RELIGION: THE GREAT BARRIER
We would do well to consider the consequences that denominational religion has brought to the human race through its man-made doctrine. Religion is usually considered beneficial but is often otherwise. It has been the source of great enmity and violence in the world. It is a major factor in dividing the human race, when it should be uniting us with one another and with God.
Most religious leaders would say they believe in freedom of religion and often express tolerance toward other religions and beliefs. They probably do, sort of. However, if one were to question or express disbelief of their religious doctrine, one would likely find himself not welcome in their midst. When I questioned the Christian doctrine that only Christians are saved and that God sends everyone else to hell, I was told that I was no longer welcome in my church and was eventually excommunicated. It is interesting to note that in Saudi Arabia on the road to Mecca, as you near the city, there is a road that branches off with a sign that says Infidel Bypass. All non-Muslims are infidels (unbelievers) and are not allowed in Mecca.
More seriously, religious leaders damn other people to a hell of suffering. Most would deny it, but, in fact, they do! When they teach and preach that everyone must believe as they do to be saved, they are proclaiming that those who do not are not saved. They are condemning to eternal suffering anyone who is not of their religious persuasion. They do it in absolute contradiction of God who unequivocally tells us in the scriptures that we are not to condemn others.
Attempts to impose religious beliefs through Christian evangelism and Muslim holy jihad only intensify the discord. And even more derelict is the failure of the religions to follow God's basic instruction to teach love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness as the way to peace, harmony and righteousness with him. The source of all this alienation and failure to teach God's truths is flawed religious doctrine--dogma created by men. The religions of the world are by no means evil. They have accomplished much good, albeit at the same time hampering mankind's spiritual development by intertwining false, man-made doctrine with God's truths.
The great commandments that God has given to all the religions of the world are to acknowledge him, love him, and love and care for one another. Almost all religions hold to those tenets. Then they make the mistake of adding man-made doctrine and laws, or interpreting the basic laws and instructions of God to meet their own requirements or beliefs. They require us to follow some great prophet or religious figure such as Christ, Muhammad or Buddha if we are to be saved.
They declare their religion as the only true one, which must then be accepted and believed in totally if one is to achieve "paradise" or "heaven." Then they have the audacity to proclaim that their loving God damns everyone else to hell! How illogical! What narrow-mindedness! What disrespect for God!
The basic dogma of most religious faiths is the same. We have seen that Judaism requires the Jew to be in a right relationship with his fellow men in order to be right with God. Likewise the Muslim must want for his brother what he wants for himself if he really believes in Allah. And the Christian must love his neighbor as himself.
Surely, our neighbor, our brother, our fellow man means all human beings. But unfortunately, to many Jews it often means only another Jew and, likewise, with the Muslim and Christian. When we look at what is happening in the Mideast, we can see clearly that this is so. To see the hatred that exists between Jews and Arabs and the indifference and intolerance of Christians toward others, we can only conclude that, judged by their own religious doctrine, a great number of them are not believers and certainly are not in a right relationship with God.
There are about two billion Christians in the world today. Most Muslims believe every one of those infidels is damned to hell. There are an equal number of Muslims in the world. A vast majority of Christians believe each and every one of those heathens is going to go to hell. God has perfect, unconditional love and therefore cannot damn anyone.
The religions indeed believe that God is perfect in love and justice, as well as being a compassionate and forgiving God. How then is it possible for God to condemn a child or anyone else who has never heard of, never been taught about, nor understood a Christ or Muhammad or Moses or Buddha? That would surely be unjust!
It should give any reasonable, thinking person cause to wonder that such a compassionate God could condemn so many people to hell because of their religious beliefs. There has to be an inescapable, logical conclusion that all religions cannot be right, which should also give cause to wonder about the validity of their beliefs.
We even become violent and kill each other over religious beliefs. Look at the two great religions Islam and Christianity. History records that the armies of Islam, in the seventh century, spread their belief by aggressive war. Even their fellow tribes were put to the sword if they refused to pledge their allegiance to Muhammad. After Muhammad's death, Islamic armies attacked Syria, India, Africa, Mongolia and Spain in an effort to force salvation upon the world.
Then, for almost two hundred years, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the European Christians mounted eight major crusades in their "holy wars" to repossess Palestine and the Holy Lands from the Muslims, which then became, in part, crusades to gain riches and power, and assert religious control over a people. That sort of strife has continued throughout history and even exists today. A recent report showed that, of the 42 armed conflicts that were occurring at the time the report was conducted, over two-thirds were fueled by religion. These hostilities are happening because the religions of the world have ignored God's command that we are to love one another--even our enemies, showing mercy and forgiveness. Peace among the nations and people of the world can never be achieved until the barriers of false religious dogma are removed.
Religion is not only a major factor in keeping the human race separated, it is also a significant barrier to our spiritual growth. Every Sunday, in thousands of Christian churches throughout the world, hundreds of millions of people are conditioned to think that they are by nature sinful and unclean; poor miserable sinners. Their minds are programmed with, and their memories have stored the concepts that it is human to err and that they will continue to sin for the rest of their mortal life. As they think, so are they! In that manner, the Christian Church has unwittingly kept mankind in bondage to sin.
Our ability to grow spiritually and improve our relationships with one another is stifled, even thwarted, by much of the religious teaching of the world. We are sometimes taught that it is our nature to sin and create all the hell that often plagues humanity. Those teachings surely demean and suppress the abilities of God's and man's magnificent co-creation: the human being. Such doctrine impedes growth and must be changed, for it represents a formidable barrier to that evolutionary thrust toward a higher level of human consciousness and oneness with one another and with God.
Religion often promotes much of the guilt and low self-esteem so prevalent in the human race. Christianity, especially, depicts man as a groveling, poor, miserable sinner who can do nothing by himself to change that condition. We have been pictured as beings who "don't know how to do good but are rotten through and through" as St. Paul tells us. Or that there is no goodness in man, only "evil and darkness in the hearts of men" as Martin Luther has declared.
We are made to feel guilty if we don't belong to a Christian church, if we don't attend regularly, if we don't participate in church activities, if we don't give enough financial support to the church, and if we don't evangelize and bring others into the organized church setting.
We are constantly reminded that we are by nature sinful and unclean beings, sometimes being told that we are totally corrupt, with no redeeming factors. As my brother-in-law, Ronnie said to me, "It has always been a downer for me to go to church each Sunday to confess, to be told and even sometimes sing that I am such a rotten human being when I feel that I'm not that kind of person at all."
We know how the implanting of thoughts and concepts in our minds, especially with repetition and emphasis, brings those things to fruition in our lives. That continual programming of millions of church-goers with the idea that they are poor, miserable sinners who will remain so until the day they die is that ultimate, societal, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Religions must expunge the false man-made dogma from their teachings. This is especially true of Christianity which must look again at what Christ told us. That he didn’t come to save the righteous but the sinners, Mat 9:13. That we will not get to heaven by calling him Lord, but obeying God and doing good works, Mat 7:21-16:27. That sin is not innate in our character; we can turn from our sins and do what is right and good so as to make the world good, John 8:11, Ezekiel 18:19-32. That we are to love our enemies and do good to them, Mat 5:44. We are not to seek vengeance. Rom 12:19 If the Church were to teach all these things, what a wonderful world it would be. We have some serious misconceptions about our world. Let’s examine them.