Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
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Since the times of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia till nowadays religion and spirituality have always been an integral part of human life. Obviously, many centuries ago, the existence of deities was the only possible explanation of different mysterious and, at those times, inexplicable phenomena, such as lightning and thunder, earthquakes and floods, birth and death. At these days, however, when science and technology give the insight to how the universe is built, people are still fond of religious and spiritual practices. And these are not only the ancient beliefs that remain popular even nowadays, but also new convictions which evolve day by day.
Every now and then each person comes to wondering what we all are living for, where we came from and where we are going to. In most cases, it is a particular religious belief which suggests possible solutions to the riddles. Nevertheless, it seems that traditional religions sometimes fail to give reasonable answers to the questions about human life. For example, the idea that Adam and Eve gave birth to all the people on Earth does not sound plausible, especially when books on biology say that a human being appeared as the result of the evolution.
In modern world, where everyone has the unlimited access to the information, each person is free to choose any religion he or she wants. It is a commonplace to switch from one faith to another, and do it as many times as needed until the spiritual balance is reached. Really, since almost every religion has a means of propaganda, being born into a family of, for instance, Christians, a child can easily convert into Kabbalism when coming of age.
Such freedom of choice suggests that people want to be fully responsible for their own lives. The believers of modern society are no longer satisfied with the ideas someone imposes on them. It is not enough to read about prophets’ visions and blindly follow the dogmas. They want to see the visions themselves. According to Adler, people of the twenty-first century do not want to have a god who commands them, but a religion that “empowers” them.
Consequently, it becomes somewhat fashionable to have near death experience, to be able to leave a physical body, or to have a chance to communicate with god “in person”. On the Internet, one may find on-line chats where people exchange their experience and give pieces of advice. As Adler says, “Beliefnet, the religious website, sends out more than 8 million daily e-mails of spiritual wisdom in various flavors to more than 5 million subscribers”. In other words, the believers try to feel god within themselves. However, it does not mean that people betray their religions. Adler suggests that “a dogmatic faith unsupported by personal experience remains empty; mere personal experience unrelated to the faith of the Church remains blind.”
Interestingly, there is a tendency among people to call themselves “spiritual” rather than “religious”. This probably means that they hold to the idea of the existence of some deity, but their understanding of the phenomenon is very individual, and none of the existing gods fits it. Such situation often arises from the combination of religion and science. What seems absolutely impossible and magic one day may be proved very plain and realistic the next one. So, science finds sound explanations to the things that religion calls divine. On the other hand, new discoveries entail new enigmas. Thus, the need of communication with God is only growing stronger. Anyways, in most cases, many scientists claim that religion and science do not have to contradict, but supplement each other, because scientific experiments can help define the nature of spiritual experiences.
It is also worth mentioning that a person may be spiritual without trust in any of gods. One may not be interested in paradise or hell, rising from the dead or reincarnation. Still, there are people who spend hours in meditation and deep contemplation trying to find balance between their physiological and psychological existence. In fact, some people claim that every living organism on Earth is a part of universe or larger reality. This idea suggests that everything that happens has a reason and is interconnected. A person should not see oneself as a mortal individual, but as a part of eternal universal mechanism. To become happy, a human being must reach peace and live in harmony with the world. Meditations and prayers are not the only way to achieve this balance. There is so-called Secular spiritualism, the main idea of which is to go beyond materialistic needs and develop such personal qualities as love to others, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and other character traits which help change the world for better.
Apart from the abovementioned religious cults, some ancient esoteric practices are popular nowadays, as well. Their techniques are many and various: their followers worship minor divinities and consult shamans and fortune-tellers, raise ghosts and perform ritual dances. According to Adler, “The Hasidim pray ecstatically; they dance with the Torah; they fast to achieve a higher spiritual state, and they drink wine for the same reason”. There is also fetishism which is present basically in any existing religion. People carry crosses, talismans and amulets hoping that their charm will protect them from the evil. In any case, they are all in search of the spiritual awareness.
In conclusion, no matter how frantic the pace of modern life is, there is always the place for God in human hearts. The existing variety of religious beliefs suggests that spiritual realm evolves together with our society. Everyone can make their own choice as what to believe in.One may worship Jesus, Allah or Buddha, change one religion to another, pray, meditate, perform magic or try to make the world a better place. In any case, modern society preserves the spiritual values.