Are the World’s Religions Giving the Right Lead?
1-3. (a) What important questions regarding the world’s religions are here raised? (b) Why are these questions appropriate?
WHATEVER your attitude toward religion, you surely recognize the great influence it has had upon mankind. As the 1970 World Book Encyclopedia states: “Religion has been one of the most powerful forces in history.”15
2 With all their influence over hundreds of millions of persons, are the world’s religions a genuine force for peace and security? Or have they contributed to the turmoil on the earth? Could it be that they actually bear the greatest responsibility for bringing mankind face-to-face with world destruction?
3 These questions may sound startling. But we may remember that Christ Jesus said of religious leaders of his day: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14) Today, there are hundreds of religions claiming to be Christian and these boast of nearly a billion members. The nations of Christendom are among the most powerful in the world. Surely what the religions of Christendom have taught has had much to do with world conditions. So, then, do they live up to their claim to represent God and Christ Jesus and to follow the Bible as God’s Word? Or is it possible that they, as well as the world’s other religions, in reality are leading mankind into conflict with God, a conflict that can bring only disaster?
4, 5. In what way can the answers to these questions help us to find out how reliable the Bible is?
4 If you seek peaceful, secure living for yourself and your family, you should welcome a frank consideration of these questions. The answer to them will also reveal something else to you. It will enable you to know just how reliable the Bible is, the strength of its claim to being the Word of God. Why?
5 Because the Bible says there is both true religion and false. And it states that God approves and blesses only worship that is founded on truth, free from hypocrisy and deceit. (Matthew 15:7-9; John 4:23, 24; Titus 1:16) It declares that only true worship in full harmony with God’s Word can produce people who live in peace and unity, with genuine love for one another. (Isaiah 32:17, 18; John 13:35) If this is the case, then certainly religion that goes contrary to the Bible could never succeed in leading mankind to true peace and security. Has this been the case?
WHAT LEAD DOES WORLD RELIGION GIVE AS TO WAR?
6. Before there can be true peace, what must people do?
6 The Bible refers to God as the one “who gives peace.” (Romans 16:20) And his people are instructed to “seek peace and pursue it,” to “beat their swords into plowshares” and not to learn war anymore. (1 Peter 3:11; Isaiah 2:2-4) Such peace earth wide can come only if people first ‘love their neighbors as themselves.’—Matthew 22:39.
7-12. What do the facts show as to whether the world’s religions have taught the kind of love that Would promote international peace?
7 Have this world’s religions taught their followers such love? Have they taught them that this love should surmount national boundaries and racial or language differences? Have the churches of Christendom, Catholic and Protestant, proved true to their claim to follow Jesus Christ as “the Prince of Peace”? Though it may surprise many, history proves that the opposite is true.
8 As the New York Times observed: “In the past local Catholic hierarchies almost always supported the wars of their nations, blessing troops and offering prayers for victory, while another group of [Catholic] bishops on the other side publicly prayed for the opposite outcome.”16 Protestant religious leaders did the same.
9 Typical was World War I, which broke out in the heart of Christendom. The vast majority of men on both sides were of the same religions. The Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure relates that during the war Roman Catholic Cardinal Amette of Paris said this to the French soldiers:
“My brothers, comrades of the French army and of their glorious allies, the Almighty God is on our side. . . . God is near to our brave soldiers in battle, he gives them strength and fortifies them against the enemy. . . . God will give us the victory.”17
10 At the same time, on the other side, the Catholic archbishop of Cologne, Germany, said to German soldiers:
“God is with us in this fight for righteousness . . . We command you in the name of God, to fight to the last drop of your blood for the honor and glory of the country. . . . God knows that we are on the side of righteousness and he will give us the victory.”17
11 Do the churches represent God when they give such contradictory, hate-filled leadership? After Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, the Pittsburgh Courier commented:
“The church follows the flag, even though the flag be drenched with the blood of innocent victims of war madness slaughtered in the name of civilization . . .
“And just as the Catholic Church has either approved or seldom disapproved of this international robbery, exploitation and murder, so have the Protestant churches. . . .
“In large part, the spiritual weakness of the Christian Church today is ascribable to its constant compromise with the evils it is supposed to combat.”18
12 During World War II and in wars since then, the churches followed the same pattern. What, then, of the religions outside Christendom? Is their record different? To the contrary, members of the same non-Christian religions have often killed one another in violent strife and warfare, as history abundantly testifies. Often their religious teachings uphold such violence and bloodshed.
13. Does the Bible agree with the actions of those clergymen who, in the name of peace, engage in violent protest against existing governments?
13 True, in times of peace religious leaders praise peace; then it is popular to do so. And you may at times hear or read of those who take a stand against war even when such a stand is not popular. Yet these same religious leaders frequently show they are not genuinely peaceful, for they engage in protest actions that are often violent. Some even advocate sabotage and revolt against existing governments. But the Bible condemns such a course.—Romans 12:17-19; 13:1, 2.
14. (a) In what symbolic language are the world’s religions described in the Bible? (b) What guilt is charged against “Babylon the Great”?
14 The influence of the world’s religions over the nations of earth has been so great that the Bible describes these religions collectively as an empire. They are spoken of under the name “Babylon the Great,” which is said to be “the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:3-5, 15, 18) Because the world’s religions have undeniably ‘prostituted’ themselves for political and commercial and social gain, this religious empire, Babylon the Great, is pictured as a “harlot.” Of this harlotrous religious empire it is said: “In her was found the blood of . . . all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) Does that sound shocking—that the world’s religions bear the principal guilt for all the slaughter of world history? Yet the influence they wield and the lead they have set in supporting war, as well as carrying on violent crusades and religious persecution, bring exactly that responsibility upon them.—Compare Matthew 23:33-36; 27:20-23, 25.
15. If persons who are church members really want peace, what questions must they be willing to face as to their own church?
15 The Bible’s teaching is “that we should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one [Satan the Devil] and slaughtered his brother.” (1 John 3:10-12) Yet mankind continues in the course of Cain, and the world’s religions have blessed those pursuing that course. If you are a church member, ask yourself, ‘What about my own religion? If all persons belonged to my religion, would wars have stopped and this earth now be a place of genuine peace?’
DO THE WORLD’S RELIGIONS PROMOTE MORALITY?
16. (a) Why is the holding to true standards of morality an important factor in peace and security? (b) As taught in the Bible, what promotes such morality?
16 Can anyone enjoy true peace with his neighbors or real security if there is no holding to true standards of morality? Obviously not. Without this there will be lying, stealing, adultery, and similar practices. Genuine love of neighbor should promote morality. As the Bible expresses it:
“He that loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. For the law code, ‘You must not commit adultery, You must not murder, You must not steal, You must not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this word, namely, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore love is the law’s fulfillment.”—Romans 13:8-10.
17, 18. (a) Can we expect to enjoy peace with God if we do not hold to righteous moral standards? (b) Who sets those standards?
17 More important than this, however, do you believe that anyone can be at peace with God, having the assurance of His favor and protection, if he does not practice true morality? Could you respect and honor God if he did not require such morality from those whom he approves?
18 Surely for God to require righteousness he would have to make clear to his creatures what his moral standards are. To say that each person should make up his own standards and go by them would be no more reasonable than to say that each person should make up his own traffic laws and go by them. You know what the result would be. The Bible logically shows that there is only one way bringing God’s approval and that any other road leads only to destruction.—Matthew 7:13, 14.
19. If Christendom’s churches were setting a fine lead in morality, what would you expect to see in the lives of their members?
19 Well, do Christendom’s churches truthfully represent the Bible, upholding its standards of morality and so setting a lead for the rest of the world? What do the lives of those who belong to these churches show? The Bible says that the “fruitage of [God’s] spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Is this the fruitage that the world’s religions produce? Or do you find instead a surprising amount of “rotten” fruit, “the works of the flesh . . . fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries”? (Galatians 5:19-21) Likening men to trees, the Bible says that every “tree” producing such fruit is due to be destroyed.—Matthew 7:17-19; 12:33.
20-22. (a) As to morality, what questions need to be asked about the members of one’s own church? (b) What does the Bible say should be done about a congregation member who becomes a practicer of immorality? (c) Is this done in the churches?
20 If you belong to some religion, ask yourself: ‘How confident and secure do I feel about the moral standards of its members? If all persons on earth lived like the members of my religion do, would that put an end to crime, dishonest business practices, strife and sexual immorality?’
21 There is obvious truth in the Bible’s warning that “a little leaven ferments the whole lump,” and that “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33) That is why the inspired apostle wrote Christians: “Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . ‘Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.’”—1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
22 True, a person may make a momentary misstep and then recover. But what of those of whom the apostle writes, those who practice such things, making them a part of their life? If such persons claim to be serving God, they are hypocrites. Surely you detest hypocrisy, and the Bible shows that God hates it and those who practice it. (Matthew 23:27, 28; Romans 12:9) What, then, of your religion? Do its religious leaders protect its members from spiritual danger by ‘reproving before all onlookers persons who practice sin’? (1 Timothy 5:20) Do they clean out those who persist in wrongdoing, showing no genuine repentance over it? Or do they allow such ones to remain as members in good standing, infecting others? Do they render mere ‘lip service’ to morality while actually condoning or ‘winking’ at wrongdoing?—Matthew 15:7, 8.
23. (a) What are many clergymen saying these days about such things as fornication, adultery and homosexuality? (b) What does the Bible say about such conduct?
23 Throughout the world, evidence mounts against the world’s religions, evidence that they have not been a genuine force for morality and the security and peace it brings. More and more religious leaders today are saying publicly that fornication, adultery and homosexuality are not necessarily wrong. You yourself may have read news items to that effect. These represent the trend in the world’s religions. But they do not represent the Bible, which says:
“Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
24. How can a person find out for sure what the minister in his church believes about such conduct?
24 You may feel that the leaders of your religion are firm for moral standards. But have you ever personally asked your minister what his views are on these matters? You deserve to know and need to know, for your very hope of life is involved.
FREEDOM FROM GREED AND SELFISHNESS
25. What effect does the “love of money” have on human relations?
25 Greed and selfishness are clearly at the root of so much of today’s strife and insecurity. The Bible says that the “love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Are the world’s religions, and particularly those of Christendom, free of this?
26, 27. How have the world’s religions shown their attitude toward money and the amassing of landholdings?
26 Is it not true that the regular practice of churches in Christendom is to assess dues, exact tithes, pass the collection plate, promote fund-raising drives and ask publicly for money in religious radio and television programs or by mail? When church members desire the service of religious leaders, do they not generally feel obligated to pay—for example, for baptism, marriage or burial services? And throughout the world people who may be in real poverty are asked and pressured to finance the construction of costly cathedrals and temples.
27 In many lands the world’s religions have made a record of amassing wealth and huge landholdings. In the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico owned not less than one half of all the real estate in that land.19 Likewise in many lands with non-Christian religions, the greatest collection of wealth very often is in the religious temples, generally in stark contrast to the poverty of much of the population surrounding them.
28. How does this practice stand in contrast to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles?
28 Contrast this with the teaching of Jesus Christ, who told his disciples: “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8) The Bible record shows that among the original Christians all giving was voluntary, without pressure. (Acts 11:29, 30; 2 Corinthians 9:7) Those taking the lead, apostles and others, were not a burden to their Christian brothers nor did they enrich themselves at their brothers’ expense. They worked with their own hands. (Acts 18:1-4; 20:33-35) Is this true of religious leaders you know?
29. What similarities do you see between the world’s religious leaders in our day and the ones who opposed Jesus in the first century C.E.?
29 Compare the world’s religious leaders today with the religious leaders who opposed Jesus in the first century C.E. Though doing certain charitable works, those men loved glory and prominence and cultivated the favor of political leaders. (Matthew 6:2; Mark 12:38-40; John 11:47, 48; 19:15) Jesus plainly told such “money lovers” that they were disgusting in God’s sight, because they were hypocrites. He likened them to “whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness,” and then said to them: “In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”—Luke 16:14, 15; Matthew 23:27, 28.
IN WHAT HAS REJECTION OF THE BIBLE RESULTED?
30. As shown in Isaiah 48:17, 18, what is the result when people pay attention to Jehovah’s commandments?
30 To the people of Israel, a nation that claimed to worship him, Jehovah God is recorded as saying: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself . . . O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
31-33. What is here shown as to the attitude of many clergymen toward the Word of God?
31 But the evidence considered shows that the world’s religions have not paid attention to God’s commandments. In Christendom, in fact, more and more clergymen are openly expressing their lack of faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Science magazine of November 1972 describes a California board of education meeting in which a “Mormon bishop and the dean of San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral” argued in favor of evolution as against the creation account in the Bible book of Genesis.20
32 The New Catholic Encyclopedia, while claiming to accept essentially the Bible as inspired, says: “It is nonetheless obvious that many Biblical statements are simply not true when judged according to modern knowledge of science and history.”21
33 A similar viewpoint is expressed in the Baptist Broadman Bible Commentary.22 At a 1972 convention of the Southern Baptists (the largest Protestant denomination in the United States), a resolution was presented to recall and rewrite this work because it did not uphold the Bible’s truthfulness. But the resolution was voted down by a ratio of about 4 to 1.—The Christian Century, August 2, 1972.
34, 35. (a) What have been the results of rejecting the teachings of the Bible? (b) So, can we reasonably look to the world’s religions to lead mankind to peace and security?
34 What have been the results of all this? Have the world’s religions been able to demonstrate that they can downgrade Bible teachings and still produce good morals, conducive to peace and security? To the contrary, conditions worsen earth wide, and Christendom has long been among the hardest hit as to crime, immorality, drug addiction, racial strife and war. The nations with non-Christian religions have also become increasingly the scene of unrest and division, political corruption and deteriorating morals. As the Bible puts it: “They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?”—Jeremiah 8:9.
35 The evidence world wide is undeniable. It proves that the world’s religions are not a true force for peace and security. What does this signify for us?
END OF WORLD’S RELIGIONS NEARS
36, 37. What does the Bible warn will come upon the world’s religions?
36 Jesus Christ stated: “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted.” (Matthew 15:13) Their bad fruitage proves that the world’s religions are not of God’s planting. Even as the Bible warned that such religions would never bring peaceful, righteous conditions, so too it warns of the coming destruction of all false systems of worship.
37 Speaking of it under the symbol of the harlotrous “Babylon the Great,” God says of such religious empire:
“Her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind. . . . in one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.”—Revelation 18:5-8.
38. How will such destruction come, and from what source?
38 Note that the destruction of the world empire of false religion is to come with surprising suddenness, as “in one day.” All the riches she has piled up will be devastated by the political nations, to the surprise and dismay of many persons.—Revelation 18:10-17, 21; 17:12, 16.
39. (a) At Revelation 18:4, what are persons who desire God’s approval urged to do? (b) What moves them to take such action?
39 Therefore the divine call is: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4) To take such action means for you to see this world empire of false religion as God sees it, and detest it for its rotten fruits, its hypocrisy and superstition. Disgust should be felt for the way “Babylon the Great” has misrepresented God before mankind and for the suffering, oppression and grinding down of the people to which this has contributed. (Romans 2:24; Jeremiah 23:21, 22) If you recognize this, you will withdraw all support from her, thus demonstrating your full support of God’s judgment on her.
40. (a) Additionally, what must a person find, if he is to enjoy a peaceful, secure life? (b) What kind of persons should one look for when seeking to find those who practice true worship?
40 It is not enough simply to withdraw, however, if you seek a peaceful, secure life for yourself and your family. You must search out and find now the true, unhypocritical worship that will bring you God’s peace and protection when the foretold destruction comes. Those engaging in such true worship must be persons who have already ‘beaten their swords into plowshares, not learning war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2:4) They must be persons who believe God’s Word and genuinely live it, letting it be the guiding force in their lives. (Psalm 119:105 [118:105, Dy]) They must show genuine, unhypocritical love for their fellowman. (John 13:35; Romans 13:8) There are such people today. And the peace and security they enjoy vindicate the truthfulness and power of God’s Word, the Bible.
41. What will you be able to observe firsthand by attending the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses at their Kingdom Hall?
41 Those through whom you received this book, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, are keenly concerned about the dangerous situation into which false religion has brought the people. They themselves are sincerely endeavoring to give God’s Word first place in their lives. You are invited to attend their meetings in their local Kingdom Hall and investigate for yourself the extent to which they show the fruitage of God’s spirit and enjoy the peace and security it brings. You will also see how they are learning and applying what God requires of every person who is to survive into His righteous new order.
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Did you know that the churches were so deeply involved in war?
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Is this the kind of guidance that you want for your family?