Mankind’s Search for God
WHY have we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, been given the “pure language”? Certainly, it is not to keep it to ourselves. And it is not so that we can enjoy a comfortable life-style similar to Christendom’s soft, compromising course of action. Rather, it is so that ‘all may call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.’ (Zephaniah 3:9) Yes, the pure language involves activity side by side with millions of our Christian brothers and sisters—from all races, nations, and languages—who are faithfully preaching the good news before the end comes.—Mark 13:10; Romans 13:11; Revelation 14:6, 7.
Our preaching today sometimes presents unusual challenges. Why is that? During this 20th century, there have been mass movements of people as a result of wars, oppression, economic pressures, and for other reasons. As a consequence, people of many languages and religions have moved into cultures other than their own. Thus, large communities of Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims have moved into the Western world. As we share the pure language from house to house, we meet these people. Sometimes we are baffled because we know so little about their religious background. What can we do about it?—Compare Acts 2:5-11.
How do we share the truth with a Muslim or a Jew? How do they differ one from the other? What does a Hindu really believe? Why do Sikhs wear turbans? What is their holy book? How is a Buddhist different from a Hindu? What do Japanese Shintoists believe? Do Chinese Taoists or Confucianists believe in God?* How does an Orthodox Jew differ from a Reform Jew or a Conservative Jew? In order to reach this great diversity of people, we must first of all understand their viewpoint and then know how to direct them in a kind and tactful way to the true God, Jehovah.—Acts 17:22, 23; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Colossians 4:6.
To help us to have a clearer understanding of other religions, their teachings, and their historical background, the Watch Tower Society released around the world during the 1990 “Pure Language” Conventions a new publication entitled Mankind’s Search for God. Equipped with this instrument, we will be better able to preach to people of the non-Christian world as well as to those of Christendom.
A Practical Instrument
This 384-page book contains 16 chapters that relate the history of mankind’s search for God over the past six thousand years. It answers hundreds of questions about the world’s religions. Here is a sample of some of them: What factors usually determine a person’s religion? Why is it not wrong to examine other faiths? What similarities are there between Roman Catholicism and Buddhism? What role do myths play in many religions? Why do many people believe in magic, spiritism, and astrology? Why do Hindus have so many gods and goddesses? How do Sikhs differ from Hindus? Who was the Buddha, and what did he teach? Why is Shinto mainly a Japanese religion? Why do Jews have an oral as well as a written law? How do we know that Christ is not a myth? How does the Koran differ from the Bible? Why do Catholics say that Peter was the first pope? Why did Catholic priest Luther break away from the Roman Catholic Church?
The questions are almost endless, and this publication packs in the answers so that we can more effectively preach to people with these varied religious backgrounds. The book recognizes that many people have their own religion and that religion is a very personal matter. Yet, on page 8, it states: “Virtually from birth religious or ethical ideas are implanted in our mind by our parents and relatives. As a consequence, we usually follow the religious ideals of our parents and grandparents.” That means that “in many cases others have chosen our religion for us. It has simply been a matter of where we were born and when.”—Compare Philippians 3:4-6.
The book then raises the logical question. “Is it reasonable to assume that the religion imposed at one’s birth is necessarily the whole truth?” Thus, every person is encouraged to examine other religions with an open mind. As is stated on page 10: “Understanding one another’s viewpoint can lead to more meaningful communication and conversation between people of different faiths.” It continues: “True, people may strongly disagree about their religious beliefs, but there is no basis for hating a person just because he or she holds a different viewpoint.”—Matthew 5:43, 44.
One fundamental question that arises throughout the book is, Does man have an immortal soul that survives his death and goes on to an afterlife? In one form or another, nearly every religion teaches that concept. As Mankind’s Search for God states (page 52): “In his search for God, man has clutched at straws, deluded by the illusion of immortality. . . . Belief in an immortal soul or variations thereof is a legacy that has come down to us through the millenniums.” Other questions are: Is there such a place as hell where souls are tormented? What is the true hope for the dead? Is there one God, or are there many gods?—Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4.
Basis for Bible Studies
In more or less chronological order of their appearance on the world scene, the book discusses the development of the major religions of mankind—Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Judaism, Christianity, Christendom, and Islam. In each chapter the holy books of these religions are quoted so that any sincere believer can check out the quotes for himself. For the chapter on Islam, three different English translations of the Koran are used. The latest Jewish Publication Society translation of the Tanakh—A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures is quoted in the chapter on Judaism.—Compare Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12.
What is there for the atheist and the agnostic? Chapter 14 deals with modern disbelief in God and why Jehovah’s Witnesses know that God exists. In every chapter, the reader is directed to the Bible. Thus, using this publication, Mankind’s Search for God, we are better equipped to start Bible studies with people of every faith or with those who profess no faith at all. It treats each religion respectfully and tactfully, but it raises questions that can lead a person to Jehovah and the truth. For those who are earnestly searching for God, this book will be a real blessing.—Psalm 83:18; John 8:31, 32; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
Instructive teaching boxes are included in every chapter. For example, on pages 226 and 227, there is a box on “Judaism—A Religion of Many Voices” that explains the major divisions found in the Jewish faith. Under “Hinduism—A Search for Liberation,” there is a box on pages 116 and 117, “Hinduism—Some Gods and Goddesses.” This gives a listing of just a few of the more than 330 million gods worshiped by Hindus. Do Buddhists believe in God as the Western world understands that term? The box “Buddhism and God” on page 145 answers that question. The book also has a practical index for quick reference to major themes. The bibliography of principal sources used in research is also a basis for further reading if one wants more detail.
The book has more than 200 photographs and illustrations, but they are not there just for adornment. Each illustration has a teaching point to make that further clarifies the religion under discussion. For example, on page 238 there is a series of photographs that illustrate some of the parables that Jesus taught. Elsewhere, there is a series of five pictures that also illustrate different aspects of Christ’s ministry—his miracles, his transfiguration, his sacrificial death, and his commissioning his disciples to preach in all the world.
On page 289 there is a sequence of photos that will interest Muslims. It takes the viewer into Mecca, into the great mosque where the Kaaba is located and then to the actual black stone that Muslims revere. Buddhism’s varied worship is illustrated on page 157. Hindus will be interested to see pictures of their popular gods Ganesa and Krishna on pages 96 and 117.
Qualified Christian ministers throughout the world were consulted in order to achieve a specialized approach to each main religion. For example, valuable material came from Israel for the chapters on Judaism and the Bahaʼi faith. Witnesses in Muslim countries carefully checked out the contents of the chapter on Islam. Useful orientation came from India on the Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. Ministers in the Orient made sure that the chapter on Shinto was accurate, and they also gave advice on Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Because of the book’s careful coverage of each religion, those who possess it in their language will be able to start Bible studies in the chapter appropriate to each person’s religious background. Then they may wish to move into the chapter dealing with the rise of early Christianity and the reasons for believing that Christ is God’s true Representative, the one used to draw mankind toward God. There are chapters that explain how apostasy came about, resulting in the many divisions and sects of Christendom. The final two chapters show how true worship has been restored in these last days and what the immediate future holds for Babylon the Great, Satan’s world empire of false religion. After that, the new world and the Bible’s resurrection hope are highlighted.—John 5:28, 29; 12:44-46; 14:6; Revelation 21:1-4.
This is truly a publication that should help many around the world to draw close to God, as James stated in chapter 4 of his letter, Jas 4 verse 8: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.” Yes, as Isaiah states: “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near.”—Isaiah 55:6; John 6:44, 65.
Let all of us continue to be turned in the right direction, toward the Sovereign Lord of the universe, Jehovah God. And with the aid of this publication, Mankind’s Search for God, let us help thousands more to worship Jehovah “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) May we persevere in finding the truth seekers and tell them about the God of truth, for, indeed, he can be found!
“Taoist” is pronounced dow-ist; rhymes with now.
[Pictures on page 17]
Man has sought for God in many ways
Sincere Catholics turn to Mary
Hindus revere the river Ganges
Harry Burdich, Transglobe Agency, Hamburg
Some devout Jews wear phylacteries
Muslim men make a pilgrimage to Mecca
Many venerate Buddha
[Pictures on page 18]
Jesus used parables to help people find the true God
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.