Cosmology is the study of the nature of the universe, forming the root foundation for all human philosophy (what is the nature of existence), theology (what is the nature of God), cosmogony (what is the origin of the universe) and in our modern age, astrophysics (what is the actual observable physical nature of the universe).
All are concerned with a question once well formulated by Giordano Bruno, a thinker who envisioned the universe as a wheel within a wheel, who thought the universe might be populated by intelligent beings other than man, and who was burned at the stake by the organized Church (the word catholic derives from Greek katholikos meaning universal) as a heretic for expressing these ideas.
Giordano Bruno question was : "If the world has no beginning and no end, then where are we?"
The question remains even if the universe is finite, rather than infinite, and does have a beginning and end: Where are we then?
Cosmology Drives the World Religions
It is the question of "where are we" which drives the world religions, for each presumes through its proprietary religious dogmas to provide its adherents with the required answer. The worldwide strife and conflict we witness every day in the news is the inevitable result.
A Photographic Infrared Image of our Galaxy - The Milky Way In this context, it is interesting to look at a photograph which we personally consider to be one of the greatest photographs ever made (rivalled perhaps only by space photos of our own Earth): it is an infrared view (infrared measures "heat") of our Milky Way Galaxy assembled from six months of data taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS):
What you see above is our compressed version of the original (to save download time & space). See the original larger IRAS image here. This "All Sky" far infrared survey photograph is by the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, Caltech/JPL. IPAC is NASA's Infrared Astrophysics Data Center.
The photo is described as follows at the CalTechGallery:
"The bright horizontal band is the plane of the Milky Way, with the center of the Galaxy located at the center of the picture.... Hotter material appears blue or white while the cooler material appears red.... Celestial objects visible in the photo are regions of star formation in the constellation Ophiuchus (directly above the galactic center) and Orion (the two brightest spots below the plane, far right). The Large Magellanic Cloud is the relatively isolated spot located below the plane, right of center. Black stripes are regions of the sky that were not scanned by the telescope in its first six months of operation." [links added by this posting]
For more detailed information, download the free Digital Universe Atlas from the Hayden Planetarium.
Where are we - now?
That "All Sky" photograph brings us one step closer to an answer of the "where are we" question posed at the beginning of this posting. Indeed, it provides us a different kind of "big picture" than other types of photographs or depictions of our galaxy, which show more its spiral form or the distribution of stars within that spiral as individual points.
The "All Sky" infrared "heat" photograph above shows clearly that our universe is "a galactic burning ring of fire" which in its profile looks like a bit like a gigantic ignited galactic egg.
How do the religions portray our universe?
Now consider how the world's organized religions portray our universe to control their adherents. The ignorant masses are kept in fear by the threatening allegation their deeds - bad and good (as determined by that particular organized Church management) - will be rewarded either by eternal heaven or eternal hell, with hell pictured as a region of eternal burning fire.
Take a look again at that infrared photograph of our current "heaven above". This is where we are NOW. Galactically seen, speaking of the Devil, we are already in a burning ring of fire.
The portrayal of the cosmological universe by man's organized religions, including their cosmogenic visions of paradise and hell, is thus so antiquated as to offend normal intellect and elementary independent thinking. There is surely no hell in this universe, and if there were one, we are already in it, because the universe, according to the big bang theory, is conceivably one, big expanding exploded fireball. The IRAS infrared photo confirms the big bang theory.
The fact is that man's religion is rooted in ancient astronomy, when God was seen to have an abode in the heavens at the immovable center of those heavens in the night sky of stars. In ancient days, mankind did not yet know that there was a Celestial Pole and an Ecliptic Pole, resulting from the 24° tilt of the Earth's axis. If there is a God and if he has a location in heaven, it can not be the one that the ancients imagined, because both the celestial and ecliptic poles only have relevance to Planet Earth and not to the entire Milky Way Galaxy.
Similarly, man's concept of hell developed from the ancient observation of the internal workings of Earth in volcanic eruptions, showing ancient mankind that the Earth, underneath its surface, was a world of fire. This was the "underworld" of souls, whereas heaven was the "upper world" of souls, to whose stars, for example, the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt thought that the souls of the deceased would rise.
Thousands of years have since passed since these primitive cosmogonies were developed.
These ancient antiquated beliefs no longer conform to what we know, neither in the world of astrophysics (the big visual picture) nor in the world of genetics (the sub-visual world).
It is time for a change.
Man's organized religions must be reformed to conform to modern knowledge
If we are to obtain healthy religious views and achieve a semblance of peace among humans on this planet, it is essential to achieve a reformation of the outdated, antiquated and simply grossly erroneous cosmologies and cosmogonies which the organized world religions still impose on their believers. This does not mean that God must be abandoned, but the religious view of God must be modernized to conform to modern knowledge, otherwise, religion is simply a sham, and a scam.