We've been looking at some perspectives on religion for the last couple of days. Naturally, the question arises: What is the bottom line on our religious views? Does God care if we are a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist or Christian? For Christians, does "He" care whether you are a Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Adventist or Armstrongite? In other words, does God care about which religion you profess?
"Of course He does! What a silly question!" many of my religious friends would answer. However, if we look deeply into the subject of our religious beliefs and ask ourselves a few questions about them, I think that any objective person would have to conclude that God doesn't care which religion you profess!
First, most folks begin this topic with the notion that their religious views are correct. They believe that their religion is God's religion. The reasoning process goes something like this: If my religion is God's religion, then all other religions are not. If my religious beliefs are true, then alternative views are false.
However, this line of reasoning brings a few questions to mind. Are your religious beliefs correct in every particular? How can you be sure that all of your religious beliefs are correct? If there is even the possibility that some of them aren't correct, doesn't that mean that your belief system is flawed? Have you ever changed one of your religious beliefs? If so, doesn't that clearly indicate that you now feel that your old belief was wrong? Does your religion have all of the answers? Does your religion possess all of the truth? Has your religion ever been shown to be wrong about some belief/doctrine/teaching? Have any of those beliefs/doctrines/teachings evolved or changed over the years? If you can answer yes to those last two questions, doesn't that clearly indicate that your group was wrong at some point in the past? How can the leadership of your group be sure that they're right now?
Don't all religions teach that the source of their beliefs/doctrines/teachings is Divine revelation? How does Divine revelation work? What does it mean to be inspired? Is human reception of Divine revelation always perfect? If so, why have beliefs evolved and changed over the course of the history of every religion extant on this planet? When a human is acting under Divine inspiration, does that mean that he/she is incapable of making mistakes? Does Divine inspiration make the finished product perfect and flawless?
Most Christians hold up the Bible as God's complete revelation of "His" will to mankind. Most Christians believe that the human authors of Scripture were acting under Divine inspiration at the time the original documents were written. However, if that is the case, then doesn't it follow that there is only one truth available to all Christians? And, if that's so, then why are there so many different beliefs/doctrines/teachings extant within the Christian community? "Because of deception!" my friends will quickly answer. Oh, I see - so humans are subject to imperfection in this realm even when they have God's Holy Spirit to guide, lead and inspire them?
"Well, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian!" they will answer. "Satan has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and only those whom God has called into His Church are truly Christians (John 6:44), they will say. So God is responsible for who gets called now and who gets called later? "Yes, that's absolutely correct!" they will respond. Then God really doesn't care which religion we profess! "What? How did you get that?" they will ask. If God is the One who is in control of the process, then it doesn't matter what line of thought or reasoning we choose to pursue does it? Isn't that what God effectively told Adam and Eve when "He" expelled them from the Garden of Eden? "Go your own way, make your own decisions about what constitutes good and evil and see what that gets you!" In other words, does it matter to God which deception you decide to settle into until He's ready to deal with you? "But we still have to make a choice when He calls us!" they will protest. You just said it again - when "He" calls you. In this line of reasoning, what you decide doesn't matter until you're offered the choice!
Christians have the distinction of being the most schismatic religion on this planet. We are truly skilled in this regard. We can take the smallest differences in beliefs/doctrines/teachings and turn them into life or death matters (and we're talking eternal life and death or eternal life in the flames of hell). Christians are fond of pointing out the flaws and inconsistencies in each others' beliefs/doctrines/teachings.
I have thought for some time that Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift should be required reading for all Christians. After explaining to Gulliver the political differences of the Tramecksan and Slamecksan parties, the Lilliputian Principal Secretary for Private Affairs explained the great religious controversy that existed among his people: "It began upon the following occasion. It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty's grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown. These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large volumes have been published upon this controversy: but the books of the Big-endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party rendered incapable by law of holding employments. During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefusca did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: 'that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.'"
Swift's matter of fact way of explaining the great controversies of Lilliputian society point out the absurdity of our own political and religious controversies. Are you a Big-endian or a Little-endian? In the final analysis, isn't God's opinion the only one that really matters? Aren't "His" beliefs/doctrines/teachings the only ones that truly matter? Shouldn't this realization put our own religious beliefs/doctrines/teachings into better perspective? And that is why I titled this post "God doesn't care which religion you profess!"