To many people the assertion that religion serves as a means of correcting mistakes and miscalculations of humanity, a means of treating moral diseases, cynicism and nihilism, seems, at least, problematic, if not altogether improbable.
War and peace
Look at the history of religion, they say. Religion is the cause of endless wars, misfortunes and bloodshed. And is not the clash between world religions serving international conflicts and terrorism? Indeed, the Christian world, challenging the sacred lands, repeatedly raised arms against Muslims, Turks and Jews and destroyed many “infidels”.
Catholics in Spain publicly tormented and burned Jews and Protestants. And Protestants, in turn, in other countries fought against Catholics and executed Catholic “heretics.”
Hindus and Muslims are still fighting each other for the possession of sacred lands and religious shrines. Is it not still a dispute over the possession of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as a threat to the peaceful existence of many countries?
To this we should add that in the last century secular (secular) ideologists in many eastern and western countries promoted their systems with truly religious fanaticism and messianic absolutism, while destroying people who disagree with these systems and destroying economic mechanisms that do not fit into dogmatic the framework of these ideologies. Based on this factual information, opponents of religion say that it is necessary to seek not to increase the influence of religion, but to reduce it.
Other people disagree with them. These latter have experienced the emptiness of atheism, vulgar materialism and secularism and their inability to serve as solid grounds for motivating moral acts, for morality at the level of individual behaviour and society as a whole.
They intuitively feel that religion, possessing a special spiritual dimension, could serve as such a basis and awaken faith, hope and courage in people, activate interest in public affairs, altruism and morality necessary for strengthening social ties in seven and society. They think that maybe it is religion that will strengthen these ties, provided – and this is a very serious condition – that all religions will stop fighting with each other and start working together for the common good.
All this is understandable. And, knowing the prohibition of Christ’s use of force and for protection, and for the purpose of expanding His Kingdom and truth, all Christians cannot but feel shame, remembering those who, under the name of Christ, attacked other religions, trying to impose the Christian Good News.
Multiplicity of religion
Now consider another approach to the plurality of religions and their existence. This approach can be represented as the following sequence of arguments.
It is the emphasis on the differences between different religions that has been and still remains the cause of hostility between people of different faiths.
Emphasizing the differences between religions is not reasonable, because all religions in their essence tend to the same goal. They can go in different ways, but all these paths go to the same top, and all of them sooner or later will converge in the same place.
Thus, it is the duty of all religions and religious people to come to an agreement and preach that they all lead to the same God, that they all seek the same goal and that their differences are practically not important. Therefore, they can and must work together for the common good.
This approach at first glance seems very attractive. But its internal consistency depends on whether its original assumptions are true. These premises are as follows:
- The main goal of all religions is to teach all people to treat each other well;
- All religions unanimously recognize this as their main goal;
- All religions agree that the features of the representations and dogmas on which they are based are of minimal importance.
Teach and treat well
The premise of 1 seems reasonable, since the training of people to the moral code is one of the functions of all full-fledged religious systems. And all these moral codes have much in common. They include caring for young children and the elderly; assistance to the poor; guardianship of orphans and caring for the sick; respect for the brethren; honesty and truthfulness; lack of selfishness; citizenship and so on.
But it should be borne in mind that not all religions consider their primary goal to concern for morality. Thus, the ancient Greeks and Romans worshiped the gods and goddesses who, in the myths they dedicated, behaved more immorally than the people who worshiped them. Serious ethical teachings in ancient Greece and ancient Rome developed not within the framework of religion, but within the framework of philosophy.
Another counterexample to the first premise is the worship of ancestors or spirits, still prevalent in developed countries. This worship is connected not only and probably not so much with the manifestation of love and respect for the memory of the departed ancestors, but rather with the satisfaction of the spirits of ancestors with the help of appropriate rituals designed to keep them in the spirit world and to prevent their return to the homes of living descendants. Let us cite one more example. Sometimes sacrifices to the gods are carried out in order to enlist their help to participate in a football lottery or fight against competitors in business.
Is it really all religions?
The premise 2 is based on the fact that all developed religious systems aim to encourage people to have a good attitude towards others and to fulfill their duty to society. But this premise is not true. And if supporters of such religious systems do not agree with it, then they will be right, since religion is not reduced to a philosophy of morality. Although religious systems also provide, for example, the Christian New Testament, “to look after orphans and widows in their afflictions,” religion is much more than charity. Religion – is primarily a relationship with God or with the gods, and the main thing here is – rightly or wrongly a man builds his relationship with God or with the gods. An atheist can devote his life to working for the benefit of his fellow citizens, and we assume that most atheists do so. But in his relationship with God, the atheist is seriously mistaken. To illustrate my thesis, I give an example.
At the beginning of many centuries the world’s seas were ploughed by pirate ships. On some of these ships, the pirates behaved in a comradely manner towards each other. For example, if they captured a ship, they honestly divided the booty among themselves. And they were quite satisfied with the character of the relationship and the moral norms that they followed. But it did not matter to them that they were pirates and acted contrary to state laws that existed on land. If they fell into the hands of the state, then their behaviour towards each other did not save them from the gallows.
If there is a higher being, the Creator, to whom we owe our life and breath, our first duty to Him is to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might, as we are told in the Holy Scriptures, and then – , as yourself. The second commandment is closely related to the first, so the New Testament affirms: if someone says that he loves God and yet hates his brother, then he is a liar, “… for he who does not love his brother whom he sees, how he can love God, whom He does not see? “But if I treat my brother well and yet do not recognize God, deny His authority, deny Him my love, obedience and faithfulness, then when He calls me to answer, my good behaviour will not save me in relation to his neighbour.
Dogmas and rituals are not that important?..
The premise 3, that all religions can give up their dogmatic and ritual features, is offensive to believers and calls into question their principledness and intellectual abilities. For example, it states if you found this site and wanted to play there, you can. While many religions will tell you, gambling is a sin and you should never ever get involved in it. In addition, the idea borders on the absurd. Without specific features to follow in the field of dogma and religion, religion cannot exist. Moreover, people should have freedom of conscience, that is, be able to honestly and freely profess their religious beliefs, provided that they do not repair violence. Truth and logic require that they have the opportunity to sincerely and openly argue that contradicting the truth is false. No religion will agree that its doctrine is simply a form of pragmatism, in which it does not matter whether its dogmas are true or not.
For the same reasons, no religion has the right to violent acts against people who do not share its creeds. Religion, which resorts to the power of the state to prohibit anyone to question the truth of its dogmas, thereby reveals the weakness of these dogmas, which in no way casts doubt on the sincerity of those who profess this religious teaching. But the sincerity of the supporters of the teaching cannot serve as a guarantee of the truth or safety of this doctrine. We will use it to interpret our thesis by comparing religious and medical practices. All forms of medical practice are subject to the same goal: curing patients. But not all areas of medical activity are equally effective and safe. Some of them are threatened with disaster. You do not need to be very sophisticated in medicine by a person so as not to swallow the contents of any bubble on which a label is attached indicating that it is a medicine. We all believe in the objectivity of truth when it comes to medicine. Similarly, we cannot afford to admit that this doctrine is true only because it calls itself religions.
So, we need to honestly answer the question, taken in the title of this article: do all religions have the same goal? For this, we will consider in the following articles the five world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We will consider the features of their teachings, which form the fundamental basis of any religion.