by Alan Wolfe
from Signs of the Times No. 60 - Jan 2016
The three ‘monotheistic’ faiths collectively claim support from 3.6 billion people, 54% of the world population, and 65% of those professing any religion.
Besides all believing there is one and only one Supreme Being, all three base their faith on a book (Old Testament/Tanak, New Testament or Holy Qur’an).
Anyone willing to read all three in full and in sequence will come to a number of conclusions, (even bearing in mind that they were originally written in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic and a long time ago). Basically: that all worship the same God, who was first acknowledged by the Jewish patriarch Abraham, and later confirmed by Jesus when on Earth, and then by the prophet Mohammed.
Details of belief and methods of worship vary considerably in detail and importance, but have much in common - which seems to be virtually unknown among believers. For example, God gave laws, rules of conduct and other commandments which were accepted by all three religions and written in all three books. One of these is that human life is sacred, and followers of God must not kill under any circumstances. It is therefore horrifying to read that in the last two millennia thousands of Jews, Christians and Muslims have killed each other and still continue to do so today.
It has been suggested that this is partly because most nations were once theocracies, where Kings, High Priests, Popes, Caliphs and Emirs were believed to have been divinely appointed and whose wishes were therefore the will of God. Yet, even in today’s democracies, individuals have taken upon themselves the right to wage war or commit terrorist acts in the name of God.
The real trouble seems to lie in humankind’s interpretations of Scripture. Even the Christian Church has many times had to update its beliefs and even admit to the possibility of being wrong. For instance, that God created a flat earth, or approved of slavery, racism and sexism, or that colluding with the Devil enabled humans to break the laws of nature (‘witchcraft’). Islam has a tendency to pass blame for major disasters onto Al-Lah.
While at top level the three religious bodies at least consult and even issue joint declarations, they do not seem to be able to communicate well with their membership about crucial issues such as greed and violence. It therefore seems up to the laity itself to try to overcome the ignorance and prejudice that has such dire results.
For a start, we all need more information in a form we can understand and communicate to others. A very good example is given by Anne Davidson who publishes a short-list of brief books on key issues for the general public. Perhaps we should all read them, and pass them round?