Many Religions—What Does It Mean to You?
PERPLEXED by the vast array of religions with their confusing dogmas, rituals and practices, and their hostility toward one another, the tendency of many is to shun all religion. Others no longer have faith because of certain personal tragedies that they feel God could have prevented. Still others, on seeing the suffering and injustices among people in the world, decide that there is no use believing in anything. And many others, influenced by evolution, turn to atheism and agnosticism. Do you identify with any of these people and how they feel about religion?
Does Disbelief Satisfy?
Though many today have turned away from religion, does their course of disbelief bring them satisfaction and happiness? Perhaps freeing oneself from the entanglement of the world’s religions does bring a measure of relief. Yet, sooner or later, one comes to realize that man has a spiritual side to him that has to be satisfied. He often wonders: ‘How did we get here? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What does the future hold?’
That was the experience of one-time agnostic Masao Fujimaki, who said: “From my youth on I used to think about life and death. Death seemed to me to be such a tragedy, a waste. It made any goal in life seem futile and empty.”
To fill this void, people who reject organized religion or the belief in a Creator often turn with religious passion to some substitute god. Science, politics, philosophy, and even agnosticism and atheism become their fervently held religion.
The popular scientist Carl Sagan, for example, once stated in an interview: “If you look into science you will find a sense of intricacy, depth, and exquisite beauty which, I believe, is much more powerful than the offerings of any bureaucratic religion.” Then he added: “I would not even object to saying that the sense of awe before the grandeur of nature is itself a religious experience.”
But do such ‘experiences’ really satisfy man’s spiritual needs? Fujimaki, quoted above, answered: “I became quite wrapped up in the study of electricity, feeling that the laws controlling electricity were the only things I could trust. But still something was lacking in my life. I needed to know God’s name and his purpose for me.”
Similarly, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the noted Soviet exile and author who considered himself a Marxist in his younger years, took a dim view of atheism when he said recently in an award-acceptance speech: “The entire 20th century is being sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction. We can only reach with determination for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently pushed away . . . There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide.” That surely does not sound as if disbelief or atheism is the answer, does it?
Finding the Way
Does this, then, mean that any religion is good as long as it fills a void and satisfies some yearnings of the soul? This, surely, would not be the case, for, as we have seen, not all religions produce the right kind of fruit even if they have an outward appearance of holiness. So, then, how does one go about finding real satisfaction among so many religions?
Abraham Lincoln, when explaining why he had never joined any religion, said: “When any church will inscribe over its altar as its sole qualifications for membership the Savior’s condensed statement of the substance of both the law and the gospel, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself’—that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul.”
The words quoted by Lincoln were spoken by Jesus Christ and are found in the Bible at Luke 10:27. They clearly point to love—for God and for fellowmen—as an identifying mark of true religion. It is no wonder that people are turned away when they see so-called Christian folks and other religious people fighting and killing one another in sanguinary wars, or pursuing and promoting immoral ways of life that bring harm to themselves and others.
On the other hand, throughout the world Jehovah’s Witnesses have become well known during this century as the people who maintain strict neutrality toward the nations’ conflicts. During World War II, hundreds of them were executed because of their refusal to compromise their Christian principles. In some countries young Witness schoolboys today know that upon graduation they face many years of imprisonment for their refusal to comply with compulsory military service. In some other countries, where education is highly regarded, schoolchildren are willing to give up graduation prospects rather than take part in martial arts training. Why? Not because they are antigovernment or antisocial, but because their love for God and for fellowmen moves them to nonparticipation in the world’s violent ways.
What about good morals in words and deeds? Some may say: ‘Aren’t there nice people in all religions?’ Yes, but such “niceness” may have very little to do with love of God, and very often it is swayed to badness in times of crisis. The words of Jesus Christ quoted above show that love of neighbor is secondary to love of God. True neighbor love must be based on, or motivated by, love of God.
Thus, besides endeavoring to live a good and moral life, Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate this kind of love when they volunteer their time and energy in calling from house to house to share with others something unique—a Bible-based hope of living forever here on earth in peace and harmony with men and with God.—Isaiah 45:18; Revelation 21:4.
The Choice Is Yours
In this series of articles we have considered several aspects of the world’s religions. On the one hand, we have seen that although there are so many religions today, they have developed from the same source of false Babylonish religion and thus are producing fruitage that is disappointing. On the other hand, we have investigated the alternatives, namely, disbelief, agnosticism and atheism, and found that these and other substitute “religions” cannot truly satisfy man’s needs.
Being confronted by this situation in world religion, what will you do? Will you be like the person described in Psalm 10:4, who “makes no search” because “all his ideas are: ‘There is no God’”? Or will you be willing to accept the invitation extended to you by Jehovah’s Witnesses and search for the true God and the religion that he approves?
Masao Fujimaki, who was torn between his faith in science and his need to know God and the purpose of life, made the choice. “When a missionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my door, I readily accepted a Bible study,” he said. As the study progressed, he began to see how reliable and accurate Bible prophecies are as they undergo fulfillment. “This had a great impact on me,” he recalled, and it led him to conclude that Jehovah God and his promises are trustworthy.
Through later association with Jehovah’s Witnesses, he saw the same quality reflected among them, and he decided that he wanted to become one of them. He was baptized after studying for about one year, and he eventually became an elder in the local congregation.
He saw the situation and made the right choice. It is just as Moses told the Israelites when they camped on the Plains of Moab prepared to enter the Promised Land: “I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) Yes, there is a choice, and it is up to you. What will you do?
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One fruit of true religion is peace between men of all nationalities and races