|Michaelangelo's depiction of the creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel circa 1512|
That is a message we often hear. And another which is a bit more subtle, but which has the same effect, "All gods are the same." This last assertion, of the equivalency of all religions should be very familiar to those who have read C. S. Lewis' books, The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically the book The Last Battle.
In that book, the cat Ginger promotes the belief in Tashlan - an amalgamation of the evil diety Tash and the good diety Aslan. Ginger teaches that Aslan and Tash are the same. Many characters in the book prefer to embrace this easier path and much mischief, destruction and unhappiness results. It is the central conflict of the book, and in case you haven't read it, I won't spoil the ending for you.
But you and I are living in a different book. We are living in the Book of Life. And, like our own lives, this book has a beginning, a middle, and most ominously, an end. And, like any compelling story, our lives, individually and collectively involve an unavoidable conflict.
In Lewis' The Last Battle, the conflict was the choice between Tash and Aslan. Ginger, by promoting the conflation of Tash and Aslan was presenting a false choice that appeared to be no choice.
Today, we hear three main voices on the topic of religion. I will tackle each of these separately here, because each is an important argument that each person needs to confront as part of being a responsible adult human being.
1) God does not exist. Religion is the opiate of the masses and guilty of causing most human suffering throughout history.
2) All religions are the same. Whatever way you choose to worship god is fine. The important thing is to live a life that reflects the religious values that are common to nearly all religions - caring for the poor, providing for your family, being kind to others.
3) There is only one true religion, and if you reject that one true religion, then there are unpleasant consequences which will eventually and unavoidably come to you.
I will address each of these in the order above.
1) God Does Not Exist- This argument is extremely prevalent, perhaps for the first time in human history. It has gained ground steadily under two influences:
A) Communism explicitly embraces the notion that God does not exist and that religion is used by the powers of the world to maintain their hold over the masses by conflating their eternal salvation with support for the government which holds them in thrall.
B) Intellectualism - this is the conceit of the educated. They get a bit more knowledge than the average person, be that through science or the arts, and they come to the conclusion that diety is a concept that was invented by humankind to explain with superstitious stories the world around them which they, at the time, lacked the knowledge to explain and understand.
Both Communism and Intellectualism reject the concept of the existence of intelligent beings whose powers, knowledge and abilities are incomprehensibly far beyond our own, and who are related to us and seeking to help us. At best, they will lump this into the realms of science fiction and fantasy novels. At worst, they utterly embrace the double conceit that humankind is the pinnacle of evolution, not only on this planet, but in the entire universe and that if humankind cannot attain something through their own powers, then it does not exist.
Here is the most pernicious outcome of the notion that god does not exist - it is that humankind is the sole arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil. Whatever conclusions about those things humanity reaches, must be right, because we are collectively too smart to be all wrong together.
One symptom (and cause of this) is that today, we see an educational system in this country that is being perverted from one that teaches people how to use their powers of reasoning and experimentation to examine facts and come to their own conclusions, into a generation of people who are educated to see everything through the biased lenses of a set of socially acceptable opinions that are purveyed as facts.
Unfortunately, when people cease to believe in diety, then they cease to believe that one day they will be held accountable for all their actions in this life. All religions have this in common - the notion that after we leave this life, diety will judge us and reward us according to our obedience to the things we were taught that were right. If god does not exist, then there is no final accountability where we are measured against an absolute and unyielding yardstick.
This denial of diety and the consequent judgement is extremely liberating to the minds of many. It frees them up to be as fiendish as they desire while allowing them to utterly ignore either conventional notions of good and evil or the nagging voice of conscience that tries to dissuade them from their destructive and prideful path. Eventually, they are able to utterly silence the voice of conscience, and they take this withdrawal of the voice of god in their lives as conclusive evidence that they were right in their notion that god does not exist and what is right is whatever they can get away with.
In a world without god, might makes right. Whether that is the might of majority opinion, or the might of superior firepower.
2) All Religions Are The Same- I won't spend a whole lot of time in this space, because of one important reason, the bottom line of this notion is this: If all relgions are the same, then they are the same as no religion. Which means that whatever path you decide is right, is right. This, in the end, is the same as saying There is No God.
The most vile aspect of this notion is the moral equivalency it makes between groups like ISIS who are killing and torturing all who they define as sinners and every other religious organization in the world, including the Dalai Lama, the Pope, and your local priest or minister. So, whether the religion teaches tolerance and peace, or violent destruction of dissenters, they are all morally the same.
When President Obama makes public arguments equating the Christian Crusaders of the Middle Ages with ISIS, his argument does not highlight the horror of savage intolerance, rather it seeks to undermine any moral argument that Christianity is different than Islam. His argument promotes the notion of moral equivalency and instead of increasing the strength or moral and religious arguments against the likes of ISIS, it destroys the foundation for outrage against any outrageous conduct by any person or group.
|The Lion Monument or Löwendenkmal, a striking rock sculpture dedicated to the fallen Swiss mercenaries who served under France's notorious King Louis XVI. Narnia fans might find it familiar as it evokes the dying Aslan on the stone table.|
3) There is Only One True Religion- When I hit on this topic, I know, without question, that I will offend many. Unfortunately for them, many of those who will be offended, if they critically examine their beliefs will find that they have been lulled into the moral equivalency camp and they have replaced their belief in God with a belief that all ways are right.
Fortunately for me, I am on very firm ground when I assert that there is only one true religion. I am on firm ground because Jesus Christ said it long before I did. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Jesus did not leave room for ambiguity in his assertion. And, he was teaching obedience to the god of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
|Image courtesy of GivingPraise.com|
Contrary to what Islam preaches, he did proclaim himself as the Son of God, numerous times and placed himself above Abraham. When he did this in Nazareth, they immediately tried to kill him for speaking what they thought was blasphemy (see John 8:58).
In case I am not being clear enough here, I will state it so plainly that it cannot be misunderstood: Christianity is the only religion on earth that is true. All other religions have some pieces of the truth and have some value, but they are not pointing people toward the one god that actually exists.
And, before anyone can mock this assertion because of the proliferation of Christian churches, let me stat clearly that there is only one Christian church which is true, in that it possess both the correct teachings and the authority from God to carry out ordinances on earth, such as baptism, that are as binding on God as they are on man.
There is truly, as was stated by Paul, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." (Ephesians 4:5). And one religion. And, it is not one from many, as most Protestant Christian churches preach. Rather, there is only one that contains the binding authority that Christ gave to the Apostle Peter when he told him, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:18)
God does exist. And, we know of His existence, not as the intellectualist says because we made it up, rather, we know of His existence, his attributes, his purposes, and our relationship to Him because He revealed Himself, again and again. He did not leave us here to fend for ourselves and to labor in ignorance.
He showed himself to Adam and Eve and taught them. And He did not leave it at that. He revealed Himself to Enoch and to Noah. And later to Abraham and Jacob. Then to Moses and Joshua. And when God sent His own Son to teach His children, they killed him as they did the prophets before him.
But even after the death of Jesus Christ, God revealed himself to the Apostles and many others. But those witnesses too were killed by those who didn't want to accept the idea that there was only one true religion, one true church, and it wasn't theirs.
In our days, God again revealed Himself and immediately dispelled the many mistaken notions that had arisen around His nature, purposes, and ways. And, like those messengers who were rejected in times past, this messenger too was attacked and eventually killed when the message he preached said, again, that there is one true religion, one true church, and it wasn't one of those in power at the time.
I know that my statements here will anger or offend many, but again, let me say that I am only repeating what God Himself has said:
"And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually--"
Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 (emphasis added)
God said it. I cannot argue against it or ameliorate it without turning away from what He has said. That being said, I also know that under God's plan, no one who lives to any degree in accordance with His doctrines will be shorted in their reward when life is done, whether or not they knew they were His doctrines and principles. So, it behooves all humankind to live with the sure knowledge that when life is over we will be held accountable for all our deeds in this life by a power far greater than we can comprehend.
In counter to the three points at the start of this article, to conclude this article let me offer three counterpoints:
1) God is real.
2) Moral equivalence is not just wrong, it is evil and destructive.
3) There is one true religion which has been revealed and which can be verified using only the means and methods God has revealed.
Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein.
The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein.
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