Apr 302015
 

The major religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have plenty of constructive elements. (I even think that the rational core of an Atheist as a response to irrational elements of religions is something constructive.) Religions, based around a sacred and transcendent core deity, each has something very special to offer mankind however. I wish to list what I see as the most powerful contribution of each of the religions that I have considered.

What makes me capable of seemingly arrogantly coming here and declaring my views on various religions? Let me offer some credentials firstly then:

I spent almost 9 of my most formative years in Christian schooling. With the exception of my final three years of primary school, which I spent in a Muslim class, the rest were all spent in Christian schools and predominantly 90% Christian classes. During these years I joined in with my Christian class mates in reciting the Lord’s prayer, I heard the Bible being read almost every day and I celebrated every major Christian event. When I was small, I even remember getting Christmas presents at Christmas time. Also, away from school, when visiting my neighbours, friends and colleagues, I was exposed to Christianity in their homes. I can therefore claim to have more than a mere superficial insight into Christianity and its real meaning in everyday life.

My credentials to issue profound opinions about Islam’s impact are also valid, I believe. I grew up in a Muslim home, went to Muslim afternoon classes for nine years, sat in countless Muslim sermons, formed (and still form) part of a Muslim community and also attended classes in certain Islamic subjects at the prestigious Al Azhar university in Egypt from mid 1991 until mid 1993. When it comes to Sunni Islam, I have all these mentioned credentials, but adding to these, in Egypt, I also had the opportunity to gain much deeper insight into Sunni Islam by having plenty of in depth discussions with some of the most senior Sunni experts within the Muslim community today in South Africa.

What qualifies me to issue an opinion about Shi’ite Islam? From the age of 17, I gained good access to literature from Iran, promoting the revolution as well as Twelver Shi’ite ideas. For ten years, I immersed myself in the popular literature of the revolution and Twelver Shi’ism. While in Egypt, I had several learning sessions with an Iraqi Shi’ite cleric, who was in exile in Cairo. While in Egypt, I befriended a recent Sunni convert to Twelver Shi’ism very closely. I in fact embraced the standard rituals of that school in Egypt, and became a Twelver Shi’i, using Taqiyyah to conceal my beliefs from some who may have taken offence. Back in South Africa, in 1993, I saw the devastation of sectarianism in my family. It took me less than six months to reverse my decision to embrace Twelver Shi’ism. I announced my decision to my closest family members. From now on, I told them, I rejected any labels, and merely followed the truth, no matter from which sect it came.   The 13 years from 1980 until 1993 gave me special insight, I believe, to issue an opinion on how Twelver Shi’ism impacts on society and the individual.

What qualifies me to speak about Judaism? I can claim a sufficient knowledge of Judaism. I have attentively listened to over 20 sermons on Youtube from prominent Jewish Rabbi’s of today. These include Rabbi Boteach, Rabbi Sachs and other prominent Youtube published Jewish scholars. Furthermore I spent four years of my work life in close daily contact with a well-read secular Jew, who spent time in Israel.  Some pertinent finer nuances of Jewish culture became known to me through that valuable interaction. I also had plenty of business and social interaction with local Ashkenazi Jewish persons, during which it was possible for me to gain some insight into their beliefs. I have attempted to read as much as possible about Jewish beliefs and culture.

So now, I believe I utter the following words on the basis of more than a mere whim or a superficial knowledge of the religions and sects I mentioned…

  1. The Good in Christianity

Christianity kindles the most personal and loving relationship with God, albeit through a complicated understanding of God. A Christian does not do good, as a Jew or Muslim does, simply because they want to earn “rewards” from God, but rather because I feel they truly love God. (As such, I can compare Christianity with some esoteric Muslim sufi sects.) Christians also have a certain measure of built-in humility because of the “original sin” concept, which defines people as tainted and imperfect. This makes the Christians of today different from the Christians of the middle and dark ages. I see in today’s Christians much more of a capacity to accommodate other belief systems, than I see in Wahhabi Islam and Judaism and even Atheism. Lastly, I believe that Christians’ lack of arrogance today is perhaps tied to the often ridiculed core beliefs that the theology offers. It has been easy for today’s rational society to pick many holes in the difficult and illogical core beliefs of Christianity, with the result that churches have gone empty over recent decades. Lastly, the humility of Christianity is aided, I think by the fact that it’s central personality, Jesus Christ, never lived as a conqueror or a ruler, such as Muhammad or Moses, but rather died violently and humbly at the hands of his enemies. The arrogance of the middle ages, and the Crusades were, I believe a result of the eminent position achieved by the Church under the Roman empire and subsequent great conquering Christian Europeans such as Charlemagne.

2.  The Good in Judaism

My understanding of current Judaism is that it’s strictly not a religion, but rather a tradition carried by a nation. Reverend Sachs (the chief Rabbi of Britain), speaking on Youtube claims that Judaism is not primarily about a shared past, but rather by about a shared destiny of the Jewish people. Modern Judaism is different from past Judaism. A few hundred years ago, it seems the word Jew was not even used, and the terms Israelite or Hebrew were preferred. The modern concept of a Jew allows for a wildly differing levels of religiosity, ranging from secular, non-religious, atheist, to ultra-orthodox; all claiming to be Jewish.

Deeply embedded within the Jewish psyche lies a trait that represents the best, but also the worst of modern Jewry. The trait I refer to is the absolute contempt Jews feel very deep within for any man-made law. Jews, as the nation, referred to in scriptures as God’s chosen one, really appears to only attach real currency to God’s laws.   There is good in this attitude as long as Jews know and observe God’s laws, but when Jews became secular, then only the contempt for the laws of the Gentiles remained. I therefore see much good in the Orthodox Jewish approach that acts as a counter balance in a world where morality has become a shifting phenomenon, and where barbarous immorality threatens to encroach everything. Orthodox Judaism represents timeless moral standards, which Christianity can unfortunately not guarantee in our times. The other good in Judaism is the fact that its scholars have been able to mount a more powerful scholarly defence against the attacks of modern pagans. Jewish theism, or monotheism, is simple and well articulated by the scholars within the Jewish community.

3.  The Good in Islam

Most Islam today is still heavily Sufi influenced. Sufi Islam is less focused on the holy law, more inward spiritually-focused, and highly respectful of the spiritual leader, while emphasising a direct relationship with God. On top of this Islam, we have in the past century seen the spread of Wahhabi Islam, not completely detached from Sufism, but placing the emphasis much more on the law, and a rejection of esoteric elements that feed traditional sufi practices. Wahhabi literalism and Sufi esoterism are essentially the two contending forces at work within popular Islam today.

The best thing about Muslim society is that it is profoundly enriched by both Eastern and Western traditions and wisdoms. The finer courtesy of Muslims (derived from the orient) is genuine and cannot be surpassed by any other culture that I have been in contact with. Muslims have a very real subliminal sense of accountability: to God, to their fellow believers and to their leaders. This makes Muslim society generally stable, peaceful and well-established within its cultural and religious observances. The violence that is often seen about Muslims is almost exclusively the result of Wahhabi literalist influencing. The Islam of today is also heavily influenced by the West, from two centuries of Muslim society benefitting from the immense technological leaps made by the West. There is therefore a measure of modernity and enlightenment within Muslim societies that makes it comfortable to engage and interact with Muslims. So the best past of Islam is that it has found a good balance between spiritualism and pragmatism.

4.  The Good in Shi’ite Islam

The powerful scholarly legacy of Shi’ite Islam is its biggest asset. The strong tradition of scholarship also upholds a tradition of continuous change and has resisted the route of scholarly fossilisation undergone by Sunni Islam. Shi’ite scholars are real reflective scholars whereas Sunni so-called scholars are in fact human Xerox machines. In the past few centuries alone, a fundamental position has been radically altered by the Shi’ite scholars, namely the near complete defeat of the Akhbarism (uncritical acceptance of Prophetic traditions) towards Usuli’ism (qualified acceptance of traditions). The powerful scholarship tradition in Shi’ite Islam has been cultivated by centuries of mounting arguments against the ever-present Sunni majority.   Shi’ite Islam almost reflects and mirrors the powerful rabbinical tradition within Judaism. (Unfortunately, both traditions have confused scholarship with priesthood at times.)

 

 

 

 

 Posted by on April 30, 2015 at 10:56 am  Comments Off on Every Religion I Know has Good to Offer
Apr 232015
 

All religions promise a good life on earth. Many of them also promise a good life after we die.   All religions preach very different ideas though. Who do you believe? I can imagine the answer coming from most of you: “I am happy with what my parents brought me up in.”   If you believe that, then I have one more question to ask you, after which you can happily stop reading. My question is, if each person’s parents taught them the best religion possible, and calls other parents’ religions false, then how do we know which one is telling the truth? Like for example, if my parents are Muslims and your parents are Christian, and both regard each others’ beliefs as being wrong, whose parents does a neutral person seeking an answer believe? If this question troubles you, keep reading. If not, thank you for your time.

If I flip a coin and ask two people to each predict either “heads” or “tails”, three things are possible: 1. Both could predict heads, 2. One could predict heads and one tails 3. Both could predict tails. Are you agreed that that’s the only three possibilities? Okay, so after I have flipped the coin, and show the outcome, there are now three possibilities again:

  1. If both chose differently before the toss, then one will be right and one wrong – Both cannot be right
  2. If both chose heads and the outcome was tails, then both of them was wrong in the first place.
  3. If both chose heads and the outome is heads, then both were right in the first place.

The lesson for our discussion is as follows:

  1. When people agree on an issue, its possible that they could be agreed on the wrong thing
  2. If people agree on something, its possible that they could all be right.
  3. When people differ over an issue, it is impossible for all of them to be right

Why have I brought up this coin-tossing analogy? I want to prove that having everyone agree with you is not a guarantee of following the right thing. Also, I want to prove that its impossible for everyone to be right when they all differ amongst each other.

The religious world looks like this today: Those who follow their religion, feel that millions of others are also following the same thing, and therefore comfort themselves that they MUST be following the true path.   The fact however is that millions may be following one religion, but millions of people also follow an opposing set of beliefs, which really means that some of those millions MUST be wrong.

This booklet is an attempt to provide clarity and to offer a way forward.

Before I can continue the discussion, I wish to ask for two basic points of agreement, without which, we will only be wasting our time. Those two points I need agreement on are:

  1. We have to agree that a solution to our problem can be found
  2. We have to exert our healthy minds to the best of our ability to seek that solution

If you believe that using our minds is not a viable way forward, or if you believe that no solution exists to the question of “which religion is right?”, then I also bid you farewell.

Religions claim to be about God. They claim that God gave humanity religion as a means to save themselves. Now let’s look at the gifts of God.   What tangible, natural gift is the most precious gift you have, from God, that sets you apart from all other life forms? Our healthy intelligent minds are most certainly the most prized gift we have as human beings. If you were to be told by some crafty person to pay over half the money you possess, in return for a double your money tomorrow, your healthy mind will protect you from such stupidity. Stupidity causes loss. Healthy thinking causes success. The biggest gift God gave you is the gift that will protect you and guide you throughout your life. Why then do so many of us choose to suspend the use of our minds when it comes to religion?

More importantly, my key question: Why do religions claim that they are God’s gift to us, while those same religions deny God’s other great gift to you, namely your sound mind?? I can hear some of you say: “My religion doesn’t do that!” The fact is that ALL the major religions I’ve come across ask you to believe in things that you would normally NEVER believe, using your sound mind. I can list a few examples, but I ask you not to be offended, as my aim is not to degrade any religion here, but rather to pursue a path to the truth, God willing.

Example 1: Can someone have both the power to do something AND lack the power to do that thing at the same time? In philosophy , this is called the Law of the Excluded Middle. A person either IS or on IS NOT carrying an ability, and any option besides the two is impossible.   Note, we’re not talking about subjective opinions here, but rather about facts. For example, take the statements “The sun is out” and “The sun is NOT out.” There can be no option where the sun is out and not out at the same time. Another example: “I have a cat”, and “I don’t have a cat.” Both cannot be true. Yet, the Christian church confuses this healthy reasoning when it comes to the most important core aspect of their religion, namely God! Claiming that Jesus is fully God and fully Man. I.e. Jesus has all the powers of God, and at the same time, none of the powers of God. Now, I know hundreds of books have been written to justify the official position of the Christian church. I have a question however for those who defend this belief: If someone came with a similar argument to you today, claiming that he is both a billionaire and a homeless vagrant dying of cold, would you believe him?

Example 2: Any act can be seen as virtuous or NOT virtuous. Is it possible to conceive of an act that is both intended as an evil and a good act at the same time? Killing someone could either be done justly, such as in self-defence or UNJUSTLY, such as in a murder. An act cannot be both Good and Bad at the same time. Yet, in Islam, in the war that raged between the elected leader and fourth Caliph Ali on the one side and Muawiyah the rebel leader from Syria on the other side, both men are regarded as virtuous! The rebellion of Muawiyah, with the subsequent thousands of deaths, is therefore painstakingly justified by hundreds of scholars.

Example 3:  Can a person both be present and absent at the same time? Let me introduce this example as follows: Say your uncle has a huge fortune that is to be distributed to his heirs upon his death. You are the sole heir. A man appears and claims that he has a child of your uncle, who he cannot present at the present moment, but whose claim he would like to stake. Will you hand over all the wealth entitled to this guy, without at least asking to see the child? Twelver Shi’ism makes this exact demand from its followers: Accept that the 11th Imam, Hassan Al Askari has a son, which none but one witness has seen , who is both absent and present at the same time in the world. Meanwhile the only witness to such a child is also the beneficiary as a custodian of the immense wealth due to the child.

Example 4: Can God perform a Devilish act? According to the Jewish Old Testament, the answer is “yes”. The Jewish books are replete with events that would ascribe the actions of Satan to God Almighty. If God is capable of mimicking Satan, then is the faith that places such a Satanic being at its core not itself satanic?   Look at this verse, clearly enunciating a satanic act:

Samuel 15:2,3 :This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [a] everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”

The ridiculous claim that God can mimick Satan by committing grave injustices is carried forward into Salafism. They too believe that unspeakable atrocities can be committed such as burdering babies and innocent people in the name of God.

I have now provided you with four examples of how every one of the major religions calls on you to suspend your good mind, and to accept the fantastic opinions and reasonings of its scholars and priests.

Do you need to be a professor in mathematics to know that you have ten fingers? If some mathematics professor arrives and writes a million books about you having nine fingers, would you believe the million books or your own eyes?   The scholars and priests of religion are the same. They come to you, asking you to suspend your logical mind and to believe their poppycock just because they are more learned than you. Why are they more learned? Just because they read more books? Did they travel to the life beyond death? Do they have a secret stash of heavenly revealed books? My dear reader, you were born, you grew up, you found a way to sustain yourself financially, all without the help of a cleric or a priest. So why do you desperately need them when it comes to religion? Its like saying that you cannot make any decision in your life without calling your lawyer. Or that you cannot eat anything without calling your doctor. Or that you cannot spend any money without calling your accountant. Completely absurd.   Religion should be about God, and not about the priests. But the priests have carefully twisted religion to be about them (speaking on God’s behalf.)

Here is my first appeal to you, dear reader: Reclaim your right to ponder, evaluate, scrutinise, consider, reflect and critique what you are told by men who claim to speak for God. Your sound mind is God’s best gift to you, to use in your journey to Him. If anyone tells you that your sound mind will lead you away from God, then that person is saying that good religion cannot be achieved by a healthy process of contemplation. You are also insulting God, by saying that God created you with a mind that leads you away from Him!

Liberating yourself from priesthood, and embracing your own sound intellect or mind is the first major step towards a pure and sincere religion.

PART 2

Are all religions all wrong?

A river starts high up in the mountains or highlands, and finds its way down towards the lower valleys.   All rivers start out clear and pure, but can undergo contamination during its downward path. At a certain point, the river might lose its purity and become hazardous to your health.   Its up to you to take personal care to purify the water from the river before you drink it. I believe that the major religions are the same today. They can be good for you, provided you filter out the filth. And guess what: When you filter water from the Amazon, the Nile or any other river, all you get is the same nourishing H2O.

Applying this to our study of religion, we have to put any idea that anyone asks us to accept to a purifying process. What is this purifying process? Its simply the rational, reflection, pondering, weighing up and critical reflection that we exercise with our sound mind. If someone is handing out water to people, and you see those people falling ill and dropping dead after drinking the water, you need to be especially sceptical. With religion today, if a religion is causing death, pain and suffering, you need to be especially cautious of that religion.

My thesis in this booklet, my dear reader, is that, once you clear the filth out of Islam, Christianity or Judaism, you will be left with the same unadulterated Godly religion. What do I mean by unadulterated Godly religion? I mean by that the core-concepts that all religions preach, namely:

  1. The recognition that there is a greater reality within which the perceivable world exists and the recognition of God as Supreme Creator and Sustainer of the universe and what exists beyond.
  2. God is virtuous and has established guidance for human beings to be virtuous
  3. The recognition of the Earth as temporal abode preceding an eternal after life abode where the most excellent of souls will enjoy eternal flourishing.

None of the main religions will dispute or subtract from these core principles. What they do do is to add confusion to these simple core points. Islam confuses these core ideas by introducing a huge cumbersome set of unnecessary laws and shifting the focus away from love and dedication to God, towards love and dedication to laws. One example: Islamic scholars write endless books on how to posture oneself during the act of worshipping God, while omitting the importance of making a sincere connection with God during worship sessions. Orthodox Judaism commits the same mistake, turning religion into a strict maze of legalisms.

Christians and Hindus shift the attention from God towards His creation and his mediators. Christians places worship, love and dedication to Jesus on a par with love and dedication to God almighty, whilst Jesus himself announced that he worships a greater power. Hindus adore the creation of God, as a manifestation of God. This amounts to confusing God with His creation. The artist is not the painting; the engineer is not the engine, the watch maker is not the watch, so why should God’s creation be regarded as God?

Religious imposters serve to confuse the pristine message of religion as stated above. God’s detractors have given up hope over the millennia from convincing us that He doesn’t exist, so they’ve changed their strategy to confuse and muddy his essence.

The tools of the imposter and corruptor are:

  • Claiming to speak for God and claiming the right to punish you on God’s behalf
  • Using intimidation and mob tactics to defend the orthodoxy which they established.
  • Claiming mysterious knowledge of the afterlife and promising damnation to those differing with them
  • Claiming mysterious powers to influence your fortunes in the world

All of these are absolutely fake and invented to lead you away from pure unadulterated worship of God.   Accepting any of these as valid places you on a sad path that leads away from God.

Can I be regarded as a good Christian/ Muslim / Jew if I adore God, worship him everyday, do virtuous deeds every day of my life and show nothing but kindness all my life? They all say “No!” The Christian Priest says “No!” because you failed to accept Jesus Christ. The Muslim and Jewish Priests say: “No!” because you failed to follow the myriad of laws meticulously. This shows the ridiculousness of the religions of the priests.

On the other hand, can I be regarded as good Christian / Muslim / Jew even after living a life oblivious to God and committing countless acts harming others? They all answer “Yes, its possible”. The Christian claims that you have achieved salvation and your sins forgiven, as long as you professed that Jesus died for your sins. The Muslim and the Jew claim that as long as you followed the laws, and kept up your rituals, you will be regarded as a good Muslim or Jew. When I visited Mecca in 1985, I learnt that thousands of tons of meat, ritually slaughtered would rot and be disposed of, never to reach an empty stomach. This to me is an indication of how legal ritual kills and overrides virtue. I saw a Shi’ite priest once advising a devout follower to escape fasting ordained in the Holy Quran by taking a pointless journey and returning home again. Meaningless compliance with rituals and stupid nonsensical actions can never be regarded as part of the magnificent grand plan of God Almighty. If you witness such actions, be assured that you should be worried.

Now to conclude: All religions have a good core, and you have to cut away the corruption to get to that core. If we all do the same, we will notice an amazingly uniform system emerging where priests, titles and sects will lose relevance and where only God and Virtue will become our main pre-occupation.

 Posted by on April 23, 2015 at 1:10 pm  Comments Off on Which Religion??