THE FOURLIFE CATECHISM

doctrine for a modern polytheistic religion

by James Grossmann


PART ONE: ABOUT THE CREED
PART TWO: ABOUT THE GODS
PART THREE: ABOUT PEOPLE
PART FOUR: ABOUT THE AFTERLIVES
PART FIVE: ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE GODS
PART SIX: ABOUT NATURA AND HUMANITY
PART SEVEN: ABOUT IUDEX AND HUMANITY
PART EIGHT: ABOUT AMIKA AND HUMANITY
PART NINE: ABOUT MUSA AND HUMANITY
PART TEN: ABOUT THE NATURE OF RELIGION
PART ELEVEN: ABOUT SPIRITUAL MISTAKES


PART ONE..... ABOUT THE CREED

WHAT IS FOURLIFE?.....Fourlife is the religion of the Four Gods: the God of the Physical World, the God of Justice, the God of Heaven, and the God of the Unmanifest. For those who believe, these gods account for life's meaning, bless us with hope, and inspire us to strive for certain values that the gods embody and encourage.

Fourlifers believe in more than one god because of the common-sense idea that...

1.....the god who invented diseases and natural catastrophes, from earthquakes to ebola, that kill people indiscriminately,

2.....the god that punishes sinners, all according to the nature and severity of their sins,

3.....and the god who loves absolutely everyone unconditionally

...are not the same person.

Fourlife doctrines come complete with afterlives and divine inspiration. But there are no miracles in Fourlife--no healing shows or spirit channelling or belittling of sciences in the name of religion. Fourlife is influenced by both Christianity and rationalism, much like its founder.

WHO IS THE FOUNDER OF FOURLIFE?.....The founder of Fourlife is the writer of Fourlife doctrine. He is an ordinary man with no revelations, no shortcuts to salvation, no miracles to his credit, and no special powers of any kind. He hasn't even led a very virtuous a life.

But the Founder doesn't have to be a holy man, because only gods are holy, and because all religions originate from the minds of human beings, just as all scientific theories, philosophies, and works of literature do.

WHY WAS FOURLIFE WRITTEN?.....Fourlife was written to provide a religion for people who have strong religious impulses, but who have no current religion, and cannot believe in the existence of miracles, the incarnation of gods, the inerrancy of revelation, or the morality of oppression in the name of any faith.

WHY HAVE A RELIGION?.....For a number of reasons.

1...A religion can answer questions that science and common sense don't address. What meaning can we find in existence (life as we experience it) and reality (the world that common sense and the sciences attempt to grasp)? Does reality, or the existence of each thing, or the life of each being, express something in the same way that a book expresses a theme or moral?

2...A religion can be helpful to its adherents. In the shadow of an inconceivably superior being, we embrace a healthy humility. Under the eye of a divine judge, we have a reason to be ethical even when no one else can see what we're doing. With faith in limitless benevolence, we can feel worthy of love even if the whole world despises us.

At their best, religions remind their followers of the virtue of benevolence to oneself and others. At their best, religions give people words and metaphors for experiences that our terms for emotions are not subtle enough to describe. At their best, religions remind people that there are things more important than commerce, success, politics, and work. At their best, religions keep the Money, the State, and the Human Mind off the pedestal best reserved for the Godhead. At their best, religions remind us that humanity and the world have an intrinsic worth that has nothing to do with their utility.

3...Let's not forget the hope for an afterlife, a doctrine that does more than soothe a selfish appetite for unlimited life. Most of us fear pain and the process of dying, but few people who live in relative freedom and comfort really fear non-existence. The fact that we didn't exist two hundred years ago doesn't leave us with emotional scars. If we live long enough, and well enough, the idea of going to sleep without the hassle of waking up the next day can actually appeal to us.

Two things make belief in an afterlife comforting: hardship and love. We want something better than a hard life, and want our spouses and families to live forever. We might even want a Heaven for the millions who have nothing else to hope for.

We remember every woman enslaved to a cruel husband’s fists, every prisoner living with years of torture, and all the children who lie down and starve with no one to help them. Can we really be at peace with the idea that these victims have nothing but death to look forward to? Do we have the guts to tell a dying child that no comfort, no love, and no life will come after the killing pain? If we don't have that kind of courage, we might as well put our faith in an afterlife.

The objective, rational souls among us will cry foul at this emotional appeal, and remind us that understanding is more sustaining than comfort. But we understand nothing that proves that our present reality is the only one. If our own lives are hard, and more-tough-minded-than-thou rationalism does nothing to heal us, trusting in an afterlife may be as sensible as trusting that better days lie ahead.

4…..Even if religion offered told us nothing about why we are here, and offered us no hope of an afterlife, it could still enrich us by giving us unfailing and excellent objects of faith. While it's important to have faith in worldly things like marriage, work, and common decency, all of these objects of faith can fail us. Faith in things that moths and rust can't corrupt and that thieves can’t steal provides us not only with comfort, but with clarity about what is good. To believe in a god is to believe in something more magnificent than three meals a day, a sports car, and an entertainment center. To believe in a Heaven, even one we could not go to, is to have a clearer vision of how things ought to be than practical experience can provide.


PART TWO..... ABOUT THE GODS

WHAT IS A GOD? A god is a being whose wisdom, perception, vitality, power, longevity, and subtlety are greater than a human being’s to such an incalculable degree that they make the god worthy of worship. Gods are also supernatural; their lives and attributes don’t arise from or depend on Nature.

WHY BELIEVE IN MORE THAN ONE GOD? Because the things that Fourlifers call divine differ too much to be the work of one being. The god who loves every little child is not the same god who invented bubonic plague. The god who loves everyone, no matter how sinful, is not the same god who punishes sinners. The three gods who create tangible realities are not the god responsible for the non-existent things, humanity’s visions of the past, future, and the worlds of possibility and fantasy.

WHAT GODS DO FOURLIFERS BELIEVE IN?

The God of the Physical World...The sciences can tell us how things happen, but not why. Physicists and chemists can tell us about the causes of natural events, but not their purposes or personal meanings. Let’s think about the universe that the sciences reveal in the same way that we might think about a book or a movie, and ask “What’s the theme?”

Certainly, the theme isn’t love. In addition to never being jealous or boastful, love does not wipe out entire cities with hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions.

On the other hand, our universe is not hateful either. It allows individuals and even whole countries to prosper if they work hard and cooperate enough.

The truth is, our universe neither loves nor hates us; it doesn’t care about us one way or the other.

But the sciences have found more than indifference in the Physical World; they have found many mathematical patterns. Physics and math come close to describing the physical law that dominates our world. Physical law is all-pervasive in this life. Love and wrath come and go. Life is born to die. But Nature's laws span all of time.

If anyone made the universe, it was someone who cares more about mathematical order than human values. The god of the Physical World is a mathematical prodigy for whom life, death, war, peace, sex, love, hate, beauty, heroism, cowardice, hope and despair are so many interesting patterns of molecular motion.

This is the God of the Physical World. Strange as it may seem, we can worship and even love this being who cares so little about us, even as we can admire the mountains, sunsets, meadows, and wildlife without expecting them to admire us back.

The God of Justice.....In the world created by Nature's indifferent god, virtue is often unrewarded and brutality often goes unpunished. Humanity’s longing for justice creates the hope for a place of judgment in the afterlife.

Human justice is necessary to keep the peace, but it's easy to imagine something better. No judicial system can administer just punishment to all wrongdoers everywhere. Even if our laws, police, lawyers, and judges were consistently honest and fair, countless evils would remain beyond their reach. We can’t punish every theft, rape, and murder that’s ever been committed. While monsters like Stalin and Hitler can be killed, they could never live long enough to suffer as much as they deserve to.

Furthermore, we can’t make every sin into a crime, and can’t punish law-abiding people whose sharp tongues and reckless decisions make everyone around them miserable.

Finally, and most importantly, the law can't punish everybody, but everybody has committed sins that deserve to be punished.

To satisfy hopes for ultimate justice, to promote the contemplation of what better justice would mean, to strengthen the believer's conscience, and to inspire the humility that comes from believing in a higher authority than humanity, Fourlifers put their faith in the God of Justice. Fourlifers also believe that this god has created a universe in which justice is as pervasive and everlasting as love is in Heaven, and as patterns are in this life. The God of Justice is not Satan; a god's punishment of sin is good, not evil.

How do we know what is sinful? While the answer to this question may be hard to find when it comes to some issues, like abortion, most human beings know right from wrong in most situations. Love is better than malice. Empathy is better than callousness. Kindness is better than cruelty. Honesty is better than malicious deceit. Generosity is better than greed. Tact and respect are better than condescension. We should treat other people as well as we would like to be treated. These principles aren’t particular to any religion or ethic; they arose in the natural evolution of human cultures world wide nearly universal principles that satisfy nearly universal social and individual needs.

Within the limits, and through the mechanisms, of the Physical World, Nature's God permits the God of Justice to find expression in this life.

The God of Heaven..... The hope of Heaven, the idea of superhuman goodness, and the belief in the presence of an invisible and all-loving friend are three fragments united by belief in a benevolent god. Obviously, this god does not rule the Physical World. In any realm that this being created, good things like life and love would be as pervasive and everlasting as mathematical beauty is in our own world.

A God of the Unmanifest..... The gods of the Physical World, of Heaven, and of Justice are gods of things that are manifest. These gods create vivid, tangible realities. So another god rules the Unmanifest. In other words, this god knows everything about our visions of the past, the future, the possible, and the impossible all the significant non-things.

We understand ourselves, our society, and the whole universe in terms of our recollection of the past. We plan constantly for the future we anticipate. We see reality to the constant accompaniment of our fantasies, dreams, and ideals. That’s why Fourlifers pray to a god who knows of all things possible and impossible and inspires all that we envision.

The God of the Unmanifest connects creativity (the transformation of ideas into works) and time (which changes potentials into current reality). Fourlifers believe that this god inspires both fellow gods and people to create. People make art; gods make realities; so inspiration provided by the God of the Unmanifest drives both human art and cosmic evolution. The God of Things that Don’t Exist is the Ultimate Muse.

WHY DON’T FOURLIFERS BELIEVE IN MORE THAN FOUR GODS?..... Because they are Fourlifers. In the genesis of any religion, decisions are made about how many beings or principles should be exalted. This creed identifies four: Nature, Justice, Love, and the Imagination. Other religions exalt different numbers of deities and principles; that is to be expected.

We believers are like gamblers at the gaming table; we make different bets, and we acknowledge that we cannot prove which bet, if any, will be vindicated. But we each commit to one bet and no other; we let go of the dice, and hold onto our faith until knowledge confirms or disconfirms it.

CAN WE UNDERSTAND THE GODS?.....Only a little. We can’t know what the gods are made of, or how they accomplish their goals. We can’t perceive the gods with our senses. But if we understand the kinds of excellence that they represent, and believe that these kinds of excellence are embodied in supreme beings, we can understand a little.

ARE THE GODS EQUAL?.....Yes. All four gods are equal in power and equally worthy of worship. All have existed for a limitless period of time. No god arises from any other god. All four gods can inspire beings in any universe, but none of the gods may alter or destroy a universe that any of the other gods creates.

DO THE GODS GET ALONG?.....The gods exist in a state of constant creative tension. They differ so much that they would never be friends if they were human. But in their divine wisdom, each can each appreciate what the others do

The God of the Physical World thinks nothing of love or justice, but still esteems the Gods of Justice and Heaven as fellow creators in the divine community.

The God of Heaven grieves when people suffer in the Justice Realm, but is thankful that sinners come to Heaven humbled and prepared for a life without sin.

The God of Justice would never love anyone unconditionally, but is thankful that sinners have a Heaven to go to after they have paid their moral debts.

The Gods of Heaven and Justice grieve at the Physical World's indifference, but resign themselves to their need for it. Nature's laws don’t punish the wicked or reward the good. Though doing right can help society in general, Nature neither threatens nor entices the individual into making moral choices. The indifference of Nature is what makes human virtue as freely chosen as possible and therefore morally significant to the gods who rule our afterlives.

The Gods of the Physical World, Justice, and Heaven enjoy actuality more than the non-being of memories, expectations, and fantasies. But they also respect The God of the Unmanifest as the Ultimate Muse, the agent who inspires them to create change.

Gods cooperate; they let other gods inspire the people in their realities. The god of this world allows us to have insights that serve the ends of other gods. So the God of the Unmanifest calls us to creative work, the God of Justice calls us to fight for justice, and the God of Heaven calls us to be messengers of love. But in this life, divine inspiration comes to us through the natural workings of the brain. The gods are the reasons for our inspirations; our bodies are the means.

ARE THE GODS THE GREATEST BEINGS?..... Fourlifers believe that gods are the most sublime beings that exist.

ARE THE GODS PERFECT?..... The gods exist prior to our conceptions of what is perfect. Gods are incalculably greater than we are, greater than all things. Gods are what they are, and do what they do.

WHAT DO GODS DO?..... If they want to, gods can create realities, communicate with other gods, and inspire created beings.

WHAT IS DIVINE INSPIRATION?..... When we feel a presence, see a vision, dream dreams, or have ideas that serve divine purposes, we call them divine inspiration.

WHERE ARE THE GODS?..... Like the force of gravity and the dimensions of space, the gods have no specific location. Gods exist within and without the realities they create, and can perceive and act anywhere without the need to travel.

ARE GODS TEMPORAL BEINGS?..... The must be, since they can think and act. Thinking and acting entail changes, and these changes constitute time. Since gods are distinct from the universes they create, the time that their thoughts and actions entail is distinct from time in the universes.

DO GODS HAVE SUBSTANCE?..... They must, since nothingness can’t act or create. But since we can't detect the gods, the substance must be too subtle and alien for humans to perceive or understand.

WHERE DID THE GODS COME FROM?..... The gods have always existed, and always will.

DO GODS HAVE COMPONENT PARTS?..... Not in the same way that we do. Gods have aspects that are so complex that, by human standards, these aspects qualify as persons. This accounts for faith in local spirits; the angels that are really aspects of the God of Heaven; forest gods, sea gods, and spirits of physical insight that are really aspects of the God of the Physical World; still small voices that are really aspects of the God of Justice; and the muses that are really aspects of the God of the Unmanifest. Fourlifers find it unnecessary to believe in angels or demons. Local spirits are aspects of the gods themselves. Demons are fictional scapegoats for humanity's sins.

IS EACH GOD BOTH MANY AND ONE?..... No. Though an aspect of a god is complete enough to qualify as a person by human standards, it remains merely a part of the whole god. You could say that a god can be like someone with multiple personalities, except that the god controls which personalities it has, and all of the personalities are adults, love each other, could populate a whole planet full of utopian societies, and are all fully aware that they are all really one person.

WHAT DO GODS NEED?..... Gods don't need anything. They don’t need to be fed with sacrifices. They don't need constant praise. They don’t need us to worship them or build houses for them. Gods are complete in many ways that human beings are not. Because each god has many aspects, each god has the spiritual resources of a whole community in its own being. With perception that spans all reality, gods never struggle to learn or understand. With incalculable power, gods act merely by willing.

DO GODS TAKE PHYSICAL FORM?..... No. Gods aren't made of physical substances, but of imperceptible divine substances. Gods can't be anything but gods. They act and manifest themselves according to their nature, just like the beings they create. There are no natural wonders, carvings, animals, or people that double as divinities in Fourlife belief. Of course, gods don't have gender.

DO GODS TALK TO US AND APPEAR TO US?..... Only in dreams and visions. Even then, the images of gods in our dreams are only the gods’ own visual metaphors; the gods themselves do not have appearances. In our waking lives, we perceive the gods when we have divine ideas or feel the presence of a divine spirit.

WHEN ARE DREAMS, VISIONS, AND IDEAS DIVINE?..... When they serve the purposes of the gods. When dreams, visions, and ideas help us to understand this present reality, they serve the God of the Physical World. When dreams, visions, and ideas help us to be more fair, honest, and steadfast in our duties, they serve the God of Justice. When dreams, visions, and ideas help us to be more loving and benevolent, they serve the God of Love. And when dreams, visions, and ideas enrich our lives and prompt us to do something new, they serve the God of the Unmanifest.

CAN GODS CHANGE OR CANCEL PHYSICAL LAWS?..... No more than a painter can make a brush stroke that is not her own. Any change or cancellation that the gods effect in their realities becomes a part of cosmic evolution, not an isolated physical anomaly.

Fourlifers admit that strange events like unexplained foreknowledge happen, but have faith that such events are part of the natural order even if people don’t understand them.

Mental events such as divine inspiration and divine visions are part of nature's order too. A god’s desire to communicate with us explains the purpose of these mental events, but it is up to scientists to explain how these events happen.

Each god creates to express its essential nature. What a god cherishes spans all of time in the realities it creates. As mathematical patterns dominate our Physical World for all time, so Justice and Love are all-pervasive in the lives to come.


PART THREE?..ABOUT PEOPLE

WHAT ARE PEOPLE?....When the mature and sound members of a species can think about their thoughts, talk about their words, and envision the past, the future, and the world of fantasy, that species constitutes a people. Like many other types of creatures, people can suffer and go to Heaven.

ARE PEOPLE BASICALLY GOOD OR BAD?..... People are neither basically good nor basically bad. Our natural urges create both good and evil. Empathy prompts us to help others, and malice prompts us to harm others. Selfishness drives both robbers and artists; selflessness drives both inner city doctors and suicide bombers. Goodness entails, not the deprecation of the self, but compassion and benevolence toward others.

Goodness varies like strength, intellect, and other human traits. Most people are morally average, and care about themselves, a handful of others, and maybe an ideal or two. A few people are remarkably good and care about everybody. A few people are remarkably bad, and don’t give a damn about anyone else.

Most of us know that the world would be nicer if everyone were remarkably good. That’s why people put their faith in gods whose love is infinite. They hope that these beings can teach us to love others more fully. At the very least, thinking about these beings can help us clarify the meaning of goodness in our minds.

ARE SOME PEOPLE HOLY?..... Only the gods are holy. However, some people are remarkably good. Fourlifers use the term “saint” to refer to any remarkably good person, just as most people use the term “genius” to refer to any remarkably smart one. Fourlifers admire and try to emulate good people, but do not pray to them or venerate their relics. Only the gods are holy.

ARE PEOPLE SPECIAL TO THE GODS?..... Yes. The God of the Physical World cherishes our ability to understand Nature. The God of Justice cherishes our ability to tell right from wrong. The God of Heaven cherishes our ability to love. The God of the Unmanifest cherishes our creativity. All the gods cherish us because, unlike other beings, we can benefit from understanding them.

ARE PEOPLE LIKE GODS?..... No. Only gods are like gods.

DO PEOPLE HAVE SOULS?..... Common sense suggests that the mind and the body are two aspects of one substance. The decisions in our minds become the actions of our bodies. Energies and substances that impinge upon our bodies become sensations in our minds. The fortunes of the mind clearly vary with the fortunes of the brain. Therefore, Fourlifers believe that the mind and the body live and die as one.


PART FOUR..... ABOUT THE AFTERLIVES

IF THE MIND DIES WITH THE BODY, HOW CAN THERE BE AFTERLIVES?..... What one god destroys, another can re-create. The Gods of Justice and Heaven re-create us in their own realms. Though we will be wear different flesh when we are re-created, our memories and personalities will make us one with the people we are now. If this sounds incredible, remember that you hardly have an atom in common with the child you used to be. We lose physical substance all the time; it's our memories and personalities that make us who we are.

WHY WOULD THE GODS OF OTHER REALITIES RE-CREATE THE PEOPLE IN THIS ONE?..... The Gods of Love and Justice don’t want their virtues confined to their own realms. They want justice and love everywhere. Since these gods can’t bring universal love and justice to our world, they do the next best thing: they re-create us in their own realms. This insures that people from all the realms can be judged and loved.

SINCE WE INCARNATE IN MORE THAN ONE UNIVERSE, CAN MORE THAN ONE INCARNATION OF OURSELVES EXIST AT THE SAME TIME?..... This question has no answer, since each universe has its own time. However, the gods create their own time too as they think and act, and that time is shared by all the gods, since they can interact with each other. Inasmuch as one god’s re-creation is a response to another god’s creation, re-creation happens after creation in the time that gods share. This may be why we subjectively experience our two to three lives in a certain order.

WHERE DO WE GO AFTER WE DIE?..... We will first be re-created in the Justice Realm, where we will pay for all the wrong we have done. In the course of this second life, those who repent perish to be re-created in Heaven, where we enjoy lives of happiness, play, creativity, and exploration, but most of all of love. Those who do not repent stay in the Justice Realm.

WHY SHOULD WE THINK ABOUT OUR FUTURE LIVES?..... Just as a child can become wiser by preparing for adult life, we all become wiser by preparing for the lives to come. We’re better prepared for the Justice Realm when we make conscious efforts do the right thing. We’re better prepared for Heaven if we learn how to love. Also, by preparing ourselves for future lives, we make life more fit to live in the here and now.

IF THE GODS ARE EQUAL, THEN WHY CAN THE GOD OF JUSTICE ALWAYS RE-CREATE US BEFORE THE GOD OF HEAVEN DOES?..... Although the God of Heaven loves even the worst sinners, this god also loves those sinners’ victims. No one in Heaven will be troubled by the presence of their unredeemed tormentors. People are re-created in Heaven after they are ready to accept Love as their only law. For most of us, the place to get ready is the Justice Realm.

CAN WE BE SAVED FROM JUDGMENT?..... No. Everyone who knows right from wrong faces judgment for the wrong they’ve done, regardless of who they are or what they believe.

DOES EARTHLY SUFFERING MITIGATE OUR PUNISHMENT?..... Suffering does nothing to redeem sin; no matter how harshly life has treated us, we will suffer in the Justice Realm as our malice has made others suffer.

DO THE GODS SHOW ANY MERCY FOR SINNERS?..... Yes.

First, no true God of Justice would punish finite sins with infinite agony. In the Justice Realm, the severity of punishment reflects the severity of our sins against our fellow creatures. Punishment is proportional to the suffering of our victims, not to the greatness of the god that we offend. This is because we can only sin against our fellow creatures. We cannot sin against a god, since we could no more harm a god than a flea could harm the sun.

Second, the duration of one’s life in the Justice Realm reflects the sinner’s journey from false indignation to the state of pure repentance that brings atonement and release to Heaven. Since we continue to mature after death, since the lifetime of experience reflected in old age is mere childhood to those in the afterlife, the journey to such pure repentance will indeed be possible.

Third, those who make the journey to repentance will understand that they deserve the suffering that they endure. For all but the most callous and unrepentant people, this knowledge makes the suffering in the next life more bearable.

Fourth, sinners will never suffer for behavior that was not wrong. Time in the Justice Realm means liberation from all the stupid non-moral guilt that we accumulate in this life.

So many people feel guilty about imaginary sins..... parents whose grown children do wrong, healers who couldn’t save all their patients, and survivors of accidents or wars who wish they could trade places with the dead. More often, imaginary sins are trivial. We’re ashamed of the way we look, the way we speak, our homes, our cars, our clothes, and our dogs. We’re ashamed of our weirdness, our conformity, our youth, our age, our tallness, our shortness, and the fact that we are not millionaires.

Non-moral guilt poisons us with needless anguish. What’s more, it dulls our sense of morality. Instead of telling us to clean up our act, it tells us how worthless we are if we don't have a big house, an expensive watch, an advanced degree, a model’s body, or a telegenic personality. Those are the values we get when guilt and morality are strangers.

On Earth, non-moral guilt can last a lifetime. Not so in the Justice Realm. Most people forget about their imaginary sins when the Perfect Judge avenges their real ones.

Fifth, at the end of the journey, those who achieve pure repentance will know the relief of atoning for their sins, and the knowledge that they have at last outgrown their wickedness. Those who pass on in the Justice Realm will be happy in knowing that they are ready for Heaven.

CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS?..... Yes, but not from the gods.

What we get from the God of Justice is not forgiveness, but a pronouncement of spiritual fitness….in other words, the redemption that comes from enduring what we deserve in the spirit of repentance. “You’ve done your time” isn’t the same as “I forgive you.”

We get no forgiveness from the God of Love, because the God of Love loves and totally accepts everyone to begin with. “There’s nothing to forgive” isn’t the same as “I forgive you.”

People, however, can forgive us in any of our three lifetimes. In this present life, some of us forgive others as a means to inner peace. In the Justice Realm, still more of us forgive others when we confront our own callousness. In Heaven, all of us forgive others, since all of us have outgrown malice.

DO INNOCENT BEINGS SPEND ANY TIME IN THE JUSTICE REALM?..... No. Children who die when they are too young to know right from wrong are re-created only in Heaven. So are people whose mental infirmities prevent them from knowing right from wrong. In Heaven, these people continue to mature. They start their heavenly lives receiving perfect love, and develop into beings who know the joy of giving perfect love.

DO INNOCENT ANIMALS GO TO HEAVEN?..... Every innocent being that can suffer is re-created in Heaven. All our useful livestock and beloved pets that pass away, and all the cunning wild animals that the earth and sea reclaim, are born again in a place with no sickness or danger, where all creatures live in harmony.

WHY SHOULDN’T WE DIE NOW SO WE CAN GO TO HEAVEN SOONER?..... The Perfect Judge shows mercy to those who sacrifice themselves for others, or end their lives to avoid excruciating pain, or suffer from disorders that weaken the will to live. But if we kill ourselves to get to Heaven, we are punished for killing more than one being..... our selves, our parent’s child, our friends’ friend, our lover’s lover, our children’s parents, and others. For sins like these, we will spend so much time in the Justice Realm that we will reach Heaven no sooner than we would have if we had lived out our lives in this world.

ARE HEAVEN AND THE JUSTICE REALM TANGIBLE PLACES?..... Yes. After all, since this present reality is tangible, why would other realities not be? All created beings are embodied. No one in this life could guess what kind of substances Heaven and the Justice Realm might be made of, but beings in the hereafter have bodies, live in tangible places, and experience sensations that may include sight, sound, and touch.

WHAT WILL THE AFTERLIVES BE LIKE?.....Consider a small child’s predictions about adult life. Children know some basic facts about grown-ups. Adults earn their own money, often head families, and decide when to eat and go to bed. We smile when little children describe their future adult lives with visions of a mansion, ten cars, dozens of babies, or hundreds of dogs.

We don't condemn little children for their visions of grown-up life, but we don't trust those visions either. Children haven't been adults; they don't know what's in store for them.

When it comes to our afterlives, we don't know what's in store for us. Images of the Justice Realm as a bombed-out city or a forest forever in dusk help us keep the future in our minds. So do images of Heaven as a vast and sunlit garden. Writing or painting detailed versions of the afterlives can exercise our creativity, and focus our minds on the gods; there is no sin involved in making images of the lives to come.

But such visions should never be taken as literal truth; we should always remember that purpose of afterlife images that we create in the here and now is to express characteristics of the afterlife that are abstract or inexpressible through words alone. The feelings that arise from the contemplation of our bombed-out city image constitute our glimpse of the Justice Realm….not the picture of the city itself. Feelings and thoughts about what the world would have to be like “what people would have to be like” to make all the world a garden of peace. T hat is our glimpse of Heaven, not the garden picture we have made.

We can only have faith that our images and analogies express some truth about the lives beyond us, however imperfectly. We can only have faith that our second life will be just, that our third will be good, and that both will be tangible.

DO WE SEE THE GODS IN THE AFTERLIFE?..... No. The gods themselves have no qualities that their creatures can directly perceive. Nonetheless, we can have relationships with the gods.


PART FIVE..... ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE GODS

WHAT DO WE CALL THE GODS?..... When we have relationships with people, we almost always learn their names. But the gods don't give themselves names, because they don't have mouths and don't need languages. So human beings coin names for the gods so that we can refer to them and address them in prayer.

The Founder decided to give the gods Latin names. No, the founder doesn’t know Latin; he consulted Latin experts to get the names.

Why Latin? Well, we have Latin names for animals, plants, fungi, and germs, so why not Latin names for gods? Each god has a short Latin name that can be used most of the time, and a longer Latin name along with some descriptive names in English.

The God of the Physical World, we call Natura (say NAH-too-ruh)....aka ...
Numen Naturae (say NOO-men-NAH-too-rye)
God of Nature
God of This Life

The God of Justice, we call Iudex (say YOO-decks)....aka...
Numen Iustitiae (say NOO-men yoo-STIH-she-eye)
Ultimate Judge
Perfect Judge

The God of Love or Benevolence, we call Amika (say AH-mih-kuh)....aka...
Numen Caritatis (say NOO-men car-ee-TAH-tuhs)
God of Love
God of Heaven
Ultimate Friend

The God of the Unmanifest, we call Musa (say MOO-suh)....aka...
Numen Figmentorum (say NOO-men fig-men-TOE-room). aka
God of Figments
Ultimate Muse

An Aside to Latin Mavens..... Actually, the feminine form of “friend” in Latin is “Amica” (say “uh-MEE-kuh”). The founder changed it to Amika because there is a company called “Amica,” which is not affiliated with Fourlife.

ARE THE NAMES OF THE GODS SACRED?..... No. They are merely words that we use to address and refer to them. The names of the gods can’t be used to heal the sick, and should not be used to ward off demons or other imaginary nasties. Iudex will not judge us for taking any god’s name in vain unless we do so to distress our fellows. We show respect for the names of gods only out of respect for believers. This respect serves both Iudex and Amika.

WHAT RELATIONSHIPS DO WE HAVE WITH GODS?..... We have four relationships to the gods. First, we are their intelligent creatures. Second, we are receivers of their inspiration. Third, we are their worshippers. Fourth, we are the ones who pray to them.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A GOD’s INTELIGENT CREATURE?..... Two things. First, we are the creature of the god in whose reality we live, and therefore typical of the beings and things that the god makes. Second, as intelligent beings, we have a fundamental spiritual response to the reality in which we live.

For instance, in this life, we are Natura’s creatures. We are made of atoms and conform to all the physical laws just like all of the rest of the people in this reality. As intelligent creatures of Natura, our fundamental spiritual response to this life is fascination, since we can learn something fascinating about virtually anything in this reality. (More on this later.)

HOW DO WE RECEIVE DIVINE INSPIRATION?..... This can’t be said too often: divine inspiration comes to us through natural means. Divine inspirations come from the same electro-chemical jelly that gives birth to all our other ideas. The difference is that, unlike other thoughts, divine inspirations drive us toward the goals that the gods want us to pursue: to understand our world, treat others justly, love more, and create more. These inspirations are our most important ideas, the ones we hold sacred.

Divine inspiration can change the way we feel about things. It can make us happier, or more driven. But the still small voice of a god is not a clean version of a drug trip; it isn’t a portal to another world full of fluffy pink clouds, cherubs and light shows. Divine inspirations are simply ideas that occur to us. Sometimes we can put them into words. Sometimes, we can put them into art. Sometimes, we can’t.

But we can tell when these ideas serve the gods. When storms and blizzards remind us that we and our nests of words, papers, and technologies are part of something much bigger than we are, Natura is served. When a still small voice prods us away from temptation, Iudex is served. When we remember to put love ahead of pleasures and careers, Amika is served. When we think of something new, Musa is served.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WORSHIP A GOD?..... Worship entails two things.....

rites.....symbolic acts that are used regularly to acknowledge not only the greatness of the god but our acceptance of the god as a part of our lives

works.....a good faith effort to follow the laws of the gods; to embody what they cherish about human beings: our capacity to understand Nature, our capacity to tell right from wrong, our capacity to love, and our creativity.

Rites are important to affirm and maintain faith in the gods.

The works described above are important to people of many faiths and ideologies, not just Fourlife. The creed should never be construed to identify Fourlifers as the sole, chief, or most authentic possessors of these virtues.

Works without rites can make anyone good. But rites without works can never be considered worship. Works give the rites meaning.

WHY SHOULD WE WORSHIP THE GODS?..... For two important reasons:

First, because the gods, in their greatness, deserve our worship; because they are wiser and more powerful than we are to an incalculable degree, because they create realities; and because the works of the gods’ (nature, justice, love, and imaginative vision) are relevant to all that we hold dear.

Second, because humanity deserves better objects of worship than the government, the dollar, and the human spirit with all its propensity for malice. No human being, no utopian scheme, no holy man or holy church, nor any work of human kind should enter the place we reserve in our hearts for the Godhead. Only gods belong there.

HOW DO WE PRAY TO THE GODS?..... We pray to the gods whenever we address them directly. This can be done with words, thoughts, or ceremonies; in public rites or private settings. We may pray to one god, some gods, or to all the gods simultaneously.

WHY DO WE PRAY TO THE GODS?..... We pray for many reasons, including these:

a…..adoration: telling gods that we love or revere them..... Why not? If we can revere a great scientist, we can certainly adore the Creator of the Universe. If we can revere a historically prominent judge, we can certainly adore the Perfect Judge. If we can revere family members who love us in their limited, human way, we can certainly adore the Paragon of Love. If we can admire people who inspire us to do new things, we can throw ourselves onto the ground in shame-free adoration of the Ultimate Muse.

b..…lamentation: ’telling gods that life is awful..... There is nothing wrong with complaining to a god about anything from small annoyances to great suffering. Gods do not punish us for telling them that life in this world is difficult. Giving a god a piece of our minds is not a sin. However, we do tend to feel better when we end our prayers of lamentation on notes of hopeful trust in the deities. Remember that Natura tries us, but never punishes us; that Iudex and Amika rule the next lives, not this one; and that we may yet think of new ways to deal with our problems as Musa would have it.

c…..confession: admitting our sins to gods..... Sometimes, we cause the annoyances and agonies that move others to prayers of lamentation. Many faiths esteem confession as good for the soul. Fourlife is no exception. Confession to the gods will not absolve us of the wrong we have done, but can inspire us to change and start doing the right thing.

d…..thanksgiving: thanking the gods..... When we enjoy natural bounty; when this life is good; when we gain satisfaction (however grim) from obeying the gods’ laws; when the next lives seem worth looking forward to; when a pleasing vision conforms to the will of a deity; when talking to the gods saves us from feeling lonely and inspires us to reach out; when we are pleased to be the creatures of the most high, and admire the deities and their works, thanking the gods is a good idea.

f…..meditation and contemplation..... In a prayer of meditation, we talk to one or more gods about something specific that reflects a virtue of one or more gods. Through this talking, we can focus our minds on the divine. We might talk to god about some excellent example of how nature nourishes and fascinates us; how justice brings peace; how love makes life worthwhile; how the things we envision drive us to change our world. We might talk to one or more gods about a corn stalk, a good rule, a loving grandmother, or of something that we have not thought of before. A certain amount of repetition in such prayers helps us focus on the objects of our meditation.

Prayers of contemplation have no words, and are focused only on the gods themselves. The same kind of wordless communication goes on between couples who have been married five decades or more. Peace, respect, love….these words only hint at the experience of silent communion with gods. Contemplative prayer is difficult. Often, years of discipline should come first.

g…..dedication: telling a god that we are doing something in its name..... From time to time, we do certain things that conform to the will of one or more gods. Sometimes, we even realize this. On even rarer occasions, we strive to do the will of a god, and dedicate some effort or achievement to that god. When we tell a god that we are doing this, we are making a prayer of dedication. We can dedicate our time to raising sound children or helping unfortunate people. We can dedicate a place to the worship of the gods. We can dedicate mortal remains to our faith in an afterlife. We can dedicate our married lives to living in harmony with the gods.

h…..petition: asking gods to help us..... When we need inspiration, inner voices that urge us to conform to the will of the gods, or encourage us in times of trial, we can ask the gods for these gifts. When we want to feel the presence of a god, we can ask for that feeling. We may always ask the gods for their guidance and presence in our lives.

i…..intercession: asking gods to help others..... Other people also need inspiration. Other people need inner voices that tell them to conform to the will of the gods. Other people need inner voices that encourage them in times of trial. Other people need to feel the presence of the gods. We may always ask the gods for their guidance and presence in the lives of our fellow creatures.

j…..general purposes of prayer..... Consider Natura. One might also ask why we should pray to the incalculably powerful maker of the world. If Natura wanted to grant our wishes, wouldn’t reality already contain the fulfillment of our desires? And if reality contains no such fulfillment, isn’t Natura indifferent to our wishes? In either case, why ask this god for anything? Why say anything to Nature's God?

Consider all four gods. One might ask why we pray to beings who can anticipate our every desire. Why talk to gods who know what we want to say before we even think of saying it? For that matter, what kind of god requires human words to rouse it to action?

Though these are legitimate questions, they ultimately rest on several misconceptions, which need correcting as follows.

First, we don't expect people to grant us our every wish just because we talk to them. Why would we expect gods to cleave to our personal agendas just because we pray?

Second, speaking to a god does not inform the god of our desires; it exercises our own faith. To believe that a god can help us is merely to entertain an idea. To ask a god to help us demonstrates our trust, belief, and faith in that deity.

Third, prayer does not rouse the gods to action; it opens our minds to their influence, which is always available. To pray is not to ask deities for light, but to step from beneath our shelters into the sunshine.

Fundamentally, we pray for one purpose..... to include the gods in our lives by communicating with them as we communicate with our fellow creatures.


PART SIX..... ABOUT NATURA AND HUMANITY

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN INTELLIGENT CREATURE OF NATURA?..... First, it means that we are thoroughly natural. People are unique in some ways. Many animals can think, but only people can think about thinking. Many animals can communicate, but only human beings can communicate about anything at all, real or unreal. All creatures die, but only human beings understand mortality. But being unique does not make us anything more than or less than animals.

Second, it means that we reflect the character of our universe. Natura’s universe is sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, and usually indifferent. Sure enough, so are we. The world of Natura is one of patterns. Even chaos has a pattern here, with entropy steadily increasing, giving direction to the course of events. Sure enough, human beings are good at discerning patterns.

WHAT IS OUR FUNDAMENTAL SPIRITUAL RESPONSE TO NATURA’S WORLD?..... Because we are Natura’s creatures, our most spiritually fundamental response to the Physical World is fascination. We can’t love everything. Wars, diseases, and heinous crimes will always be horrors. But we can be fascinated with absolutely anything, if only we learn enough about the world. That’s why reading about wars, diseases, and heinous crimes is a favorite pastime, not because we are evil, but because even the worst of Natura’s creation is too fascinating to ignore.

In a mound of dung, our biologists can find a treasure trove of information about the strange world of bacteria. In the mind of a psychopath, our psychologists can find the intriguing interplay between nature and nurture. In the gruesome aftermath of a car wreck, almost everyone can find a reason to slow down.

Though we temper our fascination with discipline, if only to prevent traffic jams and show respect for others, our fascination does not make us evil, or in any way a stranger to the god who created us. Nothing could be more alien to Fourlife than the idea that we are alienated from our creator. It would make as much sense to call one of Picasso’s paintings alien to Picasso. In the Physical World, we are as Natura intended us to be.

HOW DOES NATURA INSPIRE US?..... Natura’s inspirations come in many forms. Researchers and students, with their interest in the sciences and general knowledge; soldiers, doctors, and trade-workers, with their knowing respect for physical realities; expert meditators who can stop the inner chatter of thought to see Nature as it really is; all these people are inspired by Natura. All of them know this Physical World too well to either sentimentalize or hate it. All of them try to understand and accept this present reality.

To study what science we can understand, to meditate on Nature, to be tough-minded without cynicism or harshness, to face reality without despair these are the things that Natura can inspire, and that we can offer up as acts of devotion to Nature's God.

HOW DO WE WORSHIP NATURA?..... First, by respecting Natura’s laws. Though Nature's God is indifferent to our values, its world imposes rules on anyone who wants life, health, and sanity. Natura has many rules like these..... If we don't manage fire properly, we move closer to being burned. If we don't defend ourselves, we move closer to injury or death. If we’re promiscuous or unsanitary, we move closer to catching nasty diseases. If we don't work for what we want, we move farther from fulfillment. If we behave hatefully, we will be hated. If we don't serve youth, we blight the future. If we remain ignorant, or fail to let our knowledge guide our actions, we remain slaves to circumstance and our fellow creatures. Natura’s code of conduct is incomplete and uncompassionate, but enforced throughout this life with no exceptions.

Second, we worship Natura with rites that celebrate this god and its work. Natura’s altars can be strewn with fascinating and beautiful natural objects..... shells, gourds, flowers, precious wood and metal, and whole flowering plants in pots of soil. We show more respect for Natura by leaving mutilated parts (like animal hides and cut flowers) off the altar. Sermons about the God of the Physical World can fascinate the listeners with the lore of the sciences. Images of the universe, from galaxies to microbes to atoms, can grace the worship of Nature's God. So can the images of the archaic gods of natural forces, properly conceived as personas of Natura that appear in dreams and visions so that we may translate them into art.

WHAT DO WE SAY TO NATURA?..... Of all the gods, Natura is the hardest to pray to. After all, this god invented every kind of deadly disease and calamity just to put more interesting patterns into the world. When loved ones die, the God of the Physical World sees only a series of biochemical changes. When bears or sharks attack and eat us, Nature's God sees only fascinating patterns in the food chain. If a natural plague should wipe out humanity, we can count this as part of Natura’s plan.

Clearly, there are many complaints, many prayers of lamentation, that we could direct at this god. But all these prayers must be tempered by two thoughts. First, the same god that brings us death and disaster also gives us our lives and resources. Second, Nature's God has given us the means to cope with the rest of his creation, not perfectly, but better than we actually do. No one forces us to live in flood plains or spread venereal viruses.

We can ask Natura for many things. For example, we can ask for freedom from superstition and prejudice, which Natura can give to anyone who explores this world with an open mind. We can ask Natura to inspire others, especially scientists, journalists, students, artists, and anyone else who strives to know, and face, this reality. We can also ask for challenges that make us wiser, which Natura gives to anyone who lives long enough. We can ask for the wisdom to stop asking “Why me?” With time, Natura’s world shows us that this question has no meaning in this life.

We can praise Natura for this endlessly fascinating universe from land to sea to sky. Every star and mountain that has ever held our wonder, every ray of sunlight, and every drop of rain we’ve ever waited for--all things life-giving in the here and now come from Natura.

We don't have to praise everything Natura does. When we think about houseflies, warts, and bladder infections, we can be sparing in our religious awe and still be good Fourlifers. Just as Christians can worship Jesus without worshipping his toenails, so Fourlifers can praise Natura’s universe without praising every last part of it.

We thank Natura for Nature. Nature is divine, not only in its mathematical beauty, but in its impartiality. In the face of floods, storms, and plagues, we can take comfort in Natura’s indifference, and the consequent certainty that Nature's wrath is never inflicted as a punishment.

We can also thank Natura for making Nature understandable to human beings. This ultimate simplicity makes the sciences possible, and allows human beings to lessen the hardships of living in this universe.

What is more, Nature includes human beings; we have our very existence to thank Natura for.

It may seem pointless to pray to a god who does not care much about us; who values and rewards only our ability to understand Nature. But we do not ask Natura for love; we pray to Natura because this god is great. Praying to Natura is like praising, or thanking, a genius like Van Gogh for all the beauty he created. A tortured artist might not give a damn about our praise or thanks, or have any reason to. Still, we should praise and thank him, because he deserves it, and because we should stand up and be counted among his admirers. If we owe that kind of homage to an artist like Van Gogh, how much more do we owe the artist who made every atom in this world?

Natura gives us a lot of pain, and kills us all eventually. But this god gave us the courage and ingenuity we need to make the world a kinder place, and gave us the wisdom to accept what we can’t change. If we learn to pray to Natura, we may learn to see the world as old mariners see the ocean, and as seasoned hunters see the forest. We may understand that the terrors and the gifts of Nature are all part of the same truth and all equally worthy of respect.


PART SEVEN..... ABOUT IUDEX AND HUMANITY

WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO BE AN INTELLIGENT CREATURE OF IUDEX?..... In many ways, life in the Justice Realm will be like life in the Physical World. We will have bodies and senses adapted to tangible environments where things grow, topography varies, and people make artifacts from living and non-living things.

But this new world will have no beings that are both conscious and innocent. Iudex never re-creates such beings. We will not come into the Justice Realm as babies, but will rise, coalesce, or hatch fully formed, possessed of all our memories of the natural world. We will be so constituted that we cannot harm each other. The span of our lives and the manner in which we mature physically will be dictated by our progress toward repentance. Every pain and every heartache will be no more and no less than we deserve for the wrong we have done in the natural world.

In some respects, personalities in the Justice Realm will be like the ones we know in this life. People who are new to the Realm will complain about the unfairness of it all. Tastes and temperaments will vary. We will meet, get to know each other, form communities, and even fall in love. Some of us will even experience religious skepticism, acknowledging a past in Natura’s world, but doubting whether the gods and Heaven are real.

In other respects, the human mind will change in ways that would amaze Natura’s children. No one will worry about non-moral issues like clothes, hairstyles, fancy cars, or any other facet of fashion or prestige. Most people will look forward to death, because death means the peace that comes when we outgrow our wickedness. Most people will also acquire the ability to see themselves as others see them. After a short time in the next life, most people become incapable of hypocrisy. When we hear others talk about the wrong they have done, most of us will recognize ourselves.

The fundamental spiritual response to the Justice Realm is a mixture of moral regret and moral hope.

HOW DOES IUDEX INSPIRE US?..... Our conscience serves the will of Iudex, who wants our choices to be guided by a sense of right and wrong. The conscience has four aspects: moral guilt, moral indignation, moral purpose, and moral thoughtfulness.

Moral Guilt…..Part of being loyal to Iudex is embracing moral guilt instead of trying to deny it. Admit what you’ve done wrong. Remember that it's good to feel the misery of moral guilt. Do what you can to atone for the wrong you’ve done. Contact the people you’ve wronged and express your regret without asking or expecting their forgiveness. Pay the fines, do the time, face the music and promise yourself and the God of Justice that you will not repeat your sin. No matter how often you’ve failed in the past, never give up the hope of controlling the vicious streak that is part of your humanity.

Moral Indignation…..When other people do wrong, it's okay to get mad about it, even if the neighbors think you’re a self-righteous twit. There is one catch, though. For your indignation to be moral, you have to avoid being a self-righteous twit in actuality.

How do you tell moral indignation from self-righteousness? In your heart of hearts, you know. Moral indignation isn’t a pleasure or a habit, as bullying and scolding often are. Moral indignation picks its battles, and stays quiet unless it can do more good than harm. Also, moral indignation is always tempered by the knowledge that we’ve all done wrong, and will all be judged.

Moral Purpose..... Not only are we called to avoid doing wrong; we are called to perform certain positive duties. Iudex will judge us all for what we fail to do or say. So we must resolve to fulfill our obligations to our fellow creatures whenever the opportunity arises. This is moral purpose.

Moral Thoughtfulness..... In most situations, most of us can stay trustworthy and pro-social by following certain moral rules. A small collection of such rules usually suffices. Christians can get along with the Decalogue and two great commandments. Iudex approves of such collections of rules, which will be mentioned below in connection with worshipping this god.

Some moral rules are absolute..... they apply no matter what the circumstance. Rape, for example, is always wrong: no circumstance can excuse it. Some moral rules apply in most situations: no one wants to live in a world where everyone murders, steals, or slanders whenever the mood strikes. But even the most time-tested moral rules can’t be accepted blindly; they require thought.

Shall we never steal, even if we want the gun that our deranged parent refuses to part with? Shall we never lie, even if a lie would save a family from the secret police? Shall we never shoot an innocent child, even if the bomb strapped to the approaching child’s back would kill a hundred people?

Life’s complexity leaves little room for moral martinets. We must think about how we apply moral rules in the light of moral principles: Benevolence. Honesty. Service. Loyalty. What are they really? How should we express them in our lives? How should we prioritize them if their demands compete? As difficult as these questions can be, we ought to think of answers for them. Moral thoughtfulness is a moral necessity.

Iudex will never give us stone tablets with solutions to all of our moral dilemmas carved into them; we must make the rules we live by. But when we make those rules, we need to remember that every human life is equally valuable to Iudex. If we truly love this god, we must make our rules egalitarian and humane.

Iudex ‘s Justice as a Comfort..... When human laws are cruel and unfair, and when human justice punishes the innocent and ignores the guilty, faith in a divine judge is a blessing. Whether we are victims or trespassers, we can take comfort in Iudex’s flawless justice. It's good to know that our Ultimate Judge is unmoved by rumors, lies, or prejudice. The belief that the gods know the truth can sustain us whether we’re ready for sainthood or facing a life sentence.

HOW DO WE WORSHIP IUDEX?..... First, in a manner enlightened by the conscience, we should strive to do and say what is fair and right. In most situations, we can be reasonably sure of doing so by following these rules:

Time-Tested Rules of Good Citizenship..... Our parents are usually the first to teach us that murder, theft, adultery, assault, and slander are wrong. If we apply these rules without yielding to self-serving rationalizations for breaking them, we worship Iudex.

The Golden Rule..... Many religions and ideologies have some version of this. Treat others as well as you would like to be treated.

The Imperative to Stand Against Oppression..... Sometimes, society fails to teach us good ethics. We hear that failure when we are told that some people are less than human, and that it's okay to break the bodies or spirits of these inferiors whenever we please. Iudex sees all of us as equally important. There can be no underclass under any good system of ethics or laws. When governments or majorities demand that certain groups be persecuted out of hatred, the God of Justice requires us to oppose such oppression.

Being Humble..... Remember that you don't avoid judgment merely by believing in the gods. This creed promises insight about the gods, not special favors from them. In Iudex’s world, no one is judged simply for having or lacking a certain religious belief. We are all judged according to the harm we’ve done, regardless of who we pray to.

By remembering this, we avoid the self-righteousness that gives morality and religion a bad name. Always remember that we all do wrong, and that the people whom you guide today may have good reasons to guide you tomorrow.

Second, we come to the rites that celebrate Iudex and its work. The altars of this god can be strewn with copies of sound moral rules and principles, made beautiful by calligraphy or other arts. Sermons about the God of the Justice can extol the need to be fair and righteous in our daily lives. The worship service can be enlivened with images of archaic gods of justice, properly conceived as personas of Iudex that appear in dreams and visions so that we may translate them into art.

WHAT DO WE SAY TO IUDEX?..... For starters, we can ask for a better conscience. We can pray for the courage to admit to and atone for the wrong we’ve done. We can pray that the principles we stand by, the rules we make, and the lives we live by will be fair and compassionate.

We can ask Iudex to inspire those who maintain peace, law, and order, including judges, lawyers, police officers, political leaders, and soldiers. We ask the God of Justice to help us live up to our duties, whether duty means being gentle in peace or fierce in combat.

We can pray for the courage to endure the suffering of the Justice Realm to achieve complete repentance there.

We can praise the God of Justice for being a paragon of impartiality, for being free from all the prejudices, superstitions, and lies that taint our human judgments. We can thank the Perfect Judge for inspiring us to do the right thing. We can confess our sins to Iudex, and so strengthen the courage we need to face the Justice Realm.

When we have been wronged, and feel vengeful, we can acknowledge this feeling, let it flow through us and express itself in private words or art, and then ask Iudex to help us master it.

When it comes to human justice, just punishment is usually an unrealistic goal. We human beings often punish according to our prejudices. Even when we are impartial, we often make mistakes, punishing innocent people. Even when we know who has wronged us, how do we decide what that sinner deserves?

Should we take revenge, and make ourselves as brutal and criminal as our enemies? How much can we steal from a habitual thief? How many times can we kill a serial murderer? Has there ever been a society in which justice has not varied according to the wealth, status, and connections of the perpetrator?

Yes, we may have to kill to defend ourselves, or fellows, or our nation. Yes, we must confine criminals. Yes, we must take action to discourage our enemies. Yes, we should avoid the company of miscreants whose sharp tongues never utter a word of kindness. Yes, we should be careful about whom we trust and respect.

But we must surrender our will to vengeance to the God of Justice; only a god canv know enough about our lives and hearts to decide what punishments we deserve.


PART EIGHT..... ABOUT AMIKA AND HUMANITY

WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO BE A CREATURE OF AMIKA?..... Being a creature of Amika will mean living in a world with no sickness, toil, or danger. In Heaven, we will live free from any addiction to conflict or domination. We will play, create, and explore, but most of all we will love and be loved.

Who can imagine how much we would need to mature to achieve this perfect state? Can we grasp how much time in the life before Heaven would we need? Could we comprehend the fusion of relief and ecstasy that comes with the first moments in Paradise? Could we understand what it would be like to live in a world where everyone gives and receives love...forever?

We can’t pretend to know. We give lip service to the idea that everyone should live in a land of peace and love, but in our hearts, we think that this land would be boring; that humanity was meant to live in a world of struggle. We can no more understand life as a creature of Amika than a three year-old could understand the thoughts of an eminent diplomat.

But we trust that, once re-created, we will mature and understand.

We also trust that that Heaven is intricate and interesting. We trust that we will have bodies of some sort in Heaven; that we will touch and be touched in many ways that reflect the many forms of love from friendship to intimacy. We trust that we will meet our loved ones, and again know the company of innocent beings, including the children who died too soon in the world of Nature.

The most fundamental responses to Amika’s world will be love of ourselves, our fellow creatures, and the God of Heaven.

HOW DOES AMIKA INSPIRE US?..... When you hear someone say “Be a mensch,” “Be nice,” or “Have a heart,” remember that the God of Heaven inspires words like these. Amika helps us to remember others; to give to loved ones and charities.

Amika also inspires the feeling that a divine friend is close to us, and wants to comfort us when we feel desperate and alone. That feeling can’t change Natura’s world, and won't save us from judgment. But Amika’s presence can remind us that Heaven is waiting for us at the end of our struggles against an indifferent world and against our own sin.

Amika also reminds us that, even in Natura’s indifferent world, we could create a foretaste of Heaven if we tried hard enough to be better family members, better lovers, better friends, and better citizens. Utopian societies are not pure fiction..... they exist in Nature, but on a small scale, among loving families and circles of close friends. We know what the world would be like if we fought as willingly for social justice as we do for other nations’ riches. We know we could do better, as Amika reminds us.

HOW DO WE WORSHIP AMIKA?..... First, the works. We can do the work of Amika only by rising above the call of duty. As social creatures, we go out of our way to help our friends and family, to be present for them, to give them respect, to do favors for them from time to time, even when duty does not require these things. Amika wants us to be more steadfast in our benevolence towards those we love; to treat more people as if they were our own loved ones; to love more than duty requires; and to be the best relatives, lovers, friends, acquaintances, and benevolent strangers we can be.

Giving time or money to benevolent charities represents, among other things, an act of worship directed to the God of Love. So does patience with other people’s weaknesses. Remember that you have weaknesses of your own. Be helpful as far as possible without paternalism, and be friendly as far as possible without hypocrisy. To do these things is to worship Amika.

The Perfect Friend also wants us to love ourselves, and treat ourselves accordingly. The God of Heaven does not want us to wear hair-shirts and live in caves, but to live as fully as our circumstances allow.

Loving oneself can be difficult. Living a full life requires work, discipline, and a good faith effort to take care of ourselves and combat our self-destructive tendencies.

Second, we come to the rites that celebrate Amika and its work. The altars of this god can be strewn with pictures of families, committed couples, friends, babies, and even beloved pets. Sermons for this worship can address ways to express love and good will in intimacy, family love, friendship, compassion for strangers. The worship service can also be enlivened with images of archaic gods of love, properly conceived as personas of Amika that appear in dreams and visions so that we may translate them into art.

WHAT DO WE SAY TO AMIKA?..... Amika loves us all, and it does no harm to love this god in return, and to speak of this love again and again. We can promise this god the works and rites of worship, and talk to this god about so much more.

Even when no one else will listen, we can tell this god about all our hardships, great or small, and feel the presence of the Friend.

Better still to confide in Amika about the trials of other people. It is natural for us to pray for our loved ones, but for The God of Love, we do more than what is natural, and pray that even strangers and enemies might be comforted by the Lover of All. When you read or watch the news, you can ask this god to comfort every suffering being.

Even when we lack the courage to tell anyone else, we can tell Amika about all the times we neglected to comfort someone, help someone, or perform some small act that would make this world a little more like Heaven. We can also ask Amika to turn our minds from thoughts that stand in the way of our love for other people; to turn our minds from jealousy, prejudice, and resentments of the sacrifices that committed love entails.

We can meditate upon all the manifestations of love in our life; wash our minds in the images and memories of a particular kind of love: intimate; family; close friendship.

Fixating on how each or all of these bonds makes life worthwhile, we commune with Amika.

Sometimes it is helpful to meditate on the thought of Amika seeing every being that can suffer as a mother sees her newborn baby. Mother loves baby unconditionally, sensing baby’s longing to be loved, comforted, and cared for by good people in a happy place. We can achieve a foretaste of Heaven if we see this baby both in ourselves and in others.


PART NINE..... ABOUT MUSA AND HUMANITY

DO WE BECOME CREATURES OF MUSA?..... No. Musa has not chosen to create anything actual. This deity knows all the fantasies, recollections, and visions of the future, the hypothetical, the possible, remembers all things in all realms, knows all possible things, and is satisfied with this kingdom of non-being.

HOW DOES MUSA INSPIRE US?..... The Ultimate Muse inspires both gods and human beings to make and do new things. Inspiration from Musa is not just for artists; almost everyone can stop complaining about their self-inflicted ennui and do something to keep life fresh.

Musa also inspires us to think about non-things, especially the important ones. Our future, our past, our fantasies, our ideals…..turning our minds toward these figments can enrich our lives if we let Musa inspire us.

HOW DO WE WORSHIP MUSA?..... First, by works, namely doing what this god wants us to do. Musa has only one law; that people should make or do something new; it doesn’t matter what. The God of the Unmanifest passes no judgments about the importance of our new work. Fill a room with day-glo cubes and call it art. Invent a better mousetrap. Have a child. All of these things are equally the will of Musa.

The God of the Unmanifest sounds like an easy god to please. Yet so many people complain that everything bores them; that their lives are in a rut; that they dread free time because they don't know what to do with themselves. Musa wants us to do better than that.

You don't have to be Michelangelo or Einstein to bring something new into the world. You don't have to bring more children into our crowded society either. Your gift to Musa can be as humble as a cozier home or a more interesting day.

Just as importantly, we need not work alone. We can help others bring new things into the world.

Our choices about new things to make and do can be guided by contemplating all the important things-that-are-not: memories, fantasies, dreams, and all our unrealized ideals. To be a stranger to these important non-things is to be a stranger to a god. Through this god’s inspiration, we can make life more of a garden and less of a desert. All we have to do is something new.

Second, we come to the rites that celebrate Musa and its work. The altars of this god can be graced with arrangements of decorative objects. New arrangements, and perhaps new objects, should be used for each worship service. Sermons can address ways to keep life fresh and make it new. The worship service can also be enlivened with images of archaic gods of spring and rebirth, properly conceived as personas of Musa that appear in dreams and visions so that we may translate them into art.

WHAT DO WE SAY TO MUSA?..... Musa is the God of Things that Don't Exist , like our fantasies, the vanished past, and all the possibilities that lurk in the uncertain future. At first blush, praying to a god who rules a kingdom of figments might seem pointless. But every real thing starts out as a fantasy, memory, premonition, or new idea in the mind of a god or a person. Hence the importance of the Ultimate Muse.

We pray to Musa when we anticipate a journey, a new project, or a future challenge. We pray for the inspiration the will to get out of our ruts, do something new, and face a changing world with confidence and flexibility. Everybody could use this kind of inspiration, so we pray to Musa, not only for ourselves, but for others.

We can praise or thank Musa for everything. After all, Musa is the god that inspired the other gods to create changing worlds instead of realms of static beauty. Though Musa has not chosen to create a realm, this deity inspired the idea of time. For a world in which there are new things under the sun, we praise and thank the God of the Unmanifest. We also praise and thank Musa for new ideas.


PART TEN..... ABOUT THE NATURE OF RELIGION

WHAT IS THE FOURLIFE VIEW OF RELIGION?..... That all religions are composed by human beings. That religions each embody ideas about the nature and purpose of reality, along with supremely important hopes. That people should, if they are so inclined, put their faith in these ideas and hopes as long as this faith does them good. To understand this view, we should know Fourlife views about how people make sense of the world.

HOW DO WE MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD?..... This question can be answered in many ways from many points of view. But for spiritual purposes, we see three trends or styles of human understanding that guide us to many beliefs. We discover certain things. We see the point of certain things. Finally, we put our faith in certain things.

WHAT IS DISCOVERY?..... When we discover things, we either experience them through sensations, or make inferences about them that are grounded in the evidence of our senses. No matter how simple or sophisticated we are, each one of us spends our lives discovering things. With that first trip outdoors, every toddler looks up and discovers birds. With centuries of progress, our geniuses have discovered electricity and atoms. Between these extremes come the thousands of discoveries that come with maturity: that children are rarely what we expect them to be, that the world is not what it appears to be, and that we don't know ourselves half as well as we would like to. Armed with our senses and our common sense, we can discover the world, and how little we know about it.

WHAT IS SEEING THE POINT?..... But discovering something is different from assigning personal significance to it. We can discover an ancient statue, describe its form and composition in exhaustive detail, dig up inscriptions about what it meant to its ancient creators, and still be undecided about what the statue should mean to us. What’s the point of examining the statue? What’s the point of writing or reading a novel? What’s the point of living our lives?

Answering these questions requires more than discovery. We need to see the point, to decide what things mean to us. Just as we interpret a story as having a certain moral, or interpret a work of art as having a certain theme, we interpret our lives as having a certain point. According to Fourlifers, we understand the meaning of our lives, not because we search for it, but because we decide upon it. For many people, this decision is also a decision to satisfy the religious impulse.

WHAT IS THE RELIGIOUS IMPULSE?..... As Fourlifers see it, the religious impulse is the urge to interpret reality as having a point. Not everyone has a religious impulse, but most people do. Most people, when they are faced with hardships or hostility that they have done nothing to earn, ask “Why me?” Most people, when they get a break from their hectic routines, ask “Why am I here?” and “Why is reality the way it is?” When people realize all their ambitions but still feel unfulfilled, they ask “What does it all mean?” These questions concern the point of reality and of living. To find answers, we formulate religious doctrines.

WHAT ARE RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES?..... Some religious doctrines concern the nature of reality. However, for the purposes of Fourlife, two types of religious doctrines are important to understand: doctrines about the point of reality, and doctrines about the point of living.

Consider doctrines that explain the point of reality. “Having a point” can mean several things. Something has a point if it expresses a principle. So, we have doctrines about the principles that reality expresses: principles like order, chaos, harmony, conflict, and destiny. Something reality can also have a point if it is made by a person. We know why a thing was made if it serves a person’s purpose or reflects a person’s character. So we have religious doctrines about personal entities, gods, who made reality. In theistic doctrines, reality serves a god’s purpose. For instance, the cosmos can be the stage for the unfolding drama of salvation for the blessed and damnation for the wicked. The theistic universe can also reflect a deity’s character. How often have we heard that the glorious appearance of Nature reflects the glory of God?

Now consider doctrines that explain the point of living by offering the fulfillment of our most important hopes. For a few shallow people, more money and more entertainment are reasons for living. Most of us aim higher. Hope for the triumph of justice can start revolutions. Hope for the triumph of love can start worldwide churches. Hope for a better life after this one can help suffering people live from one day to the next.

Religious doctrines can’t be proven, but they aren’t arbitrary. Though religious doctrines are not discoveries, our discoveries can make religious doctrines more or less plausible. If you preach that all reality is chaos, facts about physical laws can make your doctrine less plausible than the idea that reality reflects a rational godhead. Similarly, if you preach that God made everyone loving and benevolent at heart, facts about human history can make your doctrine less plausible than the idea that we are all sinners in need of redemption.

Still, no matter how well a religious doctrine jibes with our experiences and discoveries, it amounts to no more than daydreaming unless we exercise a special power that none of us can live without, namely faith.

WHAT IS FAITH?..... According to Fourlife teachings, faith is a natural human faculty, the ability to commit to a belief that doesn’t have enough evidence to support it. This ability is crucial to almost everything we do.

You can’t drive without faith. Before driving down the freeway or across town, you don't know that you won't be hit by a drunk. Chances are, you don't even bother to calculate the odds. It's faith that gets you behind the wheel. That faith is in the unsupported belief that everything will be all right.

You can’t marry someone without faith. There’s no proof that you and your spouse will stay compatible for year after year, decade after decade. There’s no proof that you won't file for divorce a week after the wedding. It's faith that gives you the guts to say “I do.” This is not just faith in your spouse or the institution of marriage, but faith in yourself, the unproven confidence that you will do what it takes to make the marriage work.

You can’t do anything important without faith. You can do safe and trivial things like watching a TV show or taking a walk based on some calculated likelihood that you’ll succeed. But doing anything risky or important, from buying a house to raising a child, requires faith. There’s no such thing as proof that you can make your life work.

Notice the connection between faith, commitment, and action. Real faith is more than unproven belief; it's a decision to commit to such belief and act on it. Believing that your neighbor is good is one thing, but it takes faith to leave your children with that neighbor. Believing in space aliens is one thing, but it takes faith to send money to astronomers who search for intelligent life among the stars. Believing that there might be a god is one thing, but it takes faith to open your mouth and pray to someone who can’t be seen or heard.

The strength of faith varies from person to person. Some of us naturally face life with confidence, secure in our unproven belief that everything will work out somehow. Others have less faith, and respond to life more timidly. But strong faith is not always a virtue. Sometimes, we place our faith in the wrong things.

Some of us set ourselves up for a lifetime of despondency by putting our faith in things that disappoint. We have faith that making lots of money will make us happy, only to cry in our champagne when life feels empty. We have faith that popularity or a good reputation will sustain us, only to find our admirers gone when times turn bad. We have faith that fulfillment lies chiefly in planning for the future, only to starve ourselves for satisfaction in the present.

We get destructive when we put our faith in falsehoods. Though strange healings happen sometimes, the faith-healers who claim responsibility for them are usually frauds. Though technology solves a lot of problems, faith in its omnipotence has made us complacent about its dangers. Though some individuals have talents that most others lack, there is no superior strain of humanity, and faith in racism causes endless savagery and suffering.

If some forms of faith can be destructive, how do we know what to have faith in? To justify our claims of knowledge, we examine evidence. But justifying faith is a different matter.

WHAT JUSTIFIES FAITH?..... Faith is justified by its helpfulness to those who have it. Faith can be helpful in many ways. It can help us intellectually. Faith in an orderly universe helps scientists combat ignorance and superstition. Faith can be helpful morally. The belief that virtue can fulfill us makes us better people even in a cruel world. As we have already seen, faith can empower us, allowing us to act even in the permanent state of uncertainty and ignorance that constitutes the human condition. Incidentally, faith also makes religion possible.

WHAT IS RELIGION?..... Religion is what happens when people put their faith in religious doctrines. This definition may seem obvious and unhelpful. But the Fourlife ideas about the nature of faith and religious doctrines have at least two interesting consequences for the Fourlifer concept of what religion is.

Consequence #1: The Denial of Revelation: Fourlifers deny that any religion comes from the godhead, or represents certain knowledge about the godhead. As far as Fourlifers are concerned, all religions are based on human decisions to believe in things that explain the point of reality and the point of living.

Some people equate trusting in gods with believing in fantasies, because gods don't explain the workings of our world in the way that scientific concepts like “energy” and “mass” do. But belief in gods can answer questions about the purpose of life and the world that the sciences were never intended to answer. It seems arbitrary to dismiss beliefs that answer important questions as nothing more than daydreams.

The sciences invoke unseen things like “potential energy” to answer certain scientific questions; yet we believe that this energy exists. According to Fourlifers, human beings can also invoke unseen gods to answer questions about life’s meaning, and yet believe that these gods exist.

There is no need to invoke supernatural forces to do science, math, or philosophy, but there is no principle that dictates that gods cannot be posited for other purposes. If ideas about the supernatural can guide our lives in positive ways, they are worthy of faith.

Consequence #2: The Humanity of Religious Teachers: To the Fourlifer, a valid religion doesn’t have to originate with a strange wonder worker. Like theories, novels, essays, and other human works that interpret life and reality, religions can be written by garden-variety human beings. A creed’s validity is measured, not by strange stories about its author’s strange powers, but by whether the religion meets these two criteria:

a.....A religion should be a plausible interpretation of the point of life and reality. It should jibe with our discoveries and experiences.

b.....Putting faith in a religion should be helpful to the believer.

Consequence #3: Qualified Religious Relativism: This concept of religion leads to a qualified religious relativism. If a religious doctrine represented immutable truth, then only one could be valid. But if a religious doctrine is an interpretation of reality, then more than one can be defensible, just as more than one interpretation of a book can be defensible. If faith represented perfect knowledge of the truth, then faith could lead to only one true religion. But if putting faith in a religious doctrine is a human decision, then it's understandable and expected that different people should put their faith in different doctrines.

Despite these principles, there are at least three reasons why Fourlifers don't accept all religious doctrines as equally worthy of faith.

First, Fourlifers reject the idea of revelation. It doesn’t make sense to say that a god reveals himself to humanity without providing the slightest proof of his existence. So far, no one has offered proof for the alleged fact of the godhead. Priests and prophets, with their fallible and conflicting teachings, have never proven that they hear an all-knowing being. Neither holy warriors nor religious demagogues have proven that they hear an all-loving one.

Second, Fourlifers are critical of religious doctrines that don't jibe with human discoveries or experiences. For instance, no Fourlifer would entertain the idea that the world was created in six days. Also, no Fourlifer believes that our universe is ruled by an all-loving deity. Neither of these doctrines makes sense in light of what we know.

Third, Fourlifers are critical of faiths that harm their followers emotionally or morally. The doctrine that God hates angry feelings is rejected because it promotes mental illness. The doctrine that God encourages the persecution of non-believers is rejected because it breeds malevolence.

Although these three criteria allow for many creeds equally worthy of faith, those who seek a new faith must still choose from among them, because even sound doctrines can contradict each other. If one religion involves belief in only one god, and another involves belief in dozens, the two creeds can’t be reconciled logically.

CAN A FOURLIFER BELIEVE IN MORE THAN ONE RELIGION?..... Faced with the obvious fact that good character can come wrapped in almost any faith, Fourlifers affirm that each individual should be free to believe according to conscience. Only simple logic and commitment to Fourlife doctrine prevent believers from taking, as a second religion, some creed that contradicts Fourlife.

The idea of having more than one religion is unusual in the West, but common in the Far East. In Japan, for example, a person can be both a Shintoist and a Buddhist. Though Fourlife is a Western creed, its doctrine does not necessarily restrict the believer to one faith. Calling oneself a Fourlifer and a Muslim would be illogical and silly, but one could, for instance, be a Fourlifer and a tree spirit worshipper. The two religions can be integrated; tree spirits could be manifestations of Fourlife’s God of the Physical World. Naturally, a believer can choose Fourlife as his or her only religion. If the believer alters Fourlife doctrines, the Founder asks only that the resulting new religion be given a new name. After all, different creeds need different names.

ISN’T IT PRESUMPTUOUS FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE TO WRITE CREEDS?..... Some might call it egotistical for ordinary human beings to write religions, but how egotistical can this be compared to all of history’s self-styled prophets and god-men who have demanded veneration through the ages?

Some might say that inventing a religion is a sign of contempt for the idea of truth. But when the churches of immutable revelation take hundreds of years to accept truths that science has proven time and again, who is really contemptuous of truth?

The idea that all religions are composed by human beings may undermine absolute certainty in religious truth. But in a world where too many people are absolutely certain that God considers them superior to non-believers, the end of absolute religious certitude can only do good.

Freedom from the doctrine of divine revelation means freedom to discard absurd or barbaric doctrines that outlived their usefulness centuries ago.

Freedom from the doctrine of divine revelation also means freedom from arrogant claims of divine wisdom and infallibility. Without the myth of revelation, and without the consequent exercise of false authority, we cultivate our faith in true humility.

MUST FOURLIFERS CONVERT THE WORLD?..... No. Since no one is saved from Natura’s indifference or Iudex’s justice by their religious convictions, no one need change their religious convictions to suit Fourlifers. The virtues that Fourlifers strive for should be taught by example, not by proselytizing. The doctrines of Fourlife should be offered to those who are seeking a creed, not shouted at those who already have one.

We should use our religion, not to impose guidance on non-believers, but to impose guidance on ourselves. For the Fourlifer, this not only means understanding Fourlife doctrine, but avoiding spiritual mistakes.


PART ELEVEN..... ABOUT SPIRITUAL MISTAKES

Religion is justified by its helpfulness to believers. If our doctrines leave us hateful or confused, perhaps we have the wrong religion. Or perhaps we have misinterpreted the right one. Human beings are just as fallible about spirituality as they are about everything else. We all make spiritual mistakes.

Sometimes, spiritual mistakes become traditions. Misogyny haunts the pages of the Bible, while the caste system continues to embarrass Hindus. The Mormons took decades to get over their racism, and the Catholics' apology to Galileo came centuries too late. Let’s not get started on religious promotion of useless guilt about sex. Let’s just be grateful that the witch hunts are over, thanks to the development of secular sciences.

Even if we forget our tainted traditions, we can still make spiritual mistakes as individuals. We can think ourselves straight into the psychiatric ward if we imagine that an all-loving god has rejected us. We can live in terror and wallow in sin if we imagine that devils are controlling our minds. Or we can take a more relaxed approach to confusing ourselves by professing a creed that we don't take the time to think about.

Some spiritual mistakes have already been mentioned: non-moral guilt, too little appreciation of the value of love, trying to avoid judgment through religiosity or clean thoughts. In this section, we’ll have a look at other spiritual errors.

No one could possibly list every spiritual mistake a believer could make, but some of the most common are listed below. Bear in mind that this list reflects the Fourlife perspective; the followers of other faiths may disagree with these judgments.

PREACHING DISEMBODIMENT..... Are we disembodied in the lives to come? Isn’t the idea of a tangible afterlife primitive? Isn’t it more sophisticated to imagine that, when our bodies are no more, we become disembodied souls in a realm beyond time?

Fourlife answers these questions with an unequivocal “No.” The idea of disembodied souls found in so many spiritual traditions is not sophisticated. On the contrary, it leads to conclusions that don't make sense.

Consider the idea that gods exist without time. The belief that gods have thoughts and perform actions makes nonsense of that claim. All thoughts and actions involve change, and change and time are one and the same. The gods are temporal beings.

Some might say that this makes the gods dependent on time, but that’s an illusion. Time is not a medium in which we act; it's a property of actions and actors themselves. Time is not a stage on which the gods appear; it's simply one with what the gods do.

Consider the idea of the disembodied soul. What exactly is a soul? We are told that the soul is not the same as the brain that apparently does our thinking and experiencing. If the soul can be described only in negative terms, what makes it different from nothingness?

We might be told that the soul is made of the same all-pervasive and supremely subtle stuff that gods are made of. We suppose that gods are made of this alien substance to reconcile our belief in their existence with the fact that we never detect them. But we can detect human beings. Why do we need to believe that we are partly made of an alien and undetectable substance? How do we decide what portion of our selves could be made of this substance, when so much of the self is obviously seated in the brain?

To the Fourlifer, the idea of a mind without substance makes no more sense than leverage without a lever or an act without an actor.

Human beings are embodied. Our hope for an afterlife rests in our belief that the gods re-create us, and prepare tangible places for our tangible selves. We see no virtue in conceiving of our gods, selves, or afterlives as timeless or devoid of substance.

MISUSING THE IDEA OF THE SACRED..... If your neighbor looked down on people for failing to shop at a certain grocery store, you would think this strange. If your neighbor became choked with anger and threw you out of the room just because you questioned the value of his grocery store, you’d think he was arrogant. If your neighbor took up firearms and attacked the people down the street because they shopped at a different grocery store, you’d think he was dangerously insane.

But if your neighbors behave this strangely in the name of religion, chances are that you view them too kindly. Looking down on people who don't attend certain churches is considered normal in America. So is getting angry when anyone questions popular religious doctrines. Wars fought over sacred land are politely described as complex historical issues; mass insanity is never mentioned.

Thanks to the misuse of the idea of the sacred, our rankest arrogance and worst behaviors are excused in the name of our highest ideals. It's past time that all of us condemn this moral and spiritual perversity.

To the Fourlifer, only the gods are sacred: not our churches, not our doctrines, and not our holy lands. Though we hold the gods sacred, we don't need to persecute people who disagree. We don't have to scold non-believers or “cleanse” one inch of the planet of non-Fourlifers. The gods can keep their dignity without our help. We dishonor religious faith by being defensive, condescending, or abusive in its name.

The best way to express our reverence for the gods is to honor their gifts: Nature, Duty, Love, and Creativity. If our lives reflect a reverence for these, then we have defended our faith in the best way possible.

MISUSING RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS..... Fourlifers do not condemn such institutions as clergy, organized churches, and monasticism, but do condemn their misuse.

Leaders..... Though Fourlife has no clergy, any group of Fourlifers will have de facto leaders who know, teach, and defend the faith. No Fourlife leader should ever claim to possess a supernatural ability to discern divine will. Violating this principle invites Fourlife followers to use their leaders as oracles or even substitute gods. We misuse leaders when we venerate them as prophets, god-men, or mediums for a holy spirit.

Cloistering and Isolation..... Sometimes we need to isolate ourselves to focus our minds on some task or free ourselves from everyday distractions. We can put ourselves away, alone or in groups, to do all kinds of tasks, like studying for final exams or creating new advertising slogans or planning revolutions.

Sheltered places and communities are good for religion too. In a world that bombards us with conflict and crass materialism, we need places where peace and spirituality have room to breathe; where the arts of prayer, worship, and theology can be developed.

However, we should never confuse sheltering ourselves with improving ourselves, or being sheltered with being good. Isolation is like medicine; its benefits come with side-effects. It gives us respite from life’s pressures, and the ability to focus on our work, but it can stunt us socially.

Viewing isolation as a way of focusing allows us to take its side-effects into account, and compensate for them. But viewing isolation as more virtuous than involvement with the world can engender small-mindedness, or worse, the “us-against-the-world” cabin fever that infects destructive cults.

Churches..... The destructiveness of a church (or any other kind of religious organization) is proportional to its hunger for money and power. Big hungry churches are propaganda mills. They divide their time between preaching that God wants what the government wants, and raising money by spreading lies about non-believers and unpopular minorities.

Good churches are humble churches; up to their steeples in debt if they keep up a building and run their own charities; anonymous and inexpensive if they can meet in borrowed spaces and direct their people to make individual contributions of time and money to existing charities.

ASPIRING TO GODHOOD..... Some of us want the powers and privileges of godhood for ourselves. We try to disguise this megalomania by calling ourselves mere vessels that the highest powers work through, but anyone can see through our false modesty. We faith healers, we flying yogis, we infallible prophets are all glutted with our own pride and self-delusion. When will we learn that the gods’ powers are not our own?

The Powers of Natura..... Only Natura can control Nature by unaided acts of will. People can’t. Some people think they can, and others pretend they can. So we have dabblers in the so-called occult sciences, whose practitioners claim to know so much about the unknown. So we have pagan magicians, who think that destiny can be cooked up with recipes as simple as the ones we make cake with.

It's strange that so many people believe in magic when the sciences have fulfilled most of our dreams of physical power. Human beings influence Nature by working with forces that we do understand, not by muttering about forces that we don't. Things happen that science can’t explain, but in a world where science has debunked so many old superstitions, why count on old superstitions to explain what even science can’t grasp? The mysteries of unexplained foreknowledge, missing ships, and missing socks may or may not be solved in the future, but they won't be solved by magic.

Occultism is not our only delusion of godlike power. Impressed with the wonders of science, many of us imagine that modern humanity controls Nature.

It's true that humanity’s brightest minds are finding new ways to exploit Nature. It's true that we’ve put dozens of new things under the sun, from lasers to microchips to moon rockets. It's true that science run amok could turn the world into a wasteland.

But science has never suspended even one physical law. Our toxic waste has never threatened Earth’s dominant life-forms, the bacteria. The most we could destroy even with an all-out nuclear war are a few complicated, trivial life-forms, mere drops in the biomass like ourselves, the grains we eat, the flowering plants and the vertebrates. New versions of these kinds of life could start evolving as soon as our species died. Maybe such life has evolved elsewhere in this galaxy or other galaxies.

We are not the masters of Nature. We are not its stewards. We can’t destroy the environment; we can only make it uninhabitable for the kinds of life that are most important to us. Soiling the land, soiling the water, soiling the air…..we might as well be soiling ourselves and calling it dominion over Nature.

The Powers of Iudex ..... Vengeance is a natural human inclination, but so is homicidal rage, and many other feelings that inspire vengeance in the first place. If we expect criminals to control their natural urges, we should make the same demand of the people who punish them. Iudex isn’t being unfair by claiming the exclusive right to vengeance.

Only a god can be wise enough to decide exactly what fate a person deserves. Only a god can infallibly judge our guilt or innocence. And only a god could punish the worst of us, the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, as much as they deserve to be punished. That’s why vengeance is reserved for Iudex alone.

Human beings can’t eradicate evil, and we shouldn’t avenge it. We can only contain and discourage it. When evil comes to our criminal courts, we should lock it in a cell where it can’t harm anyone. When evil gets elected to office, we should work to get it voted out. When evil starts a war, we should defeat it in battle. But in all these struggles, we should do no more harm than necessary, and leave vengeance to the Ultimate Judge.

The Powers of Amika..... Amika is the paragon of love. Amika can love absolutely anyone. People can’t.

We have to accept this limitation; it comes with being human. When we know our leaders are betraying us, we don't love them. When we know that companies are cheating us, we don't love them. When we know that certain people mean to harm our families, we don't love them either.

It's unnatural to pretend that we love everyone. If we take up this charade, and greet everyone with the forced smiles and glazed eyes of a religious fanatic addicted to the illusion of total love, we’ll earn the same contempt that drunks and junkies do. Only our fellow love-junkies will keep us company, and nothing they say to us will ever come from the heart.

Amika knows we’re human, and doesn’t ask us to love those who treat us with relentless malice. But Amika does want us to remember that most people are not our enemies. Amika also wants us to curb our hatred.

Hatred comes in two varieties: the kind that hurts, and the kind that gives us pleasure. That’s because we experience hatred as we play two roles: oppressed and oppressor.

If we, the oppressed, want to quiet our hatred, we have to remember that hatred isn’t a power we have over our tormentors, but a form of suffering we inflict on ourselves. Some of our enemies don't know that we hate them. Others don't care. The rest take pleasure in our rage.

If we, the oppressors, want to quiet our hatred, we have to learn humility. We have to admit that others commit no crime by failing to like us, or failing to be the kind of people we like. We have to admit that even our own neighborhoods are big enough for all kinds of people. We have to admit to the wrong we’ve done, and quit being the villains of our own lives and the lives of others.

If we’re in a feud, playing the roles of both oppressor and oppressed, locked in a cycle of revenge, we have to remember that neither side in such a struggle can be in the right. A blood feud is like a death struggle between two hungry shrews trapped together under a bowl. Who cares which shrew wins? The question of which shrew is nobler has no meaning.

When we see hatred from our religious perspective, we need to remember that two deities see all people as equally worthy of justice and love. Iudex and Amika are not poor judges of character. Iudex and Amika are gods. Their judgment is superior to ours. This is evidenced by the fact that, if everyone lived by the rules of egalitarian law and unfailing love, our fondest dreams of utopia would all come true. If even one god sees intrinsic worth in every human being, who are we to dismiss anyone as unworthy of peace, dignity, and life?

The Powers of Musa..... Musa is the embodiment of pure inspiration that has no cause but itself. Musa also finds fulfillment in a kingdom of non-being: fantasies, memories, and possibilities.

Human beings, on the other hand, have no inspiration that comes purely from within; our creativity has to be nurtured by exposure to education, the world at large, and many works of art.

Human beings can’t find fulfillment in a kingdom of non-being; we feel compelled to turn Musa’s non-things into realities. We turn plans into vacations, honeymoons, and new cities. We turn visions into books, paintings, and buildings. We even turn the vanished past into scrapbooks, heirlooms, and monuments.

Our job is not to be like Musa, but make this deity’s world of non-things relevant to present actualities. This act can be as important as creating an enduring work of art, or as humble as turning memories and fantasies into words shared with friends.

DEIFYING WHAT IS NOT DIVINE..... Preventing humanity from worshipping itself and its worldly power is one of the best things that any religion can do. It doesn’t take a genius to see why. When the followers of Jim Jones committed mass suicide, we saw what can happen when people worship human beings. When hundreds of people were guillotined in the French Revolution, we saw the outcome of worshipping human reason. When investors and businessmen lose their jobs and their wealth, we see the black depression that can come from worshipping wealth and personal accomplishment. More importantly, when millions of followers swear blood allegiance to their dictators or their clergy or governments, can war be far behind?

The relationship between a believer and a deity is something unique, precious, and personal that should be kept free from the corrupting influences of ambition, greed, and hate. Only your lover should know your flesh; only a baby should nurse at your breast; and only gods should be worshipped and prayed to.

DISMISSING THE CREATIONS OF GODS AS WORTHLESS: Fourlife teaches us that that only the gods are holy. The moral utility of this teaching is easy to discern when we read about the callous pronouncements of supposedly holy men, the riots started by the desecration of supposedly holy artifacts, and the endless wars fought over supposedly holy land. What is truly holy can never be misguided, ruined, or claimed as one of the spoils of war. Only the gods are holy.

However, this does not mean that the gods’ creations are chopped liver. It is easy to see how some bewildered souls could infer that, since only gods are holy, the value of the gods’ creations must be suspect. Some of these confused people might even argue that universes are a kind of divine excrement; and that it doesn’t matter whether we debase ourselves or our environment, since neither can be holy.

Unfortunately, this train of thought implies that the three gods who call actualities into being all create in vain; that they have no good reason to make their realities. How inconsistent with divine wisdom, which transcends our own. Think about the gods’ self-aware creations, for example, human beings. How worthless can we be when Natura rewards us with power when we discover new principles in Nature; when Iudex makes a universe to judge each rational being; and when Amika re-creates each precious sentient creature to live in Heaven?

Consider artists, who spend painstaking hours painting, sculpting, and assembling their masterpieces. The lives of artists are clearly more precious than their works. Yet some artists would die to protect the things they make. If gods do not die for the sake of their creations, perhaps it is only because gods cannot die at all.

TREATING THE GODS AS SERVANTS..... Sometimes, we can’t help asking the gods for favors. In desperate moments, we cry out to the gods and our mothers too. These cries for help are not spiritual mistakes, but signs of humanity.

Sometimes, we thank the gods for our good fortune. There is nothing spiritually wrong with thanking Natura for our limbs, senses, and wisdom; thanking Iudex for helping us do the right thing; thanking Amika for being there for us; or thanking Musa for an idea.

Prayers for others are never wasted. Even if Natura, that indifferent god, won't shape the world to our wishes, a prayer for another’s well-being is a solid expression of love.

But there comes a point when asking the gods for favors becomes egocentric and spiritually unsound. Should we pray to be millionaires when so many are poor? Pray for perfect health when so many are dying? Should we pray to hit a home run, roll a seven, or win a war when victory means someone else's defeat? The gods are not our servants, and our prayers won't move them to favor our personal agendas.

REJECTING OR NEGLECTING GODS..... For several reasons, we can’t help thinking of some gods more than we think of the others. The fact that the gods are distinct makes it impossible for us to give equal attention to all four of them at all times.

Our personalities and interests may also incline us to think of certain gods more than others. If we are especially loving, we’ll think of Amika more than the other gods. Preoccupation with morality and law can make Iudex a favorite god. Creative people may direct most of their prayers to Musa, The Ultimate Muse. People who enjoy getting their hands dirty with the realities of this world--from scientists to soldiers to farmers to fishers--might call Natura their favorite god.

Gravitating toward one god more than others is natural and harmless, and admitting to this favoritism can tell other Fourlifers what kind of person you are. But when having a favorite god becomes an excuse not to venerate all four, we risk losing our way as Fourlifers.

Rejecting Natura could mean resenting life instead of coming to terms with it. Rejecting Iudex could mean failing to hear the call of duty. Rejecting Amika could mean losing touch with the need for compassion. Rejecting Musa could mean living in a world where memories and possibilities have no meaning.

Worshipping fewer than four gods doesn’t spiritually impoverish everybody; non-Fourlifers have their own ways of staying spiritually whole. But for the person whose faith starts with Fourlife doctrine, neglecting gods can lead to spiritual emptiness.

GIVING UP IN THE NAME OF THE GODS..... Why strive to understand Nature when Natura already does? Why fight for justice in this life when Iudex will give us justice in the next? Why learn to love now when Amika’s Heaven will teach us how later? Why think of new ideas when Musa knows them all?

Because Natura’s world punishes and impoverishes those who live in ignorance. Because Iudex will punish those who could have fought for justice in this world, but did not. Because Amika wants love in this world too, not just in Heaven. Because it is up to us to make life new. Giving up in the name of the gods means turning away from our duties to the gods and to ourselves.

SPIRITUALIZING EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS..... The gods can give us a measure of peace if we let them. Natura can help us face reality; Iudex can remind us of what we ought to do; Amika can stand with us when no one else will; and Musa can remind us of many possibilities. Religious insights can help us cope with reality, but we must not use religion as an excuse to misconceive our emotional troubles.

Our old hatreds are not demons. Fourlife recognizes no such creatures. Our old hatreds are just old feelings.

Our feelings of worthlessness are not a sign that the gods reject us. Gods don't reject people. Feelings of worthlessness are signs of depression.

Hallucinations of hostile voices, horrible creatures, and burning energies under our skin don't come from spiritual disturbances in our auras; they are signs of brain or nerve disorders that need treatment.

Religion and psychotherapy are not substitutes for each other. Your counselor can’t tell you what reality is for, or where you’re going after you die. Your clergy can't tell you why giant dogs keep chasing you in your nightmares. Spiritual language should reveal the ways of the gods, not obscure the true reasons for our emotional troubles.

CONFUSING THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF UNDERSTANDING..... Remember the three ways of making sense of the world?

Discovery..... coming to know things through our senses, or by making inferences about the things we sense.

Seeing the Point..... deciding on the meaning that something has for us.

Faith..... our natural ability to commit to certain beliefs and actions on the basis of inadequate information.

This three-way division is a rough-and-ready way of characterizing our understanding for spiritual purposes; we can use this model to avoid certain spiritual mistakes.

Mistaking Faith for Discovery..... The belief that the world was created in six days is not a substitute for the evidence that points to evolution. The belief that demons can control our minds is not a substitute for studies that link severe mental illness with brain disorders. Magic is not a substitutes for work. Psychic surgery is not a substitute for real surgery. Faith is not a substitute for discovery.

Lord Krishna stopping the sun to win a battle; Moses parting the Red Sea; Buddha growing a tree instantly by washing his hands over a seed; Jesus walking on water..... the sciences rule out the literal truth of these stories. No amount of faith can change that fact. Yet the followers of some religions claim not only that faith can rule out a reasonable, scientific view of the world, but also that disbelief in miracles is somehow cynical.

There is nothing cynical about taking myth as metaphor rather than literal truth. Consider the Bible’s story of Adam and Eve. Which is more important: the strange notion that a serpent spoke in an ancient tabloid news story, or the truth of humanity’s fall from innocence captured in an ancient metaphor?

Mistaking Seeing-the-Point for Discovery

..... Sometimes, we make statements about what reality means to us, but pass them off as statements about how reality works or how it came to be. Among such statements, these two are very popular:

“God created everything.”

“Everything arose by chance.”

Neither of these statements explains how reality developed.

In the first place, we have no way of testing either one. The Creator God is notoriously invisible and undetectable; there are no discoveries that prove or disprove the Creators’ existence. Chance is equally elusive; some phenomena are random, but others are orderly. Did the universal law of gravitation arise from chance? That question has no meaning, let alone an answer.

In the second place, neither statement says anything about exactly how reality evolved. No matter how educated we become, we’ll never find God or happenstance in the equations that describe gravity, electromagnetism, atoms, relativity, or the Big Bang.

The claim that God wills things to happen in our universe doesn't explain anything about how reality develops. If God created everything and governs all of Nature, then, leaving human free will aside for a moment, there is little difference between saying “God willed it,” and “It happened.”

Atheists shouldn't gloat at this point. When it comes to cosmic evolution, the idea of "chance" is equally devoid of explanatory power. If we ask "How did reality happen?", the atheist's answer, "It happened to happen," is neither clear nor helpful.

Our two great statements about the origin of reality make no sense if we take them as discoveries. But they make perfect sense if we take them as statements that invest reality with personal meaning.

If God created everything, then we all have a parent, a destiny, a place, and a number of duties to ourselves, our fellows, and the world.

If reality is a product of absolutely amoral impersonal forces, then we are all spiritual orphans who must choose our own destinies and make our own rules about how to treat ourselves, our fellows, and the world.

We shouldn't confuse interpretations of life’s meaning with explanations of how the world works. The confusion is tempting, because both kinds of ideas may require belief in things unseen (gods or chance on one hand and four-dimensional space-time on the other). Still, if we received a telegram, would we confuse the meaning of the message with the details of how it was sent? Would we argue about whether the telegram came from our parents or from the telegraph?

Discovery without Faith..... Some people claim to believe only in confirmed facts. At first blush, this position may seem sensible, but there’s a catch. Humanity lives in a state of ignorance. Our pool of confirmed facts isn't large enough to give us a complete picture of reality. Who can prove that the sun won't explode tomorrow? Who can prove that yesterday wasn't humanity’s first collective dream? Who can prove that we have any grounds for making judgments about what is real?

People of faith don't have to worry about these questions, because they don't need proof to believe in the continuity of reality and the arrival of tomorrow. But people who believe only in confirmed discoveries have little choice but to become profound skeptics, unable to decide what is real. Only a god can examine all of space and time. Human beings can't see everywhere at once; we can't confirm that all reality behaves itself while we’re asleep. That’s why we need to believe in more than confirmed discoveries.

Mistaking Seeing-the-Point for Faith..... Interpretation can be fun. It exercises the mind. We can get good grades in school, or some personal satisfaction at home, if we come up with clever interpretations of great works like Shakespeare’s plays or Plato’s dialogues.

Suppose we take our gift for interpretation to church. We might have all kinds of intriguing things to say to our fellow church-goers. We might get a good reputation for understanding church doctrine. We might even deserve it.

But a talent for interpretation is not the same as strong faith. The talent can make the principles of our creed more readily apparent to us, but it can't inspire us to follow those principles. The person who mistakes seeing-the-point for faith risks living a life of passive hypocrisy, full of pretty words about gods and harmony, but devoid of personal commitment to principles’devoid of efforts to achieve helpfulness, or even happiness.

Creeds without commitment are as useless as music that never gets played. Intellectuals especially should beware of imagining that a talent for interpreting the meaning of a creed is sufficient proof of faith.

Mistaking Discovery for Seeing-the-Point..... Some rationalists would like us to believe that fascination with Nature is a good substitute for religion. Maybe these thinkers are right to believe that fascination with science is a good substitute for miracle stories. Why fixate on alleged miracles that happened long ago when genuine miracles, born in the hearts of countless stars, are all around us?

Still, fascination doesn't always have a point to it. Facts about reality, while interesting, aren't always personally significant. The predominance of empty space in galaxies and atoms, the abundance of hydrogen in reality, and the staggering number of beetle species teach us nothing about what life should mean to us.

At least one astronomer has seen profound personal meaning in the fact that our galaxy has billions and billions of stars. The rest of us need more than discovery to give meaning to life and reality.

Mistaking Faith for Seeing-the-Point..... Sometimes, we admire strong beliefs no matter how misguided they are. We seem to think that faith grants significance to any belief.

When the sick and injured bathe in brooks because they believe that the waters have healing powers, we admire their faith. When idealists gather in huge congregations to chant for world peace, we admire their faith. When people believe in all kinds of strange myths, from virgin births to devils, we admire their faith.

Instead of admiring such faith, we should be asking what point there could be in turning away from scientific medicine, or using chants as a substitute for political involvement, or insisting that all things sacred have to be connected with the strangest legends.

What do so many of us connect the sacred with the strange? The antique with the authentic? Why is it noble to abandon common sense in favor of myth? Is ideological intransigence really a virtue? Questions like these never occur to those of us who think that faith alone is enough to give meaning to our beliefs.

MISHANDLING SPIRITUAL MISTAKES..... How should we respond to spiritual mistakes, in others and ourselves?

Responding to other people’s spiritual mistakes is usually a bad idea. Spirituality is a private matter; free spiritual advice can be just as obnoxious as free advice about sex. Yes, there are neighbors who will come to you with questions about better lovemaking and better spiritual growth. But if you have all the answers to their questions, you risk becoming a false guru ready to foster unhealthy dependence in the flock.

Your spiritual advice, if it is specific to one party, shouldn't come unsolicited. And if your neighbors come to talk to you about their spiritual mistakes, it's best to say only what you and your neighbors already know. Confirming your neighbors’ suspicions about themselves is something you can do without presuming to lead. The same can be said about advising your neighbor to pray to the gods themselves.

Handling our own spiritual mistakes can be hard. If we dismiss our spiritual mistakes with casual shrugs of perfunctory self-forgiveness, we wander away from piety. If we grieve at our every glance away from divinity, we give up the hope of leading a pious life. If we imagine that we have achieved a state of spiritual perfection, we substitute self-delusion for religion.

We can avoid spiritual perfectionism, and delusions of self-perfection, if we abandon the dream of transforming ourselves into holy beings. Only the gods are holy; we human beings remain as flawed as we have always been. For us, self-improvement means nothing more than doing certain things better.

With this in mind, we should examine our specific mistakes, rather than trying to rate our general condition. Instead of asking ourselves whether we are enlightened, or what stage of spiritual maturity we have reached, we should ask what specific spiritual mistakes we have made. Have we tried to use a god as a servant? Have we confused different types of understanding? Have we used the gods as an excuse to give up?

The most general thing we should ask about our spiritual lives is whether we are following the ways of the gods. Are we coming to terms with the world that Natura created? Are we following the call of duty, as Iudex dictates? Have we tried to love others, as Amika wants us to? Have we heard Musa call us to do something new?

CONLUSION..... Sometimes, we forget about spiritual mistakes, and postpone our commitment to the faith. To save ourselves from that pitfall, we should make a habit of worship, and strive to turn our minds to the gods at regular times.

Services, prayers, and thought will be needed to promote the ideals that the gods embody, to prepare ourselves for our future lives, and to stay close to the gods where we belong.


Index