claims. Nietzsche claimed that new values could be established to replace the traditional ones, and this led to his concept of the superman. He envisioned the superman to replace God, and to fight the moral values of the Church. Concentrating on the real world, rather than on the rewards of the afterlife promised by religion, the superman stresses the importance of this life, including the suffering and pain that accompany human existence. His superman is a creator of a "master morality" that reflects the strength and independence of someone who is liberated from all traditional values. He believed democracy to be fatal to society, and attributed most of its failure to Christianity. Nietzsche’s ideas profoundly affected the official philosophy and propaganda of the Nazis, where the German race was considered a superior one. He died in Weimar on August 25, 1900, after a life of bitter disappointments.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian physician who established the framework of the psychoanalysis. He regarded belief in God as an illusion that requires psychological help. Human Being created the concept of God through the manipulation of the unconscious. Freud viewed God as a projection of human weaknesses and strong desire of mortality. Religion was a necessary step in the undeveloped societies, but now science can take its place. Freud was strongly articulate about his faith in science: "No, our science is not an illusion! An illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give, we can get elsewhere." He suggested that people must outgrow God in their own pace: "to force them into atheism or secularism before they were ready could lead to unhealthy denial and repression." Freud associated the origin of religion to his myth of the Oedipus complex. This myth describes how a group of sons, jealous of their father’s control over their mother, united and killed the father. Then, as atonement for their act of murder, they worshipped the figure of the father as God the Father. It is interesting to suggest that Freud got this idea of God’s projection as a father from the Christian doctrines of trinity. Freud also regarded sexual desires and fears as existing in the unconscious of everyone’s mind. This concept was shocking to the Victorians in the same manner as Darwin’s claim of evolution. Now, a number of new books attacking Freud and his brainchild psychoanalysis for a generous array of errors, duplicities, fudged evidence and scientific howlers. The continuing success of drugs in the treatment or alleviation of mental disorders ranging from depression to schizophrenia undermines the Freudian foundations. In the present time some scientists question if Freud is finally dead!
Sometimes I wonder what were the above-mentioned four pioneers of atheism thinking of when they were dying. Were they envisioning that they are going to turn to dust and this is it? Now the new generations of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud are gaining power in the TV, magazines, books, and unfortunately in the schools. Sometimes it looks like we are living in a system totally committed to atheism or at least promoting the notion of keeping God in His place if he exists. Between schools, media, and modern serious science many people do not have chance to think about God.
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