Saturday, December 27, 2014

True Religion?

Just before Christmas my son sent me a link to a blog: What is a “true” religion? While most comments on the blog dealt with the question whether ISIS is "true Islam" I, after a first reading, had retained the following sentence "Everybody who is religious picks and chooses their morals from scripture" which I commented: That is most true but beware of those "leaders" who guide you through the process of picking, not what you, but what they believe.

After having read the blog a second time I must admit that there is more to the question of a true religion. I often meet people claiming that Christianity not only is a true religion but the true religion because it is based on neighborly love according to Matthew 22, 37,40: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

It is a pity that people do no longer read the Old Testament for love of the neighbor is already laid down in Leviticus 19, 18: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Christ speaking as rabbi was referring to this Jewish text.

What about the Islam? In Qu'ran 42:23 we read: It is that of which Allah gives good tidings to His servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say, [O Muhammad], "I do not ask you for this message any payment [but] only good will through kinship." And whoever commits a good deed - We will increase for him good therein. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Appreciative. As for the interpretation I found the following text: Islam advocates brotherly love in faith. Human beings can live in blessing and kindness so long as they love each other, show trust-worthiness, and behave according to truth and fairness. This brotherly love in faith also establishes good relations in society when it is done with sincerity and affection. In short, heartfelt love is simply sharing Islam: I love you for the sake of Allah.

If Muslims love each other for the sake of Allah are we Christians doing better? Do we consider people of other religions as our neighbors? And what about nonbelievers. Do they not show love for their neighbors too as Dr. Rieux in Albert Camus' novel The plague? In caring for the plague sufferers the atheistic doctor develops a personal humanism out of solidarity with the victims.

Maybe it is tolerance that makes out a true religion? Religion is the believe in god but as there are many religions they are intolerant by definition. The God of the Old Testament is downright jealous and the Bible stories describe in detail the atrocities committed against people of other believes.

Christianity is not better when you think about Charlemagne slaughtering the Saxons when they refused to accept the true faith. Wait a minute; was the Father of the Christian West not just waging a war of aggression to enlarge his realm?

Remember the crusaders killing Islamic women and children in the name of God. The Spaniards spreading the Christian faith with fire and sword in South America were just looking for the Inca gold. During the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre Catholics killed their Huguenot neighbors.

While at the outbreak of the Thirty Years War the Hussite Bohemians declared that this was a religious war the Catholic Habsburgs retorted; it is nothing else than a struggle for power. This is how in a later phase of the war France, the eldest daughter of the Roman Church, supported the Protestants against the Catholic Habsburgs. I will stop here only just mentioning the religious struggle in Northern Ireland that at one time in the past was degenerating in a political showdown.

Most historians claim that Prussia's Frederick the Great, the enlightened philosophical king, was tolerant when he stated alle Religionen [seindt] gleich und guth, wan nuhr die leüte, so sie professieren, ehrliche leüte seindt (All religions are the same and good if only the people who confess them are sincere). The fact that he used money from his privy purse to build a Catholic cathedral in Protestant Berlin was not out of love for a "true" faith but politisches Kalkül (motivated by political necessity). Saint Hedwig's Cathedral was essential to calm down Prussian's Neubürger (new citizens) from Silesia who under Austrian rule had lived as devout Catholics.

Saint Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin
The monarch continues his digression in religion: Wenn Türken und Heiden kähmen und Wolten das Landt pöplieren, so wollen Wir sie Mosqeen und Kirchen baun, Fr (If Turks and pagans came to dwell in this country We would build mosques and churches for them, Frederick).

What a difference to the present protests of the PEGIDA* movement in Germany. These European patriots against the Islamization of the Christian occident, a melting pot of people marching in the street full of German angst, are partly driven by the fear that our "Christian" society will be unable to counter the influx of fertile Islamic fundamentalists.
*Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes

Christian occident in danger? Islamic crescent over Dresden's Frauenkirche (©dpa)
It is a positive sign that in organizing counter-demonstrations tolerant citizens manifest their support for the refugees from war-stricken Iran and Iraq. On the other hand, is the tolerance that most Christians nowadays silently show against other religions not just indifference?

Coming back to the original article the author states at the end: All religious movements are based on faith; and faith, which is belief in the absence of convincing evidence, isn't true or false, but simply irrational.

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