Our bread and water are of one table: the progeny of Adam are as a single soul. -Muhammad Iqbal
Religion can be defined as man’s attempt to find God. It is the channel through which mortal man tries to define his existence in this world of matter; an attempt by earthlings to understand the mysteries they are faced with everyday; a medium through which man seeks to reach his divine source; a human construct that is supposedly founded on revelation and inspiration. Simply put, religion is man’s attempt to physically connect with the spiritual realm – where God is believed to reside – for answers to life’s several puzzling questions.
Central to every religion is the belief in God (or gods); for any religion that does not have God as its central focus is not a religion, but a mere philosophy. Some of the major world religions are: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, Traditional Religion (s), et al. All these religions have their avatars; that is, men whose exemplary works and lives while on earth laid the foundations on which these religions were later constructed – Christianity has Jesus Christ, Islam has Prophet Mohamed, Buddhism has Lord Buddha, while others have theirs. Religious adherents worship in designated centers, such as Churches, Mosques, Temples, Synagogues, Monasteries, Pagodas, Shrines, etc.
However, most people believe it’s important to worship God. But there are disagreements as to how he should be truly worshipped. There are different traditions about God and what He expects of us. But if we look dispassionately at the real purpose behind the different philosophies, teachings and methods postulated by most religions, we find they are actually one and the same. All religious teachings are meant to counsel us on how to become better human beings, on the need to avoid sin, and the utilitarian values of loving one another. They serve as moral barometers for setting, scrutinizing and evaluating the limits of human conduct. Rather than constituting a problem, the various differences in perspectives and teachings by the various world religions should be useful since members of the human family have different mental dispositions; that is, different mindsets and worldviews.
On the other hand, it is pertinent that we take purposeful steps towards understanding the real significance behind the contrasting viewpoints propounded by the various world religions; the real purpose of their different teachings.
Religion teaches discipline, self-control, forgiveness, love, sacrifice, charity etc. So, as sincere religionists, as individuals who claim to worship the almighty creator, we must, first and foremost, critically examine ourselves to see whether we are practicing the core teachings of our religions or not; whether we are adhering to the pure tenets of our faith. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Taoists, and others who profess one faith or the other, must examine themselves sincerely and dispassionately.
The truth of the matter is that our main responsibility as the supposed children of God is not to criticize other people, not to argue with others, but to argue with and criticize ourselves. We must endeavour to transform our negative thoughts about others into positive thoughts, practicing what we preach, thereby making ourselves role models for other people to emulate. If you become a good human being through the help of a certain teaching, then others will feel respect for it. We religious practitioners must be sincere and honest with ourselves. If we accept a faith, we must follow it sincerely with all our hearts.
God is one. Our religious beliefs might differ, but that doesn’t mean we serve different God’s. What it means is that we have diverse views as to who God is. We must endeavour to understand that most of the world’s major religions originated from diverse cultural backgrounds; that they sprang from traditional belief systems that have evolved over the years. Knowledge of this will go a long way in strengthening our faith and humbling us into respecting the beliefs of others. The earth, the heavens and all that dwell in them were created by one God. That is why you see a lot of uniformity in creation – plants, animals, humans etc. For example, human beings are originally the same everywhere you go on this planet; forget about the man-made cultural differences – they are exceptions to the rule. We are all made of flesh and blood. We all breathe, eat, sleep, procreate, cry, laugh and ultimately die, whether you are a Christian, Moslem, Hindu or an adherent of any of the world’s religions. By designing us uniformly, God is telling us that he is one. This truth should naturally humanize some rigid-minded ones among us, making us accept others as our brothers and sisters from the same heavenly father; for our earthly parents are mere channels through which we were brought into this physical plain.
No religion is superior, perfect or more acceptable to God than others. Those who kill in the name of religion are grossly ignorant. No mere mortal can fight for an almighty God, who dwells in heavenly places. It’s just not possible. The violent dispositions of religious fundamentalists are not mandated by the God of peace; they spring from the kingdom of darkness; a kingdom ruled by Lucifer, the overambitious, rebellious and vindictive arch angel who, since his infamous expulsion from his first estate, has been involved in a vendetta against humanity, God’s most prized creation. By striking at religion, man’s major channel of communing with his maker, Satan hopes to disrupt God’s plan for man’s salvation by creating disharmony among His children. We must all be wary of the schemes of the devil and his brood of lieutenants. Respecting the beliefs and practices of others is a major prerequisite for a more peaceful world. We must refrain from playing politics with religion.
At these perilous times, all the different world religions must remain united and show respect for one another. To achieve this noble ideal, we must endeavour to maintain closer contact, which will ultimately engender better understanding of one other; a synergy that will destroy all the man-made restrictions that have kept us apart for so many centuries. The more knowledge we gain, the more our respect for one another will grow, and the more we will begin to appreciate the significance in the different messages of the teachings our various religions profess.
Let us remain as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists Hindus, or as adherents of such other religions that exists in this finite world, but at the same time, we must take it upon ourselves, as a point of duty, to learn more about other faiths. This will make our own beliefs richer. It will make us better human beings who are able to accept our fellow men as equals; as having the rights to choose what to believe in, how to project their beliefs, and how to satisfactorily live their lives on this earthly plain. True religiosity connotes true respect for the beliefs, thoughts and practices of others. We worship a God of grace, who loves all of us equally, regardless of our religious leanings. We may be of different faiths, but we worship only one true God. Let’s give peace a chance!
God bless you all!
Image: FordRanger on Flickr