The greatest criticism of religious people is the many who give ‘lip service’ to their faith. They are devout, attend services, preach their gospel, yet are in fact apostates. They hide behind their God to better their position in the community, to gain trust from others in business or politics, to enhance their reputation, to control a nation, and to affirm their role in society. But they are not what they seem. They remain sinners, agnostics, even atheists, without even a principled foundation that those who label themselves ‘Humanists’, desiring to be good-without-God, might claim.
The bad reputation religion has, which is used as an argument against the role the supernatural can play in our lives, is due to the human element. We are sinful persons. We are born with a sin nature. Call it a sin gene. Living a perfect life, if that might be an objective, is just not possible. So what do we do? For philosophers, thinkers, theologians, humanists, secularists, scientists and all other categories of those who dwell on the questions of ‘our purpose’ and the ‘reason we exist’ consideration is given to history and the presence of God. God’s presence is viewed as a reality by many, and not so, or non-existent by others.
For Christians we look to Christ exemplifying a perfect life, having died to take the punishment we deserve for all sins, God’s atoning Grace, providing salvation for those who believe, and making the Mercy and Grace of God known by his incarnation and resurrection. We learn from history and witnesses to the facts. We come to grips with events that occurred. The reality of Christ is more substantial than the history of Alexander the Great (first written about 400 years after his death). Christ’s words as written are as important as Aristotle and Plato, yet confirmed by more who heard them. Christ’s life was witnessed by hundreds, and recorded shortly after his death. Christ’s history can be confirmed. The Bible is both a historical document and a guide. Compared to many famous persons, their lives admired by authors whose research was conducted many, many lifetimes after their passing, and often from source material written by the person themselves, Christ is most believable.
Muslims look to Muhammad whose dreams, called revelations, were spoken to third parties who then wrote them down. He was a man, human and not divine, subject to all human frailties, who had a deep-seated feeling towards a monotheistic religion he claims came from God through another, the angel Gabriel. The link to that which is written in the Quran is God (Allah) to Gabriel, to Muhammad while dreaming, to Companions of Muhammad, to the people. It is understood some of the Quranic material may have been put to paper prior to Muhammad’s death, and most was written after his death. Years later copies that differed were either consolidated or eliminated to produce one document that was considered the gospel of Islam. Can anyone doubt these inspirations were written with complete accuracy? In addition sayings of Muhammad were also compiled, just when I do not know, as well as a diary of his life, habits, and practices. What he did in life is viewed as the standard for Muslims. He married a child under 10, he raided caravans to support his cause and followers (entitlements for being loyal to Muhammad), and he turned on those who did not accept his divine Lord – Allah. He threatened and if opposed, persecuted in any way, was apt to fight to the death those not in agreement. This practice, Muhammad the example, continues today for those of the more radical strain of Islam. Granted this is not the majority, who I feel are peace-loving and faithful to God, yet they remain silent to the bad reputation growing for Islam. They offer little defense. Who is the apostate in Islam, the moderate or the radical?
Doubts are preyed upon to establish either belief in God or the lack of any need to believe. How you independently deal with your doubts, using a sieve sift through them and reduce them so they can pass through the holes of the screen, will lead to your foundation in faith, which faith, or no faith at all. The clunkers, the large elements of doubt will remain on the screen unable to pass through. What remains? If the doubts pass through, then, is what is real revealed? Or is what is real the clunkers than remain on top? This may be the definition of ‘skepticism’ – focusing on the clunkers. Oh the exposition that has evolved to provide answers to the mystery of life.
I am in the what-passes-through-the-screen-is-real camp. I apply the ‘Eraser Rule.’[i] Posting my doubts I attempt to find answers. They may be concrete, such as scientific evidence, or circumstantial, having sufficient evidence to demand a verdict. But with answers I then erase the doubt and my understanding, the basis for my decisions, and a specter of wisdom fills the void in my thinking. This was the process I applied in affirming my faith in Christ, my trust in the Lord and the Bible as a historical document as well as a guide to life, to the truth, to ethical and moral standards that are applicable to everyone.
As Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, from his recent book, good without God[ii], notes, “let’s have integrity to admit that of course it is possible to be a nonreligious person who consciously or unconsciously adopts an attitude reminiscent of the worst stereotypes of godliness. But it is equally possible to give lip service to being devoutly religious.” He mentions the trend among Muslim men “competing with one another over who has the bigger zebiba, or bruise on their forehead from prostrating himself in prayer.” Do these people care more about themselves or their religion? Are we not selfish, sinfully selfish?
Where the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, other religious documents get a bad reputation is in their use by humans that are not righteous, not godly. There are many. Today Humanists justify a life without God and refer frequently to the travesties in history carried out in the name of God. They miss the true picture and facts. These were not the acts of God. They were the acts of sinful men. But they blame the holocaust, tsunami’s, earthquakes, hurricanes, Stalin’s humanly insane intentional famine[iii], Mao’s (Zedong) Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution costing possibly more than 20 million lives, and other destructive events that claimed untold numbers of human lives as preventable, God having the power. They question God’s purpose. But do they really understand? Do we really know? Is God evil? Did God simply create the world and then leave humans to their own devices?
Can anyone be righteous? Are we all living a lie? How are we to be guided? What is the correct path? God, all-powerful, provided his Son as atonement for those who know him and believe in Him – Christ. But, can God also atone in another way for those who are ‘good’ and believe and love God, who do not know Christ or want to know Christ? As a Christian I am wont to say ‘no’, but I have my doubts. After all we are all God’s children. It may be possible, even probable, certainly God can do what he wants to do.
The Bible instructs us that the laws we live by are standards, but cannot lead to salvation. If salvation is not your personal objective then it may not matter anyway. Take what is ‘good’ as a measurement, a weight to be placed on the right side of the scale of life. The weight to the left side of the scale is ‘evil’. If it were possible that any one person has no ‘evil’ to place on the scale would God’s mercy and Grace and the gates of heaven be open to them – whether they believed in God or not. They may not even care a wit about a life after death (as would be the case for an atheist and/or a humanist), just being ‘good’ is enough (if they so choose). Do you know? How do we determine ‘good’ or ‘evil’? How much does one good or evil weigh verses another? Who decides?
Good and evil are classified in the domain of Law. It is society that establishes Law. Biblical Laws as written have had a great impact on the Truth as to the good laws and the evil ones. Are Biblical laws acceptable universally? The Quran embraces them. The Constitution of the United States embraces them. Do you?
As I contemplate all this stuff a zebiba grows on my forehead, not from prayer, but from beating my head against the wall of confusion, of opinion, of differences, of the lack of peace in the world, of tyranny, totalitarianism, of political abuses, of the theft by trusted leaders from the clergy to governments, of potentially real religious wars, of attempts to ignore or deny what is happening, and my efforts to filter out the noise of debate, intolerance. I am just trying to find my place. I have found it in the Bible, but not without doubt. I seek a life after death. I believe in an eternal kingdom. To an atheist or a humanist I may be a fool. I have no problem with their position, as long as they do not attack mine. I seek their tolerance, not their humor or abuse. I question their ‘goodness’ whenever they show disdain for those who believe in God. When they die, they die, otherwise if they are good, why would I have a problem with them. Is their goal to achieve 100% goodness? For every evil they commit do they just say, ‘so what’? Do they seek forgiveness? Should I care?
If you believe in God, then, and this applies to me as well, we all must be ‘good’. We must strive for peace in the world. We must be tolerant. We must not be prone to killing another human, for any reason. God is a loving, tolerant, accepting, and gracious Lord.
If non-believers, atheists, humanists are godly (use a believers definition – it does not say you believe in God) and are not wicked; if they do not suppress the truth when they are wicked, and understand what is ‘good’ and live accordingly, then we can all praise them for their goodness. They do not expect a life eternal, only peace on earth. I am all for that also. If they avoid sexual desires, live a moral life (then who defines a moral life?), are not materialistic, work to make the environment viable and productive always, are an example of what they espouse, are neither greedy nor depraved, not full of envy, strife, deceit or malice; if they are not gossips, slanderers, insolent, God-haters, arrogant or boastful; if they do not invent ways of doing evil, disobey their elders or their parents; if they are not senseless, heartless, ruthless; if they openly disapprove of those who practice evil ways, then God Bless them (even if they do not want God’s blessing.) May they show compassion to all mankind.
May everyone of us, especially those who believe in God, the Trinity, or Allah live a loving, caring, charitable life appreciative of the creator and all that envelops us every day. We are in the world of God’s doing. We have been commanded, all humans, to ‘subdue’ the earth. Get to know it, understand it, and keep it clean and productive for future generations. God encourages scientists to discover. God wants man to know all there is to know about His creation. We need not bang heads over this; it is what God wants. Scientific achievement – God blesses and encourages every discovery. Philosophical thought – God blesses and embraces the expression of the intellect of man given by God to be used to understand purpose and existence. As in the parables the truth will be revealed to those who understand. Biblically speaking it is written, spoken by Jesus, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
- Though seeing, they may not see;
- Though hearing, they may not understand.” (Luke 8:10-11)
For the Humanist the ‘parable’ could be ‘reason’. It might be said, “Only the most tolerant and wise will understand what makes sense, what is rational and thus reasonable. Claims made that disagree with the most wise may reflect a lack of knowledge, perception, understanding or ignorance. It is only the reasonable, the rational man who knows.” But then I ask who decides? Is there the wisest of the Humanists, the atheists – is it Richard Dawkins? His compassion for others lacking, yet a leader of the cause. Who is their supreme leader, the commander, the one who inspires and dictates the manifesto of Humanism. Who is their Muhammad through whom the word of the most reasonable Humanist is channeled? Who is the focus, the one who defines what is ‘good’? Are there in fact many, as there are many denominations of Protestants, many Islamic sects and/or tribes?
We live in a caldron of multiple components that make up the stew of the world. We can only pray the resultant cup from which we all drink will be pleasing to the palate.
There are Muslims that beat their heads to demonstrate they are a soldier in Allah’s army. Are they being brainwashed to battle for rights that God does not require, that of a world for only Allah. Do they truly believe in Allah or in self-preservation, an escape from poverty, the enjoyment of a new way of living, being regarded more highly, and acclaimed by their peers in society for dying for Allah? Many leaders within the Muslim world would not do what they command others to do – they are apostates. Most Muslims do not feel the terrorists acts committed in the name of God, or Allah, are as Allah would want. They are embarrassed and doubt the intentions of the Islamists. Is their individual zabiba worth anything? Maybe they need to increase, with meaning, the size of the zabiba, petitioning Allah to come to use his power to stop the holocaust against all who may not believe. Within a framework of only Muslims there are many who disagree, one with the other, over the truth of Allah. His truth, if he is God, can only be for peace in the world, tolerance of neighbors, love of all of mankind, believer or non.
From the Quran, “”Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, – any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness (does good), shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Sura 2:62)” This appears be a unifying statement. All those who believe in God shall be rewarded. However, Maulana Muhammad Ali, his translation of the Quran, refers to 22:17 that states, “surely Allah will decide between them….” Keeping this in mind, Ali’s footnote to 2:62 reads, “The existence of good men in other religions is not denied by the Holy Quran, but perfect peace, or the state of absolute contentment which is indicated by freedom from fear and grief, is obtainable only in Islam, because Islam alone is the religion of absolute submission to the Divine Being.” Thus it is Allah, Islam, or no Salvation, and then Salvation is only if Allah decides. No assurance for anyone, non-Muslim or Muslim. If you do a flyover of a 100% Muslim country, and as any Muslim living in such a state can tell you, ‘perfect peace’ is not in evidence.
Are you as confused as I am? I am sticking with the assurance for this sinner that Salvation awaits. Why? – the answer – Jesus Christ. No more zabiba for me.
Grace and Peace,
[i] From the Book Wake Up!, Wake Up!, The Testimony of a Layman, pg. 153, Tate Publications, Mustang, OK, 2009 – Available from Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com.
[ii] HarperCollins Publisher, 2010, pg. 68
[iii] Stalin’s Kill Tally (Wikipedia): Kill tally: Approximately 20 million, including up to 14.5 million needlessly starved to death. At least one million executed for political “offences”. At least 9.5 million more deported, exiled or imprisoned in work camps, with many of the estimated five million sent to the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ never returning alive. Other estimates place the number of deported at 28 million, including 18 million sent to the ‘Gulag’.