Is Any Religion Good Enough?
“The fate of our times is tragic. We need a religion, but nowhere do we find a God to fit it.”—Lucian Blaga, Romanian poet and philosopher
“Religion and the clergy have been, and will perhaps remain for a long time, among the greatest enemies of progress and freedom.”—Khristo Botev, Bulgarian poet
THE accompanying quotations echo the dilemma in which many sincere people find themselves. Deep down they feel the need for religion, but the mysterious God that the clergy teach is not a God they can understand and love. Moreover, they realize that the clergy and their religions have done much to hinder human progress and freedom. Yes, while the need for religion is increasingly recognized, honest people will not settle for just any religion.
An Important Distinction
Religion plays a key role in mankind’s makeup and history. The New Encyclopædia Britannica speaks of religion “as a fact in human experience, culture, and history” and adds: “Evidences of religious attitudes and loyalties exist in every sector of human life.” But history shows that none of the world’s major religions have been a blessing for mankind.
Indian statesman Jawaharlal Nehru once commented: “The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organized religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled us with horror.” Considering the wars that have been waged and the crimes committed in the name of religion, can you honestly disagree with him?
In the 18th century, the French philosopher Voltaire made an interesting distinction. He wrote: “Religion, you say, has produced innumerable infamous deeds. You should rather say superstition, the superstition that is reigning over our sad globe. Superstition is the cruelest enemy of the pure worship that we owe to the Supreme Being.” Voltaire fought the religious intolerance of his day, but he maintained his belief in God as Creator of the universe. He saw a distinction between true religion and false.
The Need to Choose
Not all agree with Voltaire. Some claim to see good in all religions; hence, they feel no real need to seek out the true religion. Such individuals should heed the warning given by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote: “Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good, those who are putting darkness for light and light for darkness, those who are putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) False religion has produced what is bad for humanity. It has resulted in spiritual darkness and has left a bitter taste in the mouths of honesthearted people.
The choice, therefore, is not between being an atheist and believing in any religion. It is not as simple as that. Once someone has recognized the need for God, that one must seek out the true religion. As researcher Émile Poulat [male] nicely put it in Le Grand Atlas des Religions (The Large Atlas of Religions): “The things [religions] teach and demand are so greatly varied that it is impossible to believe them all.” In agreement with this, the French Encyclopædia Universalis (Universal Encyclopedia) says: “If the 21st century does return to religion, . . . man will have to decide whether the sacred things he is offered are true or false.”
How to Choose the Right Religion
What will guide us in choosing the right religion? The Encyclopædia Universalis is correct when it highlights the importance of truth. A religion that teaches lies cannot be true. The greatest prophet that ever walked on earth stated: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24.
That prophet was Jesus Christ, and he also declared: “Be on your guard against false religious teachers, who come to you dressed up as sheep but are really greedy wolves. You can tell them by their fruits. . . . Every good tree produces sound fruit, but a rotten tree produces bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17, Phillips) Seeing the bad fruit of the world’s “great” religions, and even of the sects and cults that have sprung up, many sincere people are coming to view them all as ‘rotten trees,’ simply not good enough. But how can they find the true religion?
Obviously it would be impossible to study all the thousands of religions inside and outside Christendom before making a choice. However, if—as Jesus said—we use truth and fruitage as touchstones, it is possible to identify true religion.
Truth and Fruitage
Jesus mentioned truth. As for this, what group of believers reject the religious lies derived from ancient mythology and Greek philosophy that permeate most religions? One such lie is the teaching that the human soul is inherently immortal.a This teaching has given rise to the God-dishonoring doctrine of hellfire.
Jesus also mentioned fruitage. As for this, do you know a religion that has produced a genuine international fellowship where racial, linguistic, and nationalistic barriers are overcome by love and mutual understanding? Do you know a worldwide religious community whose members would rather be persecuted than allow politicians or religious leaders to incite them to hate their brothers and sisters and kill them in the name of nationalism or religion? A religion that rejected such religious lies and produced such fruitage would give powerful evidence of being the true one, would it not?
True Religion Is Being Practiced Today
Is there such a religion? Yes, there is. But you must admit that it is not one of the major religions of the world. Should this surprise us? No. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “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.
So where is true religion to be found? In all humility and honesty, we must say that Jehovah’s Witnesses form an international community walking along this ‘narrow and cramped road.’ True, mainstream religions scornfully call Jehovah’s Witnesses a sect. But that is exactly what the apostate religious leaders in the first century C.E. called the early Christians.—Acts 24:1-14.
Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses confident that they have the true religion? Well, they make up an international brotherhood that reaches into more than 200 lands and that is overcoming the divisions of nationality, race, language, and social class. And they refuse to believe doctrines—however ancient—that clearly contradict what the Bible says. But how did they come into such an enviable situation? And what does the practice of true religion involve? This and other questions about religion will be discussed in the next two articles.
a For well-documented proof of the mythical origin of this belief, see the book Mankind’s Search for God, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., pages 52-7.
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The Crusades were part of false religion’s bad fruitage
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
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True religion produces good fruitage