World Religion Day

You may not have known it, but tomorrow is World Religion Day. The aim seems to be for everyone to get along in one big happy religious family, since at bottom religions have so much common ground. For those who know something about Baha’i, it will not come as a surprise to learn that they were evidently the ones to first establish WRD.

The Baha’is first observed this day on January 15, 1950, and it has been progressing since then. Before looking more closely at the day, let me offer just a very quick overview of Baha’i. Calling itself the world’s newest religion, it seeks to bring all religions and all humanity together in one big melting pot.

It is a monotheistic system which argues that all religions come from God, who has sent various messengers over the centuries, culminating in Baha’u’llah, a 19th century Persian. He is the latest and greatest revelation of God, meant to unite all of humanity and all religion. But I will need to write a separate article on this faith some other time.

WRD gives us more of the same. Here is what its homepage states: “The aim of our website is to foster the establishment of interfaith understanding and harmony by emphasizing the common denominators underlying all religions. Mankind, which has stemmed from one origin, must now strive towards the reconciliation of that which has been split up. Human unity and true equality depend not on past origins, but on future goals, on what we are becoming and whither we are going. The prime cause of age-old conflict between man and man has been the absence of one ethical belief, a single spiritual standard – one moral code.

“The history of man’s cultures and civilizations is the history of his religions. Nothing has such an integrating effect as the bond of common Faith. The history of religion shows that all religions had this unifying power – the power to instill in the hearts and minds of their adherents the fundamental verities, the vital spiritual standards, and thus establish a unity of conscience for motivating man towards founding great cultures and civilizations.

“Thus, through various events, dedicated towards encouraging the leaders and followers of every religion to acknowledge the similarities in each of our sacred Faiths, a unified approach to the changes that confront humanity can be agreed upon and then applied on an ever-expanding scale to permeate the very psyche of mankind, so that it can be made to see the whole earth as a single country and humanity its citizenry.”

There you have it folks: a global religion and a global world government. One-worldism has always been around of course, and this is just the latest hard religious push for it. Indeed, while the concept might sound appealing, the one who should know best about all this is not at all too thrilled.

God himself forcefully took steps way back in mankind’s early history when humanity sought to establish a global religious and political body. Thus he very decisively squashed the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). More such attempts have been made, and will be made by mankind in rebellion against God, as we read about in the book of Revelation.

Another important thing to note about this WRD document is the total absence of the concept of truth. And that is for good reason. If there is such a thing as absolute truth, and the law of noncontradiction applies, then of course there can never be any such thing as world religions living together in complete harmony.

That would be like claiming that Jews and Nazis can exist in complete unity and harmony. Complete unity will never exist in a fallen world as long as competing truth claims are being made. Truth must go missing in any attempt at religious syncretism and harmonisation. Indeed, the very concept of unique truth claims would of course undermine such a utopian and naive goal.

Anyone who has studied the world religions even a little will know that the most accurate thing to say about them is how much they differ from each other, not how much they are alike. Simply compare and contrast the core teachings of Christianity with the core teachings of Islam for example.

The very heart of the Christian belief is that Jesus is God’s son, that he died on a cross for our sins and then rose again. Islam denies all of this in no uncertain terms. Thus if Islam is true, Christianity cannot possible be true. And if Christianity is true, then Islam cannot possibly be true.

It is that simple, and the most basic principles of logic tell us this must be so. The law of noncontradiction states, as Aristotle put it, that “one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time”. That is, no two contradictory statements can both be true at the same time and in the same sense.

Thus either Jesus is the Son of God or he is not. Either he did die on a cross and rise again, or he did not. There is no other way around this. Thus by the very standards of truth and logic, the major aims and goals of WRD are unrealistic and unachievable.

But of course because we live in postmodern times where absolute truth has been rejected big time, such an observance seems to be just peachy keen. Plenty of misguided folks will get on board with this, including plenty of naïve and biblically-illiterate Christians.

Indeed, we have a perfect example of this in today’s press. True to form, the Christophobic Melbourne Age happily ran an opinion piece on all this. A Sydney academic penned a rather muddled piece entitled, “Here’s another golden rule: let’s look at what we have in common”. And she even drags in WRD.

There are plenty of problems with her piece, but let me just mention two of them. She informs us, “Tomorrow is World Religion Day. It arrives with a benign intention: to draw our attention to the best of what religions share. This neither assumes nor hopes that all religions are the same. Arising in differing historical moments, and expressive of different mores and stages of spiritual development, how could they be the same?”

But she is simply wrong here. The goal of both Baha’i and WRD is to get all people to recognise that at the end of the day we are all part of one big religious family, and to understand that, we must embrace the latest revelation of God as given us in the teachings of Baha’u’llah.

He gets the last word obviously. He is said to be the latest and therefore most authoritative revelation from God. So what happens if another  revelation of God comes on the scene, giving us yet another, newer and different message? Will Baha’is insist that he is wrong? But how can they given their religious syncretism and epistemological relativism?

Indeed, their evolutionary view of religious progress, culminating in this Persian prophet, smacks a bit of religious arrogance and exclusivism. Our academic misses this, and she also misses the most important reason why religions are different: the ol’ T word again.

Sure religions have had differing historical beginnings and the like, but the number one reason the religions differ so greatly is simple: they make radically conflicting truth claims. They differ because they are different – big time. Hinduism claims there may be as many as 330 million gods. Buddhists don’t even have to believe in God, while Jews and Muslims insist that there is only one God. Sorry folks, but they can’t all be right.

Finally, consider this remark by the NSW academic: “The current Dalai Lama is famous for saying that his religion is kindness. He’s not the only one. Jesus of Nazareth, in whose name so much harm as well as immeasurable good has been done, was clear: ‘Love one another’.”

Sorry, but by mangling a major teaching of Jesus, you distort and corrupt his entire message. While Jesus did tell his disciples in John 13 to love one another, the main summary statement of his teaching is found in the three Synoptic gospels when asked what the greatest commandment was.

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind  and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus we have a two-fold command, and the order is absolutely crucial. The assumption here, as throughout Scripture, is that the latter can only be achieved by means of the former.

Unless one first loves God, and loves him on his own terms, one will not be able to love others as they ought to be loved. The Ten Commandments of course display this same priority of order: the first four Commandments are God-ward, followed by six commandments which are toward others.

Unless we are in right relationship with God, it will be impossible to properly love others. And as Jesus made crystal clear, the only way we can love and serve God is through him. Jesus is the only door to God, and he is the only mediator between God and man.

He insisted that all others are in fact false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing. These are arrogant, radically exclusive, and highly divisive claims to make, if you think all religions are the same and all roads lead to God. So we are back to the issue of truth and logic.

If Jesus meant what he said, then all religions are not of God and other religious leaders are not the true path to God. Only Jesus is, not Muhammad, or Baha’u’llah. When Jesus forthrightly claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me,” he was not engaging in postmodern relativism or religious syncretism.

He was making an exclusive truth claim and he expected his hearers to understand him that way. Thus Jesus would never approve of something like WRD, nor would he endorse the Baha’i faith. Instead he would say, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. . . .Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many’” (Matt 7:15; 24:4-5).

[1745 words]

12 Replies to “World Religion Day”

  1. I came across Bahai in about 1971 when I was at uni. Our Religions of the World class took a field trip to Chicago to visit, among other things, what was at the time the world’s largest Bahai Temple. Pretty impressive, although the presentation by our tour guide went downhill. In particular I loved his explanation of how heaven worked, given that everyone–regardless of prior earthly belief–gets there. He described it as a giant football (gridiron, although think the MCG) stadium in which the true Bahai believers would have either seats on the 50-yard line or in the executive/corporate boxes. The rest of us lesser-believers would also be in the stadium, while even complete reprobates would be in the cheap seats, wayyyyy up high and probably behind some girder, prohibiting our view of the Divine.

    As for WRD–I call it the Sabbath, and I intend attending my church as normal tomorrow. Continued blessings in Christ upon you, Bill.

    Steve Swartz

  2. Actually, I didn’t know it was World Religion Day tomorrow, but won’t be joining in, as I plan to be at church too.

    There really are only two religions. One has as its Father, Jesus Christ and the other has its Father, the devil.
    Everyone belongs to one of these two camps – whether they think so or not.

    Listen to the words of Jesus;

    “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” John 8:42-47

    Annette Nestor

  3. The idea of a united, peaceful world is so seductive. The Christmas message of Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men creates such a warm feeling. The trouble is we all want it on our own terms. Unfortunately for our dreams of world unity and heaven on earth Jesus makes it chillingly clear in Mathew 10:34ff that he is a point of division. Heaven’s benefits come at a price we find hard to pay.
    Alan Williams, UK

  4. Our order of service is already prepared.

    WRD does not feature. Like Annette, I didn’t know it was on, and I am not interested in it.

    John Angelico

  5. Oh dear, ‘World Religion Day’ and I thought John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ was the answer to life for these people.
    Carl Strehlow

  6. I confess, I have just been onto the Baha’i web site to see what it was all about – never heard of it before. In searching further I discovered that Peter Adreance of the Baha’i International Community was a participant in the effort at Rio +5 to draft the “benchmark” Earth Charter which is linked to the Green Cross International. Green Cross Int. has as its founders Mikhail Gorbachev and Maurice Strong. Green Cross Australia, an affiliate of the international organisation promotes Peter Singer who once declared that ‘Christianity is our foe’. Gorbachev likens the Earth Charter to the ten commandments and a ‘Sermon on the Mount’. The Charter is housed in the Árk of Hope’ which is exhibited at the Interfaith Centre in New York when not traveling.
    Madge Fahy

  7. Not a mention of WRD in my church, either. If you hadn’t reminded us about it, Bill, I would have “missed” it. 😉

    “Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash,”
    (Ezekial 13:10)

    Monica Craver

  8. I’ve always believed that these ecumenical gatherings are dangerous and their only agenda is to destroy objective truth and bring in the one world government and religion of revelation. It is for this reason I am also skeptical of Christian ecumenical gatherings. Although we should get together and discuss the word, it is dangerous to give your allegiance to an ecumenical church which must stay silent on certain biblical matters as it has such a diverse group. Our alligiance is to Jesus Christ only and his word.

    On a side note to Stewart. Biblically, the Sabbath is the seventh day (Ex 20:10) and the seventh day was the only day that was blessed (Gen 2:3, Ex 20:11). So call Sunday what you like, but it is not the Sabbath.

    Luke Belik

  9. The Bahai’s suffer persecution in Iran and talking to one I found out that they are opposed to homosexuality but would support their member who is gay, to remain celibate.
    However the Jesus they talk about is not the One Who died for my sins. Their one is second place to Baha’u’llah.
    Wayne Pelling

  10. Dear Bill, I have heard of the Bahai faith. Actually there was a big interreligious conference in Chicago in the late 19th.century, hosted by somebody from India. Barrack Obama spruiked about it when he spoke to the Indian Parliament a couple of years ago. I used to work with a Hindu and he gave me the highlights of that speech. World Religion day was totally ignored at my Sunday service. I do not believe I missed anything
    Regards, Franklin Wood

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