Why Some Have Changed Their Religion
FOR a person to take such a drastic step as changing his religion, he certainly must have good reasons. The benefits would have to outweigh any disadvantages.
Would you consider getting to know your Creator and developing a relationship with him a good reason? It has been for many. To develop a relationship with someone, we must get to know the person well. For example, a small child may be afraid to take hold of a stranger’s hand until he gets to know him. So with us, we must come to know God before we start to trust him. True, most religions have a central figure they worship as God. But is it not also true that for most persons God is vague and distant with no clearly defined personality? So how do we get to know him?
When we look at the things around us, we are awed by what we see. We detect beauty, intelligence, and power. The origin of all of this perplexes many, but there is a book that explains it clearly. It is the Bible. Through its pages, we learn that these wonders originated with a Creator who has a name and a personality. As we carefully study the Bible, God’s personality becomes very clear to us. We see him as a God of love and care. “God is love,” says the Bible. (1 John 4:8) We are drawn to this magnificent personality, perfectly balanced in love, wisdom, justice, and power. A close relationship follows.
Misae went through just such an experience of being drawn to Jehovah. She explained: ‘As a child, I was taught that many gods existed. There was a god for the water, a god for the trees, and one for the house. Although I doubted their existence, I did believe that there must be one true God. My strict Buddhist-Shinto upbringing caused me to think of God as being fearsome, someone who meted out punishment for misdeeds. Although I had a desire to go to a church and learn about the Christian God, my Buddhist background held me back. Then a lady came to my house and offered to study the Bible with me. Through that study, I learned that God has a name, Jehovah. I was thrilled to know that he is not a fearsome God but a loving one, always watching over us, not to punish, but to help. I wanted to serve that God, and so I changed my religion.’ She has been enjoying a satisfying relationship with God for some 29 years.
Relationship That Gives Freedom and Hope
There is a side benefit that many have received through developing a relationship with God. As other relationships begin to take on lesser importance in their lives, many have gained freedom from the enslaving fear of man and oppressive customs devoid of real meaning and value. Hence, they have been freed from the burdensome costs of maintaining appearances and traditions, which keep many families in constant debt. “Trembling at men is what lays a snare,” warns the Bible, adding the assurance, “He that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.”—Proverbs 29:25.
Another freedom to be gained is the freedom from fear of death. The above-quoted Misae says: “When I was 22, I contracted typhoid fever. As I lay there semi-conscious, I could hear friends and family members talk about me as if they expected me to die. But I feared death. My only thought was that I wanted to live, and fortunately I did get better. Through my later study of the Bible, I was freed from that fear of death. I learned that death is simply nonexistence.” The Bible says: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) If someone dies, there is the wonderful hope of the resurrection because God keeps the dead alive in his memory.—John 5:28, 29.
Many others who study the Bible have similarly found that the things they have learned have given their life real meaning and hope. This is one reason why the Bible was written, namely, that “we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Buddhism teaches nothing about a Creator or God. It is said that evil and suffering have always existed and will continue forever through endless cycles of rebirth. Most Western religions teach that the good will go to heaven, an indefinite place, but as for what they will do there, they are not too sure. In contrast with these religious philosophies that give very little hope or meaning to their lives, the Bible teaches that man was made to enjoy life forever on the earth as its caretaker. (Genesis 2:15-17; Isaiah 45:18) We may thus come to realize that life should be spent not just to gather possessions and serve self but to serve God and others in an unselfish way.—Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 22:37-39.
Gaining the Truth and True Friends
Some are compelled to change their religion for other reasons. Among them is a desire to search out religious truth. Of course, many people feel that there is no such thing as absolute truth and, as the Bible says, they ‘make no search.’—Psalm 10:4.
But there are those who do make such a search. Sakae, who lives in central Japan, went from one Buddhist sect to another for 25 years to find the truth. She was never satisfied. As she rose to responsible positions in each organization, she always saw things that stumbled her, such as commercialism, immorality, and exploitation. She even traveled to India to search out the roots of Buddhism in the historic spots where Buddha lived and taught. She was greatly disappointed to find very little interest in Buddhism in that Hindu country. Then in her conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses, she was told that not all religions are from God but are from his enemy, Satan the Devil.—1 Corinthians 10:20.
This shocked Sakae, but it caused her to think and investigate. She read the book What Has Religion Done for Mankind?a and other Bible publications. She began to see that whereas Buddhism, as practiced in Japan, went through many changes over the years, the Bible has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Eventually her investigation paid off. She found the truth she had been seeking. Her joy was like the joy of the man in Jesus’ parable who found a treasure hidden in a field: “For the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field.”—Matthew 13:44.
Those who have found religious truth show “fellow feeling” for others who are seeking it. (1 Peter 3:8) In fact, their warmth and genuine love initially attracts many to a study of the Bible. “All will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves,” said Jesus. (John 13:35) Where can we find such a loving atmosphere today? Kazuhiko Nagoya, writing in his column for Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri, commented on the warm way he was treated when he visited a meeting place of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The way they smiled,” said Nagoya, “it looked as though they had recognized me from a previous meeting and were happy to see me again.” But this was not the case. “I looked hard at their faces and found that they were total strangers.” When two other people also smiled, “I felt very happy,” recalls Nagoya. “That is the way those people smile at a stranger, when they spot him at any of their meetings.”
Warmth and love do not result from people’s knowing one another well because of gathering locally on a regular basis. Rather, these result from a regular study of the Bible and the application of its principles in their lives. Many persons invited to attend the 1985-86 “Integrity Keepers” District Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in foreign lands were deeply touched by the love and hospitality shown them by their hosts. One young couple from Japan who attended the convention in the Philippines commented: “When we all joined together for the final song, each singing in his own language, we were deeply moved. We felt for the first time what it means to belong to a truly international brotherhood.”
Finally, many will tell you of the great changes they have made in their lives as a result of studying the Bible and applying it. People with personalities formerly as different as sheep are from wolves are now getting along peaceably in the Christian assembly. (Isaiah 11:6) Some were moody and unfriendly, short-tempered and even fearful. Others had trouble with depression. Still others were introverted and self-centered. Many had bad habits to overcome. But by diligent effort, coupled with the desire to please God, they were able to make drastic changes.
What about you? Do any of the above reasons for making changes appeal to you? If so, we encourage you to make a serious study of the Bible. The Bible shows that all false religions are on a collision course with the God of the Bible. Like the pilot mentioned in the previous article, you may have to take drastic action to save your life and the lives of your loved ones. “Broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction,” said Jesus, “and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life.” (Matthew 7:13, 14) Yes, if you are walking on that “broad and spacious” road, there is good reason for you to change your religion!
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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My strict Buddhist-Shinto upbringing caused me to think of God as being fearsome
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‘Cramped is the road leading off into life’