I began to discuss politics several years after I began to explor and compare different religious and philosophical beliefs. The election of 2004 was a rancorous one, and discussing different political positions was often useless, leading to insults and reinforcing prejudice and long-standing assumptions. The same thing seems to be happening, for the most part, in Religion, and that’s a real shame.
For thousands of years, Mankind has been teaching truth as commonly understood, generation after generation, a mix of functional operations rules and best-case morality. Usually, the powers in place try to instill support for obedience and tradition, and those in rebellion assert a combination of justice as an ideal and consequence for evil. Throughout History, we see these elements expressed in every place and time.
One of the truly great advantages of Technology, is that a person so inclined, can find out the basic beliefs of each religion and group, and compare them on any basis the person wishes. In actual practice, however, it is disappointing how many people choose to weigh beliefs subjectively, assigning the worst qualities to beliefs they reject, and the best to their own, even in defiance of their own history. The best I can do and recommend, is to take that observation to heart, and suggest the same to everyone else.
Along the way of sorting out this comparative Religion, I have found that it is generally wise to consider the scholarly works only so far. They are, after all, attempts to examine religion on the intellectual level only, and lack the impact of personal experience. That doesn’t mean words and discussion aren’t important. I just find that a common-sense approach and a familiar tone are better-suited to any discussion where the person makes a personal decision to accept or reject the belief.
The most common attack on Christianity, is that it is at once aggressive and exclisive, demanding that people accept Jesus Christ as their savior or go to hell. Phrased that way, I can see the problem. This issue is complicated for me, by the combination of the Bible and my own consideration of the Truth.
On the one hand, I have read and studied the Bible, and am absolutely convinced the Bible is true and trustworthy. And to me, the Gospel makes perfect sense - all Men sin and need forgiveness. God loves humans so much, He came to Earth as one of us, lived the perfect life as an example, established a group to call attention to the Truth, died in our place for our sins, rose from the dead as proof of Jesus’ power over Death, and promised an eternity for us all, with Justice or Mercy as we will accept from God. Seems pretty much the best thing we could hope for, from a loving God who still respects us as individuals.
The flip side is obvious; only a minority of people could have heard the Gospel. Certainly everyone who died before the time of Christ, got no more than a foretaste of the Truth to come, and considering the way that so many people and places have suppressed or altered the Gospel, it’s kind of hard to see how someone even today, in say Iran or Nepal could receive the Gospel as Jesus taught. Considering the love and wisdom of God the Father, it seems to me that He has a plan in place, albeit one we cannot fathom.
As for the Bible, this occurs to me: The Torah is how God speaks to the Jews, and the Bible overall how He speaks to the Christians. I’m not pretending all works which claim divine inspiration are true, but it seems to me that there is more than what is immediately apparent. It also seems to me reasonable, that God knows what He is doing, and we should, whatever else we do, trust that fact.