Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist; Who Is Greater?

For thousands of years religious wars have been waged and perpetuated by the belief that force can persuade people to love our God and Creator, or defend us against alien and corrupt ideas. Even among Christians - who are taught that non-violence is best - the sword, arrow, and bullet have often been  unleashed in battle to the death. 

Truth be told, religion is usually just an excuse, a fig leaf, that covers the real motive. Land, money, and power are almost always the cause of wars. If the combatants really knew or believed in God, they would tremble at the evil they were sowing and unleashing against themselves. All religions have been used in this way, and it's probably impossible to judge which are worse or better than others, historically. War is a fact of life on earth, and all nature is "red of tooth and claw". The animal and insect kingdoms are in a constant state of conflict, and have been since the dawn of time.

The dream of a Utopian society without war is just that, a dream. Some wars just have to be fought. As it says in Ecclesiastes, "To everything there is a season... and a time for every purpose under heaven... a time for war, and a time for peace..."

Does God favor one religion over another? Are some people destined for a higher realm because of their religion? Yes. But let's not argue now. What we can all probably agree on, however, is that the spirit in our hearts and our conscious wish to find goodness, peace, and mercy will carry us very far in our journey toward God. This is what counts most. Money, power, and property can't go with us, and they don't count in the Heavenly Record Book. A clean heart, a clean mouth, and a record of giving love to others do count in that book.

Jesus was challenged often on this point. In the New Testament, Mark 12:28, it's written, "One of the teachers of the law [a rabbi] came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?'

'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'Is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this,: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.'"

Very simple. All the great religions of the world could conceivably qualify. But who are our neighbors? "Love your neighbor as yourself" was a commandment of Old Testament law from Leviticus 19, interpreted by rabbis of that time to mean that you need only love members of your own religion or nation. Jesus is clear in Luke 10:25 that all men and women are our 'neighbors'. This is one of the greatest attributes of Christianity, and the reason it achieved such heights of success. All people in the world have intrinsic value, regardless of wealth, family, power, race, religion, or social position. 

Additionally, who is this God Jesus refers to? In the Judeo-Christian world, God is a loving, merciful, forgiving Creator of all things. Many other religions also see God this way. But in the end, it's you, the believer and seeker, who must "wrestle with God" to find out who, exactly, is this object of your worship. Why is there suffering, and why would a loving God allow it?

Check out the answers in this essay on the Book of Job, by Chesterton..

We are saved by our faith and the spark of spirit in our hearts. 

Have a very Happy New Year!