Have You Ever Wondered—
Why Are There So Many Religions?
ONE recent survey listed 1,200 religions in just the United States. Another report revealed over 6,000 in Africa. Needless to say, there are many religious ideas throughout the world. Such a variety of religious beliefs has led to controversy and even violence. But even though each religion may have its own name, are the differences really that great?
ARE THEY REALLY SO DIFFERENT?
Of course, all religions basically are the means by which people pay honor to a higher power, a deity. Yet, beyond this, there are some other striking similarities among many different religions. Colonel J. Garnier, who analyzed many different religions in his comprehensive work “The Worship of the Dead,” wrote: “Everywhere we find the most startling coincidences in rites, ceremonies, customs, traditions, and in the names and relations of their respective gods and goddesses.”
The similarities have led some to agree with writer G. B. Shaw who said, “There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.”
WHY THE MANY SIMILARITIES?
Many historians believe that the vast majority of religious practices originated from the same source. For instance, Colonel Garnier considered the research of a number of outstanding scholars of ancient history and concluded that these “have indisputably proved . . . that, not merely Egyptians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, but also the Hindus, the Buddhists of China and of Thibet, the Goths, Anglo-Saxons, Druids, Mexicans and Peruvians, the Aborigines of Australia, and even the savages of the South Sea Islands, must have all derived their religious ideas from a common source and a common centre.”
But where was this “common source”? Where was the origin of the religious beliefs that influenced that whole ancient world? “Babylon,” states Garnier, was “the centre from which the ancient Paganism originated.” Others agree, such as professor of ancient languages Morris Jastrow, who writes of “the profound impression made upon the ancient world” by “religious thought in Babylonia.”
However, this same conclusion was recorded thousands of years ago in the Bible. It details the building of a city, including a huge tower, which eventually was called Babylon. Ancient Babylon, located in the east, was renowned for its extensive religious culture. But the religion practiced there displeased the Almighty God. So he confused their languages and “scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.”—Gen. 11:1-9.
As a result, Babylon’s religious practices and beliefs spread earth wide. Just as the new languages were passed on from generation to generation, so too was the religion of ancient Babylon. This accounts for the basic similarities of ancient religions and of many today. But the Bible also shows that the religion that pleased Jehovah God survived and 2,000 years ago was represented in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
WHY ARE CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS DIVIDED?
If Christianity was the pure form of worship—distinct from those originating at Babylon—why do we find so many forms of it? For instance, one American Indian chief asked a Christian missionary who came with some white settlers: “If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why do not all agree, as you can all read the Book?”
The chief touched on one of the basic causes of differences—a lack of reading “the Book.” Many who profess to be Christians simply are ignorant of the teachings of Christ as recorded in the Bible. However, there are others who will twist what is in the Bible. They “speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” This likewise produces a multitude of religious sects, all claiming to be Christian. Yet, in the midst of this confusion of differing religions, the pure worship still persists to this day.—Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Pet. 3:16.
HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE TRUE RELIGION?
Jesus said: “By their fruits you will recognize them.” (Matt. 7:16) In other words, it would be by what they do. In the box on this page are listed some of the Scriptural identifying marks of the true religion. You know whether or not your religion is living up to these Bible standards. The apostle Paul advised: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”—1 Thess. 5:21.
While the confusion of religions in the world has been a harmful force, true worship brings blessings. It helps us to come to know God. It steers us through the pitfalls of life, gives us a solid hope and removes many of today’s tensions. Surely, it is worth the trouble of seeking for it. The publishers of this magazine will be delighted to help you to do so.
[Box on page 4]
IDENTIFYING MARKS OF TRUE RELIGION
GENUINE LOVE AMONG ITS MEMBERS. “By this all will know that you are my disciples,” said Jesus Christ. “if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
RESPECT FOR GOD’S WORD. “Your word is truth,” said Jesus in prayer to his heavenly Father.—John 17:17.
KEEPING GOD’S NAME SACRED. Jesus taught his genuine followers to pray: “Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy.” (Matt. 6:9, “The Jerusalem Bible”) Jesus also said in prayer: “I have made your name known to them [the disciples] and will make it known.” (John 17:26) Certainly he made known the sacred name, Jehovah.—Ps. 83:18.
PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Jesus foretold that his disciples would fulfill this prophetic command: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
KEEPING SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD AND BEING NEUTRAL IN ITS POLITICAL AFFAIRS. “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: . . . to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—Jas. 1:27.