First Published 24 May 2006
Most of the world`s religions worship the same God. Yet, differences in the way that God is worshiped have caused more human strife, misery and death than any other single cause.
- There is but one God of Abraham, the Deity of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
- No religion is perfect
- The only purpose of religion is to praise God; attempts to subjugate another are abomination.
What is Religion?
First, let`s consider the word religion. As used here, religion is `Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe` (see Dictionary.com)
. Hinduism is a religion that believes in a deity other than the God of Abraham, similarly, Wicca observes Mother Nature as Deity. Other belief systems, such as Buddhism, or the relentless pursuit of whatever, even atheism, are philosophies, some of which are exercised as a religion. While Hinduism is a large segment of India`s population, most of the world`s religious population belongs to one of three religious sects: Jew, Christian or Muslim.
The three major sects all have the same deity.
- The God of Abraham, HaShem, is the Deity of Judaism.
- Jesus Christ is believed, by Christians, to be the Son of Abraham`s God who ascended to a co-Deity status.
- Allah is the name of the God of Abraham used by Muslims.
Mohammed, the founding prophet of Islam, claimed to be a descendant of Ishmael, the first son of Abraham who was cast out after the birth of Issac. Mohammed asserted that Ishmael`s birthright (being the favorite of Abraham`s God), was stolen by Issac, father of the Jewish nation. This is a basis for Islam`s animosity towards Judaism, when present (not the only reason).
Islam praises Abraham, Moses and Christ as prophets who led the way for Mohammed, the last, and therefore True, prophet of God. Islam teaches that Mohammed debated the greatest Jewish and Christian scholars and easily dispatched their arguments, thereby proving the correctness of Islam. Through primogeniture, God must favor Islam. Since Mohammed was the last, and True prophet of God, Islam must be the correct religion of Allah, God.
Christians assert that Jesus was the son of God and rose from the dead to ascend to the throne of Heaven to become co-Deity with the Father, God of Abraham. It is fundamental that Christians cannot accept Mohammed as the last, true prophet of God. To do so would relegate Christ to a lesser status.
The majority of Jews do not accept Jesus Christ as messiah nor God-incarnate; and deny His divinity. The New Testament is incongruous with the Bible (Old testament) in that it changes the instructions given by Moses (as the Israelites were to enter the promised land), as well as essential tenants of the commandments. While Judaism and Islam worship the same god, each feels that the other is trying deprive them of God`s favors. The Bible (Genesis 16:12) describes Ishmael: ``And he shall be a wild ass of a man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man`s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren.`` Naturally, Muslims, who claim God`s benefits as being derived through Ishmael, would find the Bible less than inviting.
Each sect must believe that they are the only ones entitled to God`s grace and that grace may only be obtained by following the doctrines of their specific religious sect.
If not, how does one explain the crusades, pogroms, inquisitions, Catholics versus protestants, protestants versus evangelical protestants, Muslim versus Jew, on and on, an intolerance of sect against sect; doctrine against doctrine. Do you dunk or can you just sprinkle? One ablution or three? Right foot first or left? Can a left handed person eat with the left hand or does it condemn them?
What makes each sect believe that they have the exclusive and singular way to praise God? Especially when all are attempting to praise the same God? What hubris allows all of these religious sects to proclaim that they have the singular authority of God as to the manner in which He is to be praised?
All Religions Have Chinks
No religion is perfect. All have elements that belie beliefs and strain credulity. That`s why every region requires a leap of faith and cannot be ensconced in historical fact.
An orthodox Jew might tell you that when Moses first received the tablet of commandments from God, they were in a transparent stone with the commandments etched in Hebrew, mystically readable from every side. The second set of tablets were in regular stone but still etched in Hebrew. Problem is, Hebrew wasn`t a usable language until about 600 BCE/BC the period that the Jews were in exile in Babylonia. The tablets must have been delivered around 2000 BCE/BC. Moses` five books would, more likely, have originally been written in Phoenician script on clay tablets. It was during the Babylonian exile that the tablets were transcribed onto scrolls in Hebrew. The discrepancy is explained by giving Moses the prescient ability to read, write and understand Hebrew, a millennia before it was invented.
Even today, The meaning of as much as 25% of Biblical Hebrew is not understood. The great Jewish scholar Rashi, who is credited with delivering one of the most inspired exegeses of the Hebrew scripture, did not understand parts of the scripture. For example, in the footnotes of Rashi`s exegesis is an explanation that, though he deciphered the word pistachio, he felt that it must have meant peaches, as he was unfamiliar with pistachios.
The New Testament has many problems which require faith rather than relying on historical fact. First, there is no contemporary record of Jesus, all accounts being written 50 or more years after crucifixion and resurrection. While it is reported that Jesus came not to change a single jot of the Bible, He essentially changed all biblical law, a prohibition issues by Moses to neither add to nor take away from the Bible. The 639 commandments of the Bible were changed to the Ten Commandments. And, even the meaning of some of the Ten were changed. At the time the tablets were delivered, adultery only concerned the activities of the wife, a husband was at liberty to do as he wished as long as the woman was not married to another; to steal was to kidnap and sell someone into slavery - think of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Meanings quite different than accepted by current Christians. To say nothing of killing versus murdering. It seems reasonable that the individual who best understood the ten commandments would have been Moses. He received them directly from God and spent 40 days and nights learning directly from God. What did he do after delivering the tablets? He had the Levites kill the idolaters. As a reward, the Levites became priests. Seems like Moses would have known the difference between killing and murdering and which was prohibited. That the Bible and the New Testament are inapposite is demonstrated by the scripture, itself. The Bible states that the LAW (commandments) was given to the Jews to make them holy, a word which, at the time, meant to to be set apart, not better. Paul, one of the earliest Christian writers and principal proponent of the Christian religion, said that if one doesn`t believe in grace and resurrection of the body to dwell in Heaven, then they should go back to the LAW. St. Paul clearly differentiates between a belief in Christ and a reliance upon the laws delivered by Moses.
And what of Islam? Mohammed is Islam`s prophet and messenger of God. What is known of Mohammed? We are taught that during Ramadan Mohammed was in a cave and received God`s message which he delivered in the form of the Koran/Quran. Only Mohammed could neither read nor write. He had scribes follow him, editing the words and sequence of the Koran/Quran, for the rest of his life. And, there were supplemental revelations from God to Mohammed when propitious for Mohammed. Logic requires that one ask, if the message was from God, why was there a need for revision? Why didn`t God get it right the first time? If God got it right the first time, why would Mohammed change the word of God? Why did God always give directives that benefited Mohammed? If God is omniscient, why didn`t He know that the questions were going to arise and give the answer in the first message? If one can accept or explain the actions of Mohammed, then Islam becomes a very simple and elegant religion. It is only the theocracy of man, imposed by Islamic leaders, that becomes repressive.
The Big Questions
Why doesn`t God have enough love to go around? Obviously, if God`s love can only be received by following the precepts of a certain religion, His capacity to love is limited but His capacity for hatred is boundless.
Why is it necessary for one man to impose his religion upon another?
Does any man really believe that he knows the mind of God?
The Usefulness of Religion
The only acceptable purpose of religion is to praise God. Since all religions are fundamentally flawed, attempts to subjugate another, with religious doctrine, are abomination. It matters not if that person is an evangelical, an ayatollah, a priest or a rabbi. Man has no duty to try to enforce the will of God. None can know the mind of God. They may give guidance to those of their faith but condemnation of another is not a permissible activity, that is reserved to God, just as is vengeance and judgment.
Religion is best served when its members heed Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.