Is There Good in All Religions?
WHEN religion is discussed, many persons say, ‘There’s good in all religions,’ or, ‘All religions are just different roads leading to God.’
2 It is easy to see why persons might find some good in almost any religion, for most of them speak about love and teach that murder, stealing and lying are wrong. Religious groups have sent out missionaries to run hospitals and help the poor. And especially in the last two centuries they have shared in translating and distributing the Bible, thus allowing more persons to benefit from God’s Word. (2 Timothy 3:16) Yet we owe it to ourselves to ask: How do Jehovah and Jesus Christ view the different religions?
THE RIGHT WAY—A NARROW WAY
3 Some persons who feel there is good in all religions consider it narrow-minded to believe that God would not accept most people no matter what their religion. But Jesus, who knew and reflected his Father’s thinking, took a different view. (John 1:18; 8:28, 29) None of us would reasonably charge the Son of God with being narrow-minded. Consider what he said in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matthew 7:13, 14.
4 What does it take to be on that narrow road and have God’s approval? Some, in line with the modern liberal or ecumenical spirit, would answer, ‘Just do good and avoid hurting others,’ or, ‘All you need is to accept Jesus as your Lord.’ But Jesus said that much more is necessary:
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one DOING THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:21-23.
5 It is true that Jesus counseled against judging the inconsequential faults of others. (Matthew 7:3-5; Romans 14:1-4) But on the vital matter of religion, he exemplified the need to adhere to the Bible, and to do the will of the Father. Jesus condemned practices and teachings that conflicted with God’s Word. Why? Because he knew that religion is used by the Devil to ensnare people. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Satan’s stock in trade is falsehood, but presented in a way that makes it appealing. (Genesis 3:4, 5; 1 Timothy 4:1-3) Even among professing Christians there are religious leaders who serve the desires of the Devil. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) Their teachings misrepresent the loving and generous ways of Jehovah. Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus exposed religious leaders whose teachings were contrary to the Scriptures?—Matthew 15:1-20; 23:1-38.
6 Many persons have, as it were, inherited their religion. Others just go along with the majority around them. But even if this is with sincerity, it can put a person on the ‘broad road leading to destruction.’ (John 16:2; Proverbs 16:25) The apostle Paul (also named Saul) had been zealous in his religion even to the point of persecuting Christians. Yet to be acceptable to God, he had to convert to a new way of worship. (1 Timothy 1:12-16; Acts 8:1-3; 9:1, 2) Later, he was inspired to write that some very religious persons then had “a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Romans 10:2) Do you have an accurate knowledge of the will of God set out in the Bible? Are you acting accordingly?
7 Do not take this lightly, perhaps feeling that if you are not quite on the right path God will understand without your having to make any changes. The Scriptures state that God’s will is for people to “come to an accurate knowledge of truth,” and then to live in harmony with it. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4; James 4:17) God foretold that in the “last days” many persons would ‘have a form of godly devotion but prove false to its power.’ He commanded: “From these turn away.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
HOW CAN YOU KNOW?
8 Although worship that pleases God must accord with “accurate knowledge,” examination reveals that most churches teach doctrines that conflict with the Bible. (Romans 10:2) For example, they hold to the unscriptural doctrine that man has an immortal soul. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; see page 115.) ‘Is that teaching so bad?’ some may wonder. Do not forget that Satan’s first lie was that sin would not bring death. (Genesis 3:1-4) While death is now unavoidable, the teaching that man has an immortal soul tends to further Satan’s lie. It has led millions of persons into fearful dealings with demons who pose as the souls of the dead. And the doctrine makes the Bible truth about a coming resurrection of the dead meaningless.—Acts 24:15.
9 Conduct is also involved, for many religions accept or encourage holidays and customs based on belief in immortality of the soul. Halloween, All Souls’ Day and others are holidays of that sort, blending in practices drawn from non-Christian religions.
10 The mixing of non-Christian and supposed Christian religion extends to other holidays, such as Christmas. God directed Christians to commemorate Jesus’ death, not his birth. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) And the Bible shows that Jesus was not born in December, which is a cold rainy season in Israel. (Luke 2:8-11) You can check almost any encyclopedia and see that December 25 was chosen because it was already a Roman holiday. Sir James Frazer observes:
“Taken altogether, the coincidences of [Christmas and Easter] with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. . . . [Clerics] perceived that if Christianity was to conquer the world it could do so only by relaxing the too rigid principles of its Founder, by widening a little the narrow gate which leads to salvation.”—The Golden Bough.
11 After he learns the facts, what person who sincerely loves Jehovah would continue to accept beliefs and practices based on a compromise with pagan worship? To some persons these teachings or practices may seem like little things. But the Bible clearly says: “A little leaven ferments the whole lump.”—Galatians 5:9.
WAR AND MORALS
12 Jesus Christ set out another aid in identifying religion that is acceptable to Jehovah when he told his disciples: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) Most churches talk about showing love, but do they really urge showing the kind of love that Jesus did?
13 We have already seen that Christians in early centuries lived in line with the prophetic description at Isaiah 2:4. They ‘beat their swords into plowshares and would not lift up sword against each other nor learn war anymore.’ (See pages 166, 167.) What position have the churches and their clergy taken? Many men know from personal experience that the churches have approved of and blessed warfare—Catholics killing Catholics, Protestants killing Protestants. This certainly was not following the pattern Jesus set. Interestingly, it was the Jewish religious leaders who, claiming that national interests were at stake, approved of killing Jesus.—John 11:47-50; 15:17-19; 18:36.
14 As a further aid in determining whether a religious group has God’s approval, consider whether it upholds his moral standards rather than simply overlooking wrongdoing. Jesus tried to help sin-laden persons, including drunkards and harlots. His disciples were to do the same. (Matthew 9:10-13; 21:31, 32; Luke 7:36-48; 15:1-32) And if a person who had already become a Christian sinned, other Christians could help him, trying to restore him to God’s favor and to spiritual strength. (Galatians 6:1; James 5:13-16) But what if a person unrepentantly practiced sin?
15 That was true of a man in Corinth. Paul wrote:
“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.
Jehovah’s Witnesses follow God’s directions in this. If a gross sinner refuses to accept help and will not abandon his immoral way, such a person must be expelled or disfellowshiped from the congregation. Perhaps this will shock him to his senses. Yet, whether that happens or not, this course serves to protect the sincere members of the congregation who, though themselves imperfect, are striving to uphold God’s standards.—1 Corinthians 5:1-8; 2 John 9-11.
16 However, you may know of churchgoers who openly practice sin, perhaps even receiving special honors in their church because of their wealth or prominence. By refusing to follow God’s command to disfellowship unrepentant sinners, the churches cause others to think they might as well sin too. (Ecclesiastes 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:33) God cannot approve of those who produce such fruitage.—Matthew 7:15-20; Revelation 18:4-8.
STAYING ON THE ROAD TO LIFE
17 Once you find the “road leading off into life,” you need to keep on studying the Bible in order to stay on it. Try to read the Bible each day; form a longing for it. (1 Peter 2:2, 3; Matthew 4:4) It will equip you for “every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
18 Those good works include living by God’s moral standards, as well as being kind and helpful to others, especially those related to us in the faith. (James 1:27; Galatians 6:9, 10) That is how Jesus was. Besides setting a fine moral example, he healed the sick, fed the hungry and comforted the distressed. He especially taught and strengthened his disciples. Though we cannot copy his miracles, we can, as we are able, give practical aid to others, which may move some to glorify God.—1 Peter 2:12.
19 But Jesus’ good works involved more. He knew that the best work done for others was helping them to know what worship is acceptable to God and instructing them about God’s Kingdom purposes. This could help them to attain the goal of everlasting life in happiness.—Luke 4:18-21.
20 Christians today should likewise strive to be witnesses for Jehovah. They can witness by their fine conduct, which includes helping others and keeping themselves “without spot from the world.” (Isaiah 43:10-12; James 1:27; Titus 2:14) Also, they can take the “good news” right to the homes of persons, persevering in this work until God says that it is done. (Luke 10:1-9) Do you not want to help your neighbors, including your family, to learn about worship that Jehovah accepts? Then you, too, should share in the public expression of your faith; doing so can help others to find the road to life.—Romans 10:10-15.
Why should we consider whether there is good in all religions? (1, 2)
What was Jesus’ view of religion, and why? (3-5)
Why is it important that we have accurate knowledge? (6, 7)
How do some common teachings and practices conflict with the Bible? (8-11)
How do the churches and real Christianity compare on the matter of war? (12, 13)
True Christianity takes what position on holding to God’s moral standards? (14-16)
How can you stay on the road to life? (17, 18)
What additional work is vital for Christians? (19, 20)
[Box on page 173]
“VALUES AND VIOLENCE IN AUSCHWITZ”
In her book of that title, Polish sociologist Anna Pawelczynska observed that in Nazi Germany “Jehovah’s Witnesses waged passive resistance for their belief, which opposed all war and violence.” With what result? She explains:
“This little group of prisoners was a solid ideological force and they won their battle against Nazism. The German group of this sect had been a tiny island of unflagging resistance existing in the bosom of a terrorized nation, and in that same undismayed spirit they functioned in the camp at Auschwitz. They managed to win the respect of their fellow-prisoners . . . of prisoner-functionaries, and even of the SS officers. Everyone knew that no Jehovah’s Witness would perform a command contrary to his religious belief.”
[Picture on page 175]
Are you on the broad way . . .
. . . or the narrow way?