UI – Part 610 – Top Down, Bottom Up, Religion
Let’s take a look at the largest segments of population by what they believe. There are three for this review. Christians, at 2.2 Billion, Muslims at 1.6 Billion, and Atheists at 500 million. That is over 5/7 of the world population. When it comes to Atheists we are considering people that do not believe in an almighty, or no God. There are others that are religious, many believing in the almighty. A fourth large segment, Hindus at 1.1 Billion, are not in this analysis as I must admit having less knowledge about the cultural nature of its adherents. Also Agnostics who believe in God, but not a structured Religion. Other religions are addressed tangentially in this discussion. What we consider next are Scripture, and finally the general nature of believers within a religion, that being the piousness of those who claim to be of one religion or another. Atheism is a religion for this commentary.
Most might agree that all religions are comprised mostly of ‘moderates,’ or ‘cultural’ members of the faith. The ‘moderate’ lacks an in depth knowledge of their religion. As ‘cultural’ members they were born into a family that acknowledged their religion. Or the ‘cultural’ is from an area where a given religion was dominant. From birth they were thus labelled as of a given religion. As adults they may or not remain.
Scripture – Bible
This is simple. Christians have as their guide book, their Scripture, the Bible.
The Bible has two parts, the Old and the New. They are testaments to time, to history, and to the life and death of Christ. It is a reflection on the Jewish religion and the evolution through prophetic discourse of the life of Christ, his sacrifice, and its meaning for everyone. History tells us about God, his wrath, his loving nature, and offers foundational principles to live by – such as the Ten Commandments. The commandments were designed more for those that choose not to live a right guided life, making them aware there were consequences for bad actions and the nature of such actions. God wanted all humans to be right with God, to regain the spiritual, physical and eternal life that Adam could have enjoyed. Thus God begot Jesus via the virgin, Mary. A new life, a new birth, a new Adam was made possible. From the example, the life, and Christ’s saving Grace it is possible for all, believing in the sacrifice and being thankful, to be saved. Salvation is assured. The dictates for living a life with love towards others, even those not in accord with accepting Christ as Savior, are outlined. Christians are to live as they believe, in so doing becoming an example. They are also to share, to share what they know, understand and believe, and why. That is referred to as the Great Commission. But it is not intended to be dictatorial.
The Bible stresses acceptance of Christ and living a life of tolerance.
Scripture – Quran
Muslims have as their guide book, Scripture, the Quran. The Quran clearly has elements that were derived from the Bible, the Ten Commandments an example, but it is as stated words from Mohammad. The claim is the words were received during respites taken directly from an angel. The angel was Gabriel. Gabriel was sharing God’s words, or Allah’s. Mohammad repeated the words with his Companions, who after his unexpected demise (Mohammad was murdered) were gathered and asked to record what they remembered. Many Companions died in battle before what they knew was memorialized.
Such battles were between Mohammad followers and those that decided to leave his programs, no longer committed to the ideology he espoused. They no longer felt they had to fear Mohammad. The battles were fought to keep the followers together, to punish those that left. There were new kings (Caliphs) as enforcers. It was Mohammad’s practice to kill those that chose to no longer join his campaigns against caravans and areas where there was opportunity for plunder and persons to coerce into his plans and acceptance of Allah. They were to be Mohammadians, and if not, proven when they left, they, having enjoyed the spoils of plunder until then, were proven hypocrites. Hypocrites deserved to die according to the Prophet.
Much of the Quran provides methods for the followers of Mohammad to practice what they believe, or should believe, with a goal to achieve a universe of only Mohammad believers and followers. All others are to be eliminated, by conversion, submission (paying a fee for protection) or death. Many who converted were never full blown believers, but did so simply to remain alive. Salvation is only as Allah decides; there is no assurance. Allah only loves those who love him. Every action to be taken by a believer, a Muslim, is to advance Islam. There is no love of neighbor.
The Quran is not tolerant of non-Muslims, and commands over and over for adherents to ‘fight’ the enemy, which is an infidel (a non-Muslim).
Scripture – Atheism
Atheists have no guide book, or Scripture. However they may rely on judgement. The question that arises relates to an awareness of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ or ‘good’ versus ‘evil.’ What is the source of such awareness for the atheist? When it comes to confronting tragedy, hardship, or death, most atheists turn to God. Maybe not directly, but certainly with an indication of awareness of a higher power.
A friend recently passed away. He was brilliant and quite successful. He grew up in a Jewish family, but by the age ten had doubts and pursued a path without God. He declared himself an atheist. He became quite successful, and with some time and wealth began to explore that which drove his inner self. He visited Europe and India several times. He developed an association with a Guru and his Ashram. It was a step in his life’s journey. He was a good person. He cared deeply for his wife and family, as well as his friends. He stayed on his journey without God. That is until he died. He wanted a Shiva. Part of the Jewish mourning process, the Shiva is to bring structure to his life. It is a meaningful process enabling others to more gradually separate from the deceased’s life, and for themselves to re-enter society. It is derived from the Bible. My friend did not forget the traditions of his heritage although assuaging God. Had he stayed with his atheist persuasions he would have accepted an Indian burial or just being put in the ground without ceremony, even cremation, his ashes spread wherever.
Government becomes an enabler for the atheist. Government, elected, officials are a useful tool when seeking legislation to permit that which ethical, moral, biblical foundations would not allow. I believe America was founded on Christian values and principles, as does the author Mark David Hall, his book, Did America Have a Christian Foundation. However in a permissive society attempts to create a national morality without religious principles is possible. The fabric of America needs government, but it also needs God. Freedom needs God.
Nature of Belief – Believers in Christ
Born into a religion, the base being the family, requires development. Development enables a person to grow into their family’s religion. That growth depends on education. If education is restricted to just one concept, then the person is limited, no matter how gifted with intellectual abilities. The education comes from the parents and outside sources – teachers, elders, leaders, preachers and religious scholars.
History has proven there are religions that have appeared to be overpowering. Catholics, from priests and the Vatican, have established the framework for their followers, insisting they adhere or be excommunicated. Excommunication is as punishment, not physical, but from the rites practiced by the church. Catholicism is but one avenue for Christians.
Protestantism is another avenue for Christians. Born from the Catholic Church protestantism freed believers from the dictates of the Catholic church. Where Catholics and Protestants agree is that Christ is the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, died for the sins of mankind (of which we are all sinners) taking the punishment we deserve, was buried in a tomb, and rose from that tomb on the third day, all according to Scripture, and ascended into heaven in union with God, as God, God-incarnate. Christ is the Savior of mankind, those who believe in the Risen Lord. God can do as God wishes, even coming to earth and living as a man among all humans, providing the example for us to live by. Then suffering as Jesus did for each and every one of us for our transgressions.
Within the categories of protestantism are many divisions, such as Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, et al, all, however, believing in the saving grace of Christ, God’s gift to those who believe, justified in their Christian faith as believers in Christ and his Resurrection.
Nature of Belief – Islam
Islam takes a different path. As for them, Mohammad, a mortal, is a prophet, the last prophet (as it were), who never accepted that Christ was the son of God, or that Jesus died and was raised, and thus divine. Mohammad believed in god, referring to god linguistically as Allah. In a fashion Mohammad was an Agnostic, believing in God, but not accepting the foundational principles of the Bible. He created his own religion, more his own ideal, and ordered those who chose to follow him to follow his dictates. As a warrior and bully his tactics were preceded by his own call for ‘violence and fear’ first, followed by invasion, marauding and pillaging. When successful the actions were pleasing to Allah, and the spoils of his raids, call them battles, were to be shared. His henchmen (Companions) and others joined for the sole purpose of making money or taking pleasure from attacking when in a position of strength. Vengeance, to be perfectly clear, was part of Mohammad’s plan, to avenge persecution he felt when living in Mecca. His family and other bedouin tribes, having a ‘live and let live’ approach to what they believed, was overtly challenged by Mohammad. They found his campaigns and attitude negatively impactful on their businesses. They were not kind to him, that is true, and he left for Medina (at the time called Yatrib) to freely practice his own belief. His fashion of belief in one god, Allah, became a way of life in the process of doing what he deemed necessary to make those in Mecca accept him, his program, and his Allah. Fighting, taking control, forcing others to adopt Mohammad’s system and belief in only Allah, as well as submitting to his leadership, as judge and jury, prevailed.
Mohammad believed in God. However he distorted Biblical teaching. That may be due to him being illiterate. He confused the Trinity, as Father, Mother (Mary), and Jesus. He thought as three persons Christianity was polytheistic.
Christians believe in One God. They are as monotheistic as Mohammad. Unique to Christians is what has been defined as the Trinity, that of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As a note: the Father is eternal, not ‘begotten.’ The Son is begotten of the Father, but also eternal, also God, to live among humans so we could know God. The Holy Spirit, ‘processed’ from Christ at Pentecost, also eternal, also God, providing assurance of Salvation for those that are justified in their faith. The Holy Spirit dwells within those who believe and have faith in Christ, his sacrifice as a substitute for our sins, and Resurrection. The Bible tells the whole story and is clear in the definitions.
All religions, if one includes atheism as a form of belief, just not in God, has their teachers, leaders and preachers. They become the respected informers of the meaning of their faith. But they can also have the power of their knowledge and authority go too far, the sinful nature of man kicking into action, and abuse the pedestal upon which many are placed. They can hide behind a contrived morality, while at the same time seeking to influence and control. They are placed on a pedestal, at the top of their religion, and can easily, readily, deceive their followers into actions contrary to God’s Truth. The Bible warns of false prophets and teachers. Our world, our society, your society is filled with them. Beware.
God gave us each a most precious gift, that of our intellect and ability to discern the truth. Do not make truth your truth but accept the truth inherent in you. You are wired by God for God. You can deny God. Many do. But to be justified in believing you must accept what you know, we are all sinners in need of redemption. Seek the truth with an open mind and a dedicated effort. Free yourself of the burdens that are presented everyday by those in denial and those who seek to conquer the world for their own personal, or ideological, agenda. In such cases peace and prosperity will never exist.
The Bible is the Word of God. It is God breathed. When you read it, listen, and hear Him speak to you directly.
Grace and Peace