Religion’s Future in View of Its Past
Part 23—1945 onward—The Time for Settling Accounts Is Near
“The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.”—Karl Marx, 19th-century German sociologist and economist
DESPITE having numerous Jewish rabbinical ancestors on both sides of the family, Karl Marx was baptized a Protestant at the age of six. But at an early age, he became disenchanted with religion and politics. He argued that if humankind was ever to achieve happiness, both would have to be changed drastically.
With this the Bible agrees. But whereas the drastic changes proposed by Marx have brought no real improvement, those foretold by the Bible to take place in our generation will be crowned with lasting success. About this there can be no doubt.
Particularly since 1914, the bloodguilt of false religion has reached climactic levels. Since then false religion has also been plagued by growing indifference and lagging popular support. (See the preceding two articles in this series.) In sharp contrast, true religion has flourished more remarkably from year to year.
But what is yet to come? Now as never before, it is appropriate to ask, What is religion’s future in view of its past?
What Does the Bible Say?
Events of the first century of our Common Era shed light on the matter. Because of having adopted false religion, Israel was faced with a future foretold to climax in the execution of God’s judgment against that nation. But provision was made for those practicing true religion to escape destruction with the Jewish system. Jesus told his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw.”—Luke 21:20, 21.
In 66 C.E., Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem. The city appeared doomed. But suddenly the armies withdrew, giving Christians an opportunity to flee to safety. Any idea that apostate Israel had escaped punishment, however, was put to rest four years later when the Romans returned, once again laid siege to the city, and finally took it at a frightful loss of life to those inside. Masada, the last Jewish stronghold, fell three years later. True religion, however, as practiced by faithful Christians, survived.
Now, in our generation, the entire world empire of false religion stands face-to-face with disaster. Once again “encamped armies” are preparing to execute divine judgment. Like the Roman armies of the first century that were designed to maintain the Pax Romana (Roman Peace), the encamped armies of today are also a peace-keeping instrument. Bible prophecy indicates that militarized forces among UN member nations will be Jehovah’s instrument in finally settling accounts with modern-day Jerusalem, Christendom, as well as with the rest of Babylon the Great.—Revelation 17:7, 16.
When will this occur? First Thessalonians 5:3 answers: “Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.”
“The Peace Epidemic”
During 1988 former U.S. secretary of state George Schultz said that “peace is breaking out all over.” A foreign policy expert spoke of a “peace epidemic.” The prestigious German weekly Die Zeit asked: “Could it be, in a century so well endowed with catastrophes, that its final decade might mark an end to destruction and the beginning of an era of peaceful construction?” And Time magazine said: “Peace is threatening in Iran-Iraq, Kampuchea, Afghanistan, southern Africa and even Central America.”
The year 1989, now drawing to a close, has also been full of peace talk. In February the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung editorialized: “Since about 1985 we have been living in a phase in which the superpowers have done more than just pull in their claws. . . . Today there is scarcely a place on earth where the two superpowers are not converging. . . . At any rate, never before have portents been so favorable, both sides been so serious, and so many steps been taken at the same time in the right direction.”
As recently as six years ago, things did not look so bright. Journalist Roy Larson observed that “throughout 1983 religious leaders around the world cried ‘peace, peace,’ but there was no peace.” Are the surprising world events since then a fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 5:3? We cannot say. Nevertheless, it is obvious that today, in December 1989, “peace and security” is closer to realization than before.
Religious Leaders Working Hard—For What?
As Larson shows, religious leaders have not been inactive in pursuing peace. Continuing his appraisal of 1983, he mentions the “pilgrimage for peace” to Central America and the Caribbean that John Paul II made. Also during the year, the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a pastoral letter entitled “The Challenge of Peace.” Shortly thereafter, representatives of more than 300 churches from 100 countries met at the sixth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches and approved a similar resolution. Many Protestant evangelicals were also involved in what Larson called “the global preoccupation with peace.”
At its founding in 1948 and at its 1966 conference, the World Council of Churches spoke out strongly against the use of modern weapons of annihilation. Accordingly, dozens of clergymen and theologians have taken up arms for peace, men like German Protestant theologian Helmut Gollwitzer. Earlier this year, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, he was praised by a Swiss Protestant weekly as a “politically engaged theologian, always striving for peace,” who “by means of his teaching and political commitment has strongly influenced many theologians and also the peace movement within the church.”
Thus, it comes as no surprise that Babylon the Great actively supported the 1986 International Year of Peace, designated as such by the United Nations organization, the charter of which calls on it “to maintain international peace and security.” During that year, the Catholic pope, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and 700 other religious leaders, including professed Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, African animists, native Americans (Indians), Jews, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Shintoists, and Jains, met together at Assisi, near Rome, to pray in behalf of peace.
More recently, in January 1989, the Sydney, Australia, Sunday Telegraph wrote that members of “the Buddhist faith, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Unitarian, Baha’i, Confucian, Jain, Shinto, Tao, Raja Yoga and Zoroastrian” had met in Melbourne for the fifth assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. Significantly, the “more than 600 delegates from some 85 countries . . . acknowledged that tensions caused by religious differences were long misused as one of the major causes of war.”
Religious involvement in the search for peace confirms what Dag Hammarskjöld, former secretary-general of the United Nations, once said: “The [UN] Organization and the churches stand side by side as participants in the efforts of all men of good will, irrespective of their creed or form of worship, to establish peace on earth.”
Notwithstanding, Babylon the Great’s protest marches, her public demonstrations, and her other more subtle forms of religious meddling in political affairs will lead to her undoing.* Already it has caused considerable friction, as Albert Nolan, a Dominican friar from South Africa, recently admitted, saying: “The only effective way to achieve peace in accordance with God’s will is to get into the fight. . . . To achieve armament reduction, conflicts with the government are almost unavoidable.”
Let Babylon the Great continue to cry for peace. Let the pope continue to offer his traditional Urbi et orbi (to the city [Rome] and the world) blessing at Christmas and Easter. Let him continue to suppose—as he did last May—that the present easing of political tensions is God’s answer to “Christian” prayers. Mouthing words of peace and arrogating to herself God’s blessing cannot absolve Babylon the Great from her bloody past. It brands her as being the greatest hindrance to peace between humans, as well as between humans and God, that has ever existed. Directly or indirectly, mankind’s every problem can be traced to her door!
How ironic it is that false religion continues to strive, in conjunction with the UN, to bring about the very “peace and security” that will precipitate her destruction! False religion’s end will vindicate the God of true religion, who says: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Galatians 6:7.
Waste No Time—Flee for Your Life!
The time for false religion to be called to account is near! The only way to avoid suffering loss of life is to desert her without delay. (Revelation 18:4) The final countdown to destruction has already begun.
After God’s beautiful earth has been cleansed of counterfeit religion and pseudoreligious nationalism, only true religion under divine government will remain. How exciting the outlook for individuals who survive these drastic changes! Will you be among them? Would you like to rejoice forever in “The Eternal Beauties of True Religion”? If so, learn how by reading the final article in this series in the December 22, 1989, Awake!
The book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand! published in 1988 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., explains how this will take place.
[Picture on page 25]
UN headquarters in New York and a world peace statue—man beating sword into plowshare