’God is dead’ exclaimed German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as far back as 1882.
Today as I write in 2019, God has often become little more than an exclamation of irritation, or a personal lifestyle choice like one’s brand of soap or political party. Either that or it is a source of interpersonal conflict amongst total strangers.
I have previously described the differences that make up the various religions, when viewed in the right context, as constituting diverse ‘ingredients’ that work together to make a delicious recipe capable of healing and restoring human society.
Many cultures use food, applied according to the correct methods and necessary amounts, as a prescription for illness.
By practising the teachings of the prophets within the various communities in which they arose, inherent social weaknesses were overcome and the establishment of new and powerful civilisations was enabled. These are examples of religion acting as a 'prescription for living'.
I believe that this is the true function of religion; to offer an ideal pattern or prescription for optimal human lives and communities.
The various ingredients of each was designed specifically to heal the unique and differing problems of the age in which they appeared. However, the teachings of these religions and prophets have all too often become highly contentious, and can only be summarised in a most superficial way;
Hinduism (approximately 500 BC) prescribed eternal principles such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, and compassion, among others. The wisdom of the sacred cow, often scorned by ignorant westerners, has actually ensured the preservation of its countless adherents over millennia, ensuring a sustainable source of needs as diverse as transport, ‘vegetarian’ drinks and food which require no refrigeration. They also provide building materials, with dung being used in many ways; as an energy source, as ‘plaster’ for walls and floor, a skin coating against insects and sunburn.
The teachings of Buddha (2500 years ago) include not harming others and to live peacefully and gently, working towards the ultimate goal of pure and lasting happiness for all living beings.
Judaism was founded in the Middle East over 3,500 years ago and teaches that the unspoken divinity appointed Jews as a chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behaviour to the world. It teaches that divinity is one, unique and eternal, with prayer being directed to that divinity. The words of the Torah given by Moses, greatest of the Hebrew prophets, are accepted as truth. This divinity knows the thoughts and deeds of men, and will reward the good and punish the wicked. (However even these very basic and general principles are disputed by the liberal movements of Judaism).
Christianity (2,000years ago) teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His teachings can be summarised briefly as the love of God and love of one's neighbour. Today there are countless denominations of Christianity, each with unique beliefs and practices.
Islam is another Abrahamic monotheistic religion, teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is his Messenger. The teachings of Muhammad united the warring tribes of Arabia and succeeded in establishing a great civilisation, extending at its peak from Spain in the west to Indonesia in the east, going on to exert a powerful influence on many branches of science
Bahá'ís see the Báb as the forerunner of Bahá'ullah the second century of whose Birth we are currently celebrating. His writings introduced the concept of a Messianic figure (Baha'u'llah) whose coming was foretold in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions.
The Baha'i Faith, established by Baha'u'llah, upholds the oneness of God, the unity of religion, and the oneness of humankind. It promotes the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes and the elimination of all prejudice and racism.
In this extremely basic exploration of the world religions a pattern emerges. We can see humanity over the ages as pupils in a graded school.
The earliest of the religions offered a syllabus for grade 1 children, teaching the very basics of elementary school, including ideas around sharing, safe foods, and basic hygiene.
Subsequent religions built upon and reinforced what was learned in earlier grades. They taught principles upon which advanced societies could become developed.
The most recent of these religions, the Bahá'í Faith, teaches principles at ‘college’ and ‘university’ level, whose application can result in a harmonious global world community.
This is where we stand today. We, the collective descendants of that single African woman, and working together with our newly discovered global family, are collectively charged with the peaceful unification of our home, the Planet.
"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established" -Baha'u'llah