Islam and Christianity- A Pagan view -I
(The purpose of this article is not to demean any faith, but to try to make people who have blind faith a little open minded. This admin feels that no religion is from God-neither Islam, nor Christianity, nor Judaism, nor Buddhism nor Hinduism, and man can reach God irrespective of his beliefs. God does not throw people in Hell for disbelief, and if he does, He will throw those who regard Him as Jealous and attribute insanity to Him to Hell. The belief that pagans and idolators are sinners and offenders, and that monotheism is superior to polytheism, and that God will throw polytheists and idolators to Hell needs to be changed.)
Conditioned to an attitude of “All religions teach the same thing-non-violence, love and respect”, it would not occur to many Pagans (e.g. and in particular Hindus) to even presume that some of these religions can be inherently violent and inspired by hatred and intolerance. Hence it is very encouraging that scholars of late have made efforts in this direction and published books on this subject which cover admirably the fundamental differences between the Semitic faiths and the non-Abrahamic, the so-called ‘pagan’ or ‘heathen’ faiths. The purpose of including Christianity in this discussion is that both Islam and Christianity are off-shoots of the same parent religion. It will be a very hard fact for many well-meaning Christians, but in fact, Islam is only a final destination of the process initiated by Christianity. But in case of Christianity it doesn’t matter now, since there is no violence, and rational thinking has mostly replaced blind faith with no harm caused to anyone (unlike in the Middle Ages, and in places where the religion was spread by force killing others, e.g. in South America or in Goa, India).
Ali Sina of faithfreedom.org believes in Jesus, but not in irrational beliefs. Jesus could be regarded as the Saviour, but that does not make Christianity as true or the Bible as the Word of God. It certainly does not make true the belief that unbelievers in Jesus or in Christianity go to Hell. Ali Sina says: “Over a year ago I announced that I have accepted Jesus, while at the same time I said that I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God. This prompted several friends, both Christians and atheists to question me about it. It appears to them that my position is contradictory. “If you don’t believe in the Bible, how you could possibly know Jesus,” ask my Christian friends. My atheist friends ask how I could believe in Jesus when the only book that talks about him is a book of fables and myths.”
Ali Sina believed in Jesus after listening and watching Near-Death experiences of people. Many of them (born non-Christians) saw Jesus. This writer will definitely agree that Near-Death experience is real. But then there are people with Near-Death Experiences who saw Hindu Gods and did not see Jesus. There was a born Christian woman who said that she felt a light, a spirit which she identified as Jesus as she was a Christian, but she also said that anyone of any other religion could have called it as Buddha, Krishna or anything else. Another born American said the light kept changing into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs. Ali Sina believes that Jesus was Love, God can be reached through Love. This belief is perfectly sensible. Ali Sina also said that Heaven and Hell are temporary (not Eternal, as claimed by Islam and Christianity) which is also sensible. Why should there be infinite punishment or finite crime? There are incidents where re-birth seems true (a belief of some pagans e.g. Hindus). If re-birth is true, it automatically disproves both Islam and Christianity, who claim Heaven and Hell are eternal after one birth.
The God of both Islam and Christianity teaches them to prosecute religions other than their own; both are dogmatic, fundamentalist and theological; both lack yoga or a proper science and discipline of inner exploration; both are aggressively self-righteous; and both by nature do not know true theory of peaceful coexistence. Another reason for including Christianity is that more critical and scholarly literature is available on this religion as a result of Renaissance, Enlightenment and the process of modernization, whereas the intolerance of Islam has prevented such development which still resembles the Christianity of middle ages. Even in the comments section of websites like faithfreedom.org or alisina.org, one can see believing Christians simply assuming the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as the only way to reach God, and trying very hard to make Hindus accept Jesus & Christianity, believing Hindus will go to Hell for being unbelievers in Christianity, and particularly for being idolators & polytheists. Some beliefs of these religions are given here.
Of course, there are many mistakes in the Bible, just like in the Quran, and the Vedas, and the other scriptures. All that is needed to reject a book as a Word of God is one error. People like Galileo and Copernicus were condemned by the Church for saying things which were contrary to Christian beliefs, but of course they were right. The sun does not revolve around the earth. The Bible believes in a flat earth. Mentions of the ends of the earth can be found in the following places.- Deuteronomy 13:7, 28:49, 28:64, 33:17. Job 2:8, 19:4, 22:27, 33:13, 48:10, 59:13, 61:2, 65:5, 72:8. Isaiah 13:10 also says that the moon is a source of light. If the Bible was the message of God written by humans, it wouldn’t have contained such blunders.
Categories of World Faiths
The religions of the world can be essentially classified in two categories. The present dominant category is that of the Semitic faiths (which may well be described to be ideologies or dogmas) – the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the latest offshoot, the atheist Marxism. A great pagan scholar had labelled Islam as ‘Communism plus Allah’. The other comprises of Eastern religions and philosophies like Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. It also includes various pre-Christian and pre-Islam faiths which pervaded all over the world before they were extinguished by the aggressive Islam and Christianity. The latter have distorted the meaning of the word ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ which essentially signify non-Semitic faiths. Due to constant propaganda these words are now synonymous with barbarism and irreligiosity. When this is clear, the word ‘pagan’ will not be as pejorative as it has been made to appear. It will he used frequently below since it enables us to consolidate various existing and extinct faiths and practices all over the world and hence unify various worldwide approaches leading to a common movement to establish a tolerant, humane and enlightened world order. Such a transformation is vital for co-existence.
The term ‘Hindu’ (or Hindus as used in subsequent passages) is used as encompassing all the religions and faiths originating in the Indian subcontinent, and apart from the Sanatanis who are usually called Hindus, includes the Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains too. Hindus are renowned for their acceptance and respect of others’ beliefs; they consider the land of their birth and this civilization as being wholly sacred ; they believe in the law of karma, and know that all beings in Creation are the manifestation of the same Divinity. To them God is a unify and not a unit.
Of course, the Hindus had many shortcomings in the past, like excess of superstition, practices like ‘Untouchability’, ‘Sati’ etc which are abolished long back. The present Hindus do not regard any Hindu book to be the ‘Word of God’ to be obeyed by all without question, and are most open to reform. They follow modern civil laws. Many Hindu religious scriptures also mention that no scripture has to be obeyed without reason, only that should be followed which appeals to one’s conscience. Such freedom of thought to practice anything is missing totally in Islam and Christianity, who force believers to believe & follow, and threaten Hell for non-obedience. To undo the past discrimination against the lower caste Hindus, the Hindus have been giving reservation to lower caste people in education, jobs and even in seats in State Assemblies and Parliament for the past almost 70 years. This often leads to dissatisfaction for non-reserved category people, for they are denied seats in education, jobs etc despite being more meritorious, but Hindus stick to reservation. The Indian laws today are very pro-women, and in fact draconian anti-men. Slavery was never legal among the Hindus, while in the past other societies practised slavery (e.g. America where it was legal until as late as the 1850s). Racism was institutionalized in many Western societies like America until the 2nd half of the 20th century.
Islam and Christianity- Similar in Content
The spiritual equipage of Islam and Christianity is similar to each other. Their spiritual contents, both in quality and quantum, are about the same. The central piece of the two creeds is “one true God” of masculine gender who makes himself known to his believers through a single, favoured individual. The theory of mediumistic communication has not only a psychology, but also a theology laid down long ago in the oldest part of the Bible, in the Deuteronomy [18.19.20]. The biblical God says that He will speak to his chosen people through His chosen prophets : “I will tell him what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command. He will speak in my name, and I will punish anyone who refuses to obey him”. Similar sentiments are echoed even more vigorously in Islam. The whole prophetic spirituality, whether found in the Bible or in the Quran, is mediumistic in essence. Here everything takes place through a proxy, that is, through an intermediary or the sole agent. Here man knows God only through the proxy. The proxy is a favoured individual, a privileged mediator. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”, says the Bible. The Quran makes the same claim. “Muhammad is God’s Apostle” says the Allah of the Quran through his last prophet (48.29). Moreover, both of them are intrinsically incapable of promoting universal peace and harmony. The seeds of conflict, not only amongst the “believers” but also with the rest of the world, lie at the very heart of the two ideologies. Each of the two is presided over by a bellicose God, each chief of his own hosts; each claims sole sovereignty. A larger charity and mutual respect of others’ faiths and even tolerance and co-existence cannot be the strong points of such theologies.
Hence it is not surprising that the faithful belonging to these two religions were at each other’s throats when they finally came face to face. For centuries, they fought with fire and sword. At one time it seemed that Islam had gotten the better of crusading Christianity when it was knocking at the door of Europe. But the tide turned in favour of the West and Christianity when Europe eventually colonised the Americas, Asia and Africa and established empires all over the world and could not he challenged. It also added another weapon to its arsenal – ideological warfare. Christian theologians tried to prove the historicity of Jesus with the help of Quran, while the Muslims tried to prove Muhammad’s mission with the help of the Bible. The controversy was sharp, as it often is between creeds which share common beliefs and aims and methods. Both believed in the same God, but each claimed sole heir-ship to His throne. Both were rational in their critique of each other’s faith, but were emotional and unwilling to listen to reason when it came to defending their own. Although this quarrel goes on, their real and ultimate target remains destroyed idolatry and polytheism, which in effect means all religions of the past and most religions of the present. (As a proof of how this quarrel this goes on, just see the websites www.answering-islam.org and www.answering-christianity.com ! It will be very amusing to see followers of both false religions trying to prove the other as wrong and themselves as right, when BOTH are wrong!!)The Church has always appreciated Islam’s role in “cleansing the world of the scourge of idolatry, and preparing the way for the reception of a purer faith.” Similarly, Islam acknowledges Christians to be “people of the Book”, no small honour this and yet it does not stop them from waging murderous wars against each other wherever one or the other is in the minority – the countries of the middle-east (Lebanon), and south- east (East Timor and Irian Jaya) Asia and the nations of Africa (Sudan, Nigeria) being some of the most recent examples of their bitter enmity.
Both Islam and Christianity have the following Common Beliefs:
i) God is jealous. Worship of God in the form of an Idol or any other Symbol like Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, Ocean, Rivers, etc. is equivalent to worshiping somebody other than the One God. This arouses jealousy of the One God who inflicts severe punishment for this type of worship. Hindus who worship God in many forms including Nature, are the worst offenders according to Christianity and Islam. Hindus are called Heathens, Pagans, Condemned ones, infidels, idolaters, Kafirs, etc., deserving severe punishment, torture and extermination wherever possible. (Of course, this is not true!)
ii) Christians and Muslims have both entered into Covenants with God, by which each religious community has received an Exclusive, Irrevocable Power of Attorney from God that its way of worship alone is right, that after death they alone will go to Heaven, others will go to Hell. Of course, the way of worship by Christians is different from that of Muslims. However, both communities claim Exclusive Rights. Believers of Islam become Non-Believers for Christianity and vice-versa.
iii) This Heaven for Believers is eternal, and the Hell for Non-Believers is also eternal. Once in Heaven, their enjoyments are eternal; once in Hell, others’ sufferings are also eternal.
iv) There will come a Day of Judgement when all the dead ones will rise and stand before God to get the verdict of either Eternal Heaven or Eternal Hell.
In addition to their Common Beliefs, Christianity has some special beliefs. Some of those are outlined below:
Special Beliefs of Christianity
i) Birth by routine sex relationship between husband and wife is a sin. As such, we common people are all sinners. Jesus Christ was born to Virgin Mary, without routine sexual relationship; hence his birth is free from sin.
ii) Jesus Christ is SON of God. Jesus is the Only Son of God; God has no other Son, nor shall he have any other son or daughter. Hence, Christ is the only way of communication with God.
iii) Jesus rose to life a few days after his Death on the Cross. This Resurrection is a proof of His Divinity.
iv) Through crucification, Jesus has paid for the redemption of all sins of all his followers (Christians), at all places, for all time to come. Hence, Jesus is the right and sure way for human salvation.
v) Jesus has given all Authority to the Church. What Church commands is the LAW for the human race, both on Earth and in Heaven; no one should question it. Any deviation from the command of the Church is violation of God’s Law and hence punishable, as per by God’s Decree. Church is the only authority in respect of Spiritual and Secular matters of human beings. All other Rules of conduct are the violation of Divine God’s Command.
vi) Jesus is the Way, the only Way, to reach God.
vii) Those who Believe in Jesus as the only Way are assured of eternal paradise of pleasure after death; others are condemned persons on this Earth, who will go to eternal hell of fire after death. As such, the human race has been divided into two classes of “Holy Believers” and “Unholy Others”; Holy Christians, Unholy Non-Christians.
viii) It is the spiritual, religious duty of the Christian Church and of every individual Christian to convert others to Christianity. Through this conversion, they are doing good to every non-Christian in as much as they are taking him out of false religion and false ways of worship to the only true religion (Christianity); they are saving the condemned unholy person and bringing him into the holy group of Christians, under the protection of the Shepherd Christ and his Authorized Agency (Christian Church).
ix) Idol-worship or Symbol-worship including worship of Sun, Moon, Stars, etc. particularly of Non-Christian idols/Symbols, is un-acceptable to Jealous God; Such worship annoys Jealous God and he sends his severe punishment for such worship.
x) The Holy Bible is the Word of God, to be obeyed by all, without question.
After 9/11 and several other attacks, many in the Christian world have come to realize the threat of Islam and have softened towards pagans (Hindus and Buddhists), empathizing with what they have had to suffer. Wiston Churchill of Britain had a pathological hatred of Hindus during the 1940s and he said he could not understand this polyglot religion, as compared to which Islam was easy to understand. But now the times have changed, and sensible people who care for the future see that Islam of today is as fanatic as ever, as wedded to violence and conversion, while Hindus & Buddhists are peace-loving people who do not try to forcibly convert anyone. People like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes see Hindus as friends and allies. The difference between pagan and Muslim migrants in the West is clear.
Exclusive, Jealous God
It is well known that Christianity and Islam derived their much vaunted monotheism from Judaism, but the Jews themselves were not monotheists in the beginning. Like other neighbouring peoples, they had their tribal God towards whom they felt a special loyalty but it did not occur to them yet to deny the Gods of others. That other Gods do not exist or were false, and that their God alone was true and enjoyed some sort of universal sovereignty, was a later development which had to wait till the arrival of their prophets, beginning with Moses. It seems that the early Jews did not know Jehovah according to the Biblical testimony itself. ‘’By name Jehovah was I not known to them,” says the Bible (Exod.6.3). It is possible that the Jews may have borrowed Egyptian Gods, at least in some measure, while they were in Egypt and that they continued worshipping them even during the days of their wanderings in the desert. There are also indications that the new religion, whatever it was and whenever adopted, was imposed against great opposition and with great ferocity. While Jehovah revealed himself to Moses as the only God of the Jews, they were worshipping another God under the symbol of a Bull. “Slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour,” ordered Jehovah to those who truly followed him. Three thousand men were killed in a day and a new religion was inaugurated. The killers were consecrated and they became the priestly class, the Levites. The precedent for many similar such genocide in the name of religion in future was thus established as early as in Biblical times.
In course of time, this God, in all his exclusiveness and jealousy, was adopted by Christianity and Islam. In fact, in their hands, he became still more exclusive and jealous. He also became more ambitious and bellicose. While with the Jews, he remained their God alone; but, except spasmodically, he refused the be the God of others. Other people had to make do with their own Gods, howsoever “false”, and these Gods had to be content with their own followers, howsoever benighted and out of grace with Jehovah. But things changed with the advent of Christianity and Islam. Through them, Jehovah came into his own and He offered to be THE GOD of all. This God was not a universal principle but a singularity, not a force of unification (monism) but one of separation (monotheism). The Semitic God lacks interiority – these is nothing to show that his followers know of a “God or Gods in the heart” but they speak of a “God in heaven” or a sky –God. He also lacks universality and has suffered further contraction and denotation with the passage of time.
He asked His followers to go in all directions and preach His Name, to “go out in the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in.” He armed them and asked them to declare from housetops several times a day that He alone was true and that other Gods were false. Other could refuse this invitation or call only at their own peril, spiritual and physical. As His followers became more powerful, the threat became increasingly more physical!
The Prophets Of God
There is another major difference between Judaism and the two religions which were in fact off-shoots of Judaism. Though the Jewish God was single, yet he spoke through many prophets. Moses was probably the most important, but a plurality or prophethood was recognised. It is unfortunate that the Judaic religion could not take full advantage of this principle. As the Mosaic-Monotheistic tradition was too strong, in practice, the Prophetic message tended to be the same – more of the same Mosaic God. For the same reason, even some movements among Jews like those represented by the Essenes, influenced by Hinduism-Buddhism, could not break away sufficiently from that tradition.
Just as the Jews finally believed that they are the special people of the only God, their Prophets and Messiahs also transformed likewise. They had initially many and Jesus also began as a Messiah of his people. But as he was rejected by them, he began to declare that God was terminating his covenant with Jews and entering into a new one with those who believed in His Son. Christians replaced Jews as God’s chosen people and Jesus himself was converted from a Messiah into a Saviour, into God’s First Begotten Son, the Intermediary between God and Man. This transformation took some time in the happening, and in order to get the better of their critics and their opponents, the Christians invented the myth of a Saviour, the Dying God and His Resurrection. In fact, many scholars regard Jesus’ life closer to myth than to history, and whether there was any historical Jesus at all is a much discussed question in academic circles. There is no conclusive evidence to show that Jesus Christ ever existed. Apart from the figure of the Saviour, Christianity also borrowed most of its central rites from other creeds and mystery cults prevalent at that time. Its own contribution were the Cross, the concept of Hell, Satan, possession and exorcism. Though the belief in Heaven & Hell is an ancient one, and pagan religions too have this, unbelievers going to Hell was the contribution of Christianity.
Thus with time the idea of prophet took a new turn. It was not enough that God talked to you; what was equally important was that he did not talk to anyone else. And by the time Muhammad came it was not enough to be A prophet; he had to be THE prophet. He declared that he was the most authentic spokesman of God up to his time and also for all time to come as well, and that he was the seal of prophecy, and that through him religion was now finally made perfect, and that any old revelation was now redundant and a new one presumptuous. He was able to get it established through the display of superior brute force and now this dogma is the most important part of the Muslim creed and to question it is punishable by death.
The question is why were persons specifically chosen for the role of prophet? Why were certain things revealed to them which were kept hidden from others before’? Had they some special moral or spiritual qualities to qualify for these roles? All of them have made such claims without trying to justify them.
Summarizing this development, just as the Semitic God was evolving in theology into becoming the ‘only one’, he was also becoming exclusive in his communication. Even when he had a chosen people, these people had no direct approach to Him. He told them that he will send them a prophet and He “will tell him what to say and he (the prophet) will tell the people everything I command. He will speak in my name and I shall punish anyone who refuses to obey him.” In due course, the intermediary became more than a medium. In Christianity, he became the Saviour, in Islam, he became the Intercessor and also the last Prophet through whom God ever spoke. Claims began to be made on the prophet’s behalf, claims almost as tall as for the God he represented.
In fact, with passage of time, God tended to become redundant and the intermediary took his place, who in turn was represented by his own nominees. The New Testament says: “Salvation is to be found through him (Jesus) alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us”. At another place it says: “God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the Church as the supreme Lord over all things.” The Koran makes even stronger claims for its Prophet. Such claims are offensive to man’s rational as well as spiritual sense (Buddha’s last message was, ‘Be your own light’), but they have proved highly profitable to those who speak in the name of these intermediaries. They represent a great vested interest.
Intolerance and its consequences
Intolerance must be the fruit of such bitter seeds. Other Gods must be dethroned, and so those who speak in the name of other Gods must die (Deut-18.18-19). A number of verses from the Koran preach this even more stridently.
The Semitic God is jealous, and so is his sole prophet. Just like his God, he too can brook no rivals. Jesus tells us that “all who came before me were thieves and robbers” (Jn.l0.8). He warns his flock again and again against his rival claimants. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt.7.15; or 24.4). Muhammad admitted to the historicity and legitimacy of some prophets before him, in order to give his own prophethood an ancestry, but he abolished further prophethood. He was the latest and also the last prophet, the seal of Prophecy.
The fact is that intolerance is in-built into the basic Semitic approach and cursing comes naturally to it. The Bible is full of curses invoked on rivals – gods, prophets, apostles, doctrines. For example, Paul told his Galatian followers that “should anyone preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.” This tradition has continued and has been the strongest element of all branches of Christianity and Islam.
Christians claim that unlike the Jewish prophets, Jesus is an incarnation, an idea which was an innovation to the Jewish tradition. It is not difficult to see that Christianity only incarnated a new religious intolerance! This tradition of intolerance Islam also faithfully continued with even greater zeal. Religious intolerance was there before, but it was spasmodic and it was not supported by a theology. It was only with the coming of Christianity and Islam that religious bigotry and arrogance descended on the earth on a pervasive scale and with a new destructive power. They know so little about themselves but they claim to know everything about God. And in imposing their definition upon others; they have killed millions of people. They have been even more fanatic about their founders. “If you won’t believe that you are redeemed by my redeemer’s blood, I’ll drown you in your own,” says the Christian, to put in the language of Aldous Huxley. The same is true of Muslims, in their practice, Muhammad has been more central to their religion than their One God. You could jest about his God but woe unto him who jests about the Prophet. His punishment is death.
If religious tolerance is a virtue, both Christianity and Islam do not possess it. Wherever they have gone, they have carried fire and sword and oppressed and destroyed so far as it lay in their power.
Christianity first spread all over Europe in this manner. They demolished and occupied the temples and shrines of others. Any tolerance shown was an exception. Hindus know the extent of the murderous campaigns that Muslims of various hues undertook against them and their land. Similar graphic descriptions are available about the genocide and extermination of the native peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean by Spanish and British Christians in the name of religion and Western civilisation. Their record has been matched only recently by Communism, considered a Christian heresy by thinkers like Bentrand Russel. In China, for example the Communist regime destroyed half million Buddhist shrines while in the Soviet Union, Stalin reportedly exterminated 20 million of his own people who either opposed him or the communist ideology.
The theology of a single god, a single prophet, a single revelation, a single church or ummah, and also of a single life and single judgement is very different from the one the world at large has known in the past and knows even today. Historically speaking, these religions which were local and small tribal faiths, may be considered an aberration, which consolidated themselves through conquest and propaganda, and which could impose themselves in no other way. These are different not only from polytheism, a religious expression at a more popular level, but also from religions which allow for mysticism and the internal quest for a spiritual life. They are certainly different from the spirituality known in the East by Hermits, Stoics, Pythagoreans. Taoists, Buddhists and Vedantins, particularly in their concept of deity, man and nature; different in their definitions, modes, theory and practice.
Worship and Spiritual Practices
Every religion has its own modes and forms of worship, both public and private, informed by its dominant ideas of God, Creation and man. Prophetic religions take great pride in “one” God who despises idolatory, but have steadily degenerated into worship of relics and graves as we shall see with the Sufis. Spiritual practices or what Hindus call sadhana, are shaped by the way a religion intuits God, man and Creation. Religions like Hinduism and Buddhism prescribe a regimen of discipline known as sila, samadhi and prajna, to open up higher consciousness. They believe that even with all the guidance and help, each individual has to discover the spiritual truths for himself, that unless they are so done they can be of no use for him. When one cannot cat or clothe by proxy; how can one live spiritual truths by proxy? But as prophetic religions believe that God has already chosen them for no rhyme or reason and already revealed to them truths hidden from others, they do not need any sadhana. They already know the truth and they have nothing to learn or discover for themselves to. Prophetic religions prescribe only certain beliefs and the religious duty to convert others to those beliefs through preaching and holy wars.
It is therefore not strange that we find very little by way of sadhana in the New Testament. There are, on the other hand several exhortations aimed at pleasing this ‘one God’ or his Prophet or messiah. One such is “speaking with tongues” i.e. the believers gather together in the church and wait on the Holy Ghost to descend upon them and speak through them (I Cor.Ch.14). As is to be expected, it led to pandemonium. From all that people spoke, it was not clear what came from the Holy Ghost and what came from the Devil – a problem which continues to dog the Church! Most of the time, these phenomena arise from self-suggestion and make believe, and in extreme cases, border on abnormality.
The other is “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, which may be termed as the cornerstone of biblical teaching. This should be taken in conjunction with other teachings about sin, its remission by sacrifice, and its once-for-all atonement by the blood of Jesus. Christians are as self-conscious about being sinners as communists are about being proletarian. To be sinful has become a cult with them. Paul was the “foremost of sinners” and “he received mercy for this reason”. Allah also favours the sinner as seen before, and mentioned by Dayananda Saraswati. The Christian and Muslim heaven has more joy over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance. All this could not be healthy either for the mind or the soul and has created a religion of what has been appropriately termed “spiritual terrorism.” It gave rise to much neurotic, masochistic-sadistic behaviour. Wisdom, enlightenment, opening up of higher consciousness were altogether unknown to them. How can people be permitted to do as much sin as they want (Jesus having re-deemed it) merely following or believing in Jesus?
Of course we cannot leave out iconoclasm, the most important religious sadhana these prophetic religions have preached and practised. They have believed that demolishing the images on an altar, particularly in the temples of their neighbours, is the best way of worshipping their God and it is the service most acceptable to him. This unrelenting hostility towards ‘other’ Gods is the defining characteristic of the faithful. They have never realised that a good deal of religious reflection must take place before images are used in worship. In India, the outer images were most often contributed by men who practised most advanced internal disciplines. These were “icons”, internal realities expressed in outer forms in so far as that is possible.
Why are prophetic religions so hostile to images? Why do they nourish this obsessive hatred towards them? The images seem to have more attraction for and more power over iconoclasts than over the worshippers – some kind of idolatry or fetish worship in reverse. Through spiritual awakening some have turned idols into Gods; others of the unawakened soul have turned Gods into idols! Semitic iconoclasm is a child of crass materialism; it comes from the incapacity to see that the physical is also the standing ground of the metaphysical. Prophetic religions have given their God all human weaknesses and passions; on the other hand, Hinduism & Buddhism have thought of man with all divine virtues. The former have reified God, the latter have deified man.
Theology, Mission and Jihad
Every religion has its own ethos or distinctive characteristics which reflect in its theology or investigation of the Divine. It is shaped by the kind of questions raised and the answers given by the leaders of that religion. In Hindu religions, the seeker raised the question: what is real? What is the highest Good? What is man? What are his roots? Is he only his body or even his mind and intellect? His mind, his proud possession, is a prisoner of its passions; its knowledge is so little and so uncertain. Is there in him some other principle of greater and surer knowledge? Is there something by knowing which all this is known or at least makes sense? Hindu spirituality sought answers to these questions.
There is nothing to show that any spokesman of prophetic religions ever raised these questions. His questions were different. They were : Who is the true God? What is His will? How can it be fulfilled? We cannot explain how, but he arrived at the conclusion, often even before he raised the question, that he knew the true God, that the Gods his neighbours knew were false, that he was the mouthpiece of his God, and that unless others believed in him and followed him, they were damned. He felt strongly that it was his duly and God-given responsibility to propagate this view about his God and about himself. Men must be told the truth about this God and his authentic spokesman and be made to embrace this truth even by force if necessary. Their dominant ethos has been shaped by this theology.
Therefore the characteristic figure of these religions is a preacher, a crusader or a mujahid. He has nothing to learn; he has been sent to teach and correct and wherever possible even to punish. A Missionary is not taught to reflect but to act, and so he does not doubt that he knows the truth or whether his truths are worth knowing, or if what he knows are truths at all. His work is also accompanied by liberal use of force but the religious end justifies it as is seen from the record of several ‘saints’ like a Christian Xavier or a Sufi Ahmad Sirhindi.
With this kind of understanding of man and God and their own mission, Christianity and Islam started as soon as they gathered enough strength, along a career of persecution. They persecuted pagans, Jews, their own critics and mystics whom they branded and condemned as heretics. They were intolerant of cultures and people, and modes of worship which had a different conception of God. People in India know something of Islam in action, but the record of Christianity has been as black and as thorough in other continents. Similarly Islam has not only been a great imperialist, but it has also been a great suppressor of thought and opinion. It simply could not allow itself to be freely investigated and discussed by its followers. Conformity is secured by exercising ‘holy terror’ on “impostors”.
Various Christian Churches and sects in the past have not been very conscious of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, leave alone implementing it. In fact it is people like Gandhi who have made the Christian theologians more aware of it.
There is something false about the very idea of ‘founding’ a religion. To say the least, it is a thoroughly materialistic idea, and it must lead to its own excesses. Again the falsehood that accompanies the business of religious conversion is even worse than its intolerance. M K Gandhi called proselytising “the deadliest poison that ever sapped the foundation of truth”, and he regarded a Missionary “like any vendor of goods” though he pretends to be something else.
But it does not mean there are no believing Christians and Muslims now or in the past who did not overcome the fault of their theology. Many have loved their fellow believers without learning to hate their pagan neighbours. All this shows that man is greater than his creeds and ideologies and that humanity can survive its hate-ideologies.
(To be continued in Part 2)