By: Waleed Shareef 11/9/2014
Some statistics estimate that there could exist 4200 religions in the world today. There have also been some statistics floating around online that states the total number of religions that could have existed during the 150,000 plus years of man’s reign on the earth could be over 65,000. Also, with many of these religions being polytheistic (or believing in many gods), human kind could have believed in millions of gods during our history. However, they were all right. At least that is what each of the untold billions of people who worshiped these Gods and religions believed.
In Ancient Egypt for over 4000 years, many of the faithful went to their graves believing in such deities as Ra and Osiris. They would have probably rolled their eyes at you and maybe even killed you if you doubted that Osiris did not hold the keys to your entrance into the afterlife. Let’s not forget, they were right. At least that is what they would have tried to convince you. They built temples and massive structures that stand to this very day. Their testament to their belief would have made some of our modern churches look puny in comparison, because after all, they were right. Look at the great temple of Abu Simbel; this was a large temple carved into a mountain. Only someone who believed they were extremely right would invest that much effort into their church’s construction. They even had books to support their religion such as The Book of Nut or (The Fundamentals of the Course of the Stars). These texts were not hastily thrown together scribbling’s of a strange cult, but were teachings and beliefs widely held by a large population. And if you were to journey back in a time machine and approach your average laborer toiling away on the temples steps and ask him how he knew he was right, he would have smiled at you knowingly and asked how it was that you could not believe. “Why, look at all of the writings and temples and ‘facts’ that you can see for yourself. Shouldn't the many scrolls and manuscripts be ‘fact’ enough for you?” The incredulous worker would then continue to build the temple as he would shake his head in utter disbelief that you have the audacity to question that which you should know to be accurate. After all, he would have been right…right?
In Germanic and Norse Mythology, they worshiped such Gods as Odin. Before this, like many people in the ancient Roman world, they worshiped such gods as Mercury, and Jupiter. And during the thousands of years that these gods were worshipped (before they became the thing of comic books and car company names), people would travel happily to their graves knowing that gods like Odin had a place for them in Valhalla, or the heaven where those who died in battle went. If you asked your average marine today who was dying on the battlefield, what he was going to do once he reached Valhalla, he would probably be very perplexed, but this sure put a smile on a dying Vikings face. After all, he would have been right…or at least that is what he would have told you. How could you doubt this belief? Wasn’t it self-evident that all of these worshipers were right?
And now in this modern era we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists… and the list goes on. And of course all of these people who worship these religions are right. They’d have to believe they were right or else so many people would not dedicate so much of their time worshiping under the teachings of these religions if they did not think that they were following the correct path. Consider the relatively new religion of Tenrikyo (which was started in the 19th century). Approximately 2 million people worship this Japanese religion. They even have a “bible” called the Ofudesaki. These works were written by the founder Nakayama Miki, who supposedly was possessed by God when she wrote it. The followers of this religion feel that these teachings are right, just like Christians feel that the words in the Bible are right. Similarly, Muslims feel that the words in the Koran are right, and this is the same sentiment that is held by every religion that possesses their own sacred books (check out the article Read Your Bible).
Saying that all of these people are right is being facetious. The reality is that being right is based often on where someone was born, and what their parents believed. Religion often is not justification driving belief, but belief driving the justification. In other words, because most people are already lifelong members of these religions, they seek the “evidence” of their religion’s truth to prove why their belief is well founded. They do not start with the evidence before they become a believer, but are already believers that simply need the means to explain why they believe.
So consequently, it does not matter whether someone is right or wrong because the belief in rightness or wrongness as required by science is not the same standard that is required by the followers of these religions. Being right is about tradition. If traditionally your parents followed the teachings in a certain book, or attended a certain place of worship, then you are right in doing the same. Therefore, when someone says that an atheist or agnostic is wrong, they are not saying that these individuals are not scientifically correct, but that these people have ignored the traditions and social morays that govern the society in which they live. If these are the standards by which right or wrong is judged, then are we, as agnostics, not justified in the doubt that we possess?